Have you ever played in a doubles tennis match and found that you or your doubles partner are consistently having trouble winning your service games? If this has ever been the case, the following doubles tennis strategies are things you and your partner can try to break the cycle!
One strategy to try is to have the server’s partner look to volley the return of serve. This is called poaching. For this strategy, the server’s partner will play from the net while the server is serving the ball. The server in this case should try to place their shot down the middle or “T” of the service box. When serving down the “T”, the returner does not have the angles to hit a down the line shot. Therefore, the server’s partner can look to move toward the middle of the court and move in diagonally to volley the return of serve. The volley target should be cross court at the returner’s partner’s feet at the service line. This makes for a very difficult shot for the returner’s partner! Poaching helps to hold serve in that the serving team puts themselves on the offense early on in the point.
In “I” formation, the server will stand close to the center mark as if they were serving for a singles game. Their partner at the net will get low and straddle the center line in the service boxes. The net player will give the server a signal to let them know where they will be moving too (either to the left or to the right) once the serve is hit. The server should then try to serve down the middle of the service box to the “T" to limit the angles the returner can hit. Once the server serves the ball, they will move to the opposite side of the court from where their partner at the net positions themselves. In “I” formation, the hope is for the server’s partner at the net to volley the return of serve to take the offense. Also with the net player moving into position once the serve is hit, the returner may make the mistake of focusing on that and not hitting the ball, thus making an error.
In the Australian formation, the server will stand close to the center mark as if they were serving for a singles game while their partner at the net stands in the service box on the same side as the server. Once the serve is hit, the server will move to the other side of the court. This strategy can be useful if the returning team has strong crosscourt returns. If they continue to return crosscourt, the server’s partner can now volley the shot and take the offense. If the returning team decides to return down the line, they have a tougher shot to make due to the net being higher and the court distance being shorter.
The last strategy a serving team could try would be for the server and the server’s partner to both play back at the baseline. If the serving team is having trouble holding serve due to missed volleys, yet their ground strokes are strong, this is a good strategy to try. It also takes a target away for the returning team if they were winning points from volleying to the server’s partner playing the net.
Next time you find that you or your partner are not holding serve, go ahead and test out these strategies to hold serve above. With some adjusting to how the points are being played, a team can find a way to change the momentum and win!
Christine Sheldon is the Director of Racquet Sports at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Northbrook, IL. Christine has an extensive teaching and competing background in tennis and platform tennis and is USPTA and PPTA certified. She achieved All Big Ten Athletic and Academic honors along with the Big Ten Medal of Honor award while attending the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Christine was ranked in the top 25 nationally in every junior tennis age division along with being ranked #1 in the country and world in the ITF Veterans 35's division.