scores 2006  

Hold Your Own in Doubles

Successful doubles teams have at least one thing in common—they consistently win their service games.

By Tom Gullikson
Excerpted from the June 2003 issue of TENNIS Magazine

If dropping serve in singles is bad, then doing it in doubles is sinful. The serving team in doubles has a much bigger advantage over the returners, which makes breaks harder to come by. So you can’t be generous by giving them away to your opponents. Otherwise, you put no pressure on them to hold their own serves. You won’t be a successful partnership if you’re not holding serve on a regular basis. If you’re having trouble doing just that, these tips should help.

The net player must be active. Too many players stand at the net and rely on the server to win the game without helping out. You see a lot of balls going crosscourt without the net player jumping in and making a difference. The net player must move, and do it early in the match.

That gets your opponents thinking a little bit. Positioning is key. I like to see net players right in the middle of the service box so they can move up and across to intercept a return and still get back for an overhead. Don’t stand too close to the net-you won’t get a good angle to cut off the return, and you’ll be susceptible to the lob.

The server should stand no more than two or three steps away from the center hash mark. It’s pretty standard procedure for the server to stand in a spot halfway between the center hash mark and the doubles sideline. This isn’t bad positioning, but you’re not fully utilizing the angles of the court.

If you’re a righty serving in the deuce court (or a lefty in the ad court) and you’re positioning yourself exactly in the middle, you’ll have a tough time hitting it down the T (unless you’ve got a good kick serve). The returner is playing the deuce court because the forehand is his stronger side. One of the first rules of serving is finding your opponent’s weakness and serving to it. By serving from a wider angle, you’re playing right into your opponent’s strength. You’re also forcing the net player to hug the doubles alley and giving your opponent a lot of angle to work with.

If you’ve got a dependable second serve, don’t be afraid to let it rip on the first. Another standard tactic is to take something off your first serve to make sure you get a high percentage in, allowing you to get to net more efficiently. If you’re not a great mover, it also helps you get in better position for the first volley. And if you’ve got a weak second serve, it’s still a smart idea. But if you have an effective one, why not give yourself an opportunity to get a free point or easy volley with your first serve. For example, if I were coaching someone like Pete Sampras in doubles, I would never tell him to ease up on his first serve, because his second serve is so good. But someone like Venus Williams, who has a disparity of around 40 m.p.h. between her first and second serves, should consider taking something off the first serve to try and get it in.

When you and your partner are at the net, don’t stand directly across from each other. The player crosscourt from the ball should stand back a bit, so the team is staggered. The player who’s in front of the ball should guard against down-the-line shots. The crosscourt player is responsible for lobs and shots hit down the middle or crosscourt. If the players are parallel to each other and right on top of the net, it makes the lob more difficult to cover and communication on down-the-center shots an issue.



June 1 - 4 2006


August 31 - September 4, 2006


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