This week's episode of Tennis Quick Tips is the first in a podcast series called “Know Your Job in Tennis Doubles.” Too many people play doubles with very little idea about just what their job on the doubles court is. In this series, I'll give you some quick and easy tips – basically your job description – and let you know what it is you should be doing when you're on court, no matter what position you're playing.
In this first episode in the series, I discuss what might be the most important job you can have on court in your doubles match – the job of the server.
You can listen to this episode by clicking on the gray media player above. And you can read through the edited version of the transcript below for notes or to get more information.
When you’re the server in a doubles match, you should think of yourself as being in charge of the game that you’re serving. You’re sort of the captain of the team, at least for that one game. Your partner is looking to you for guidance on how you plan to serve and what strategy your team should follow to back up your serve. So here’s what you need to do as the server:
- Call out the score for every point. Call the score out loudly and clearly. Make sure your opponents hear you call out the score. If they have a problem with how you call the score, this gives them an opportunity to bring it up before the point gets started. You don’t want to get into a discussion about whether or not you called the score correctly AFTER you’ve served.
Identify and serve to each of your opponents’ weaknesses. While you should be working on identifying your opponents’ weaknesses from the time you step on court with them, when you’re serving you need to put this knowledge to work. So think about what you’ve learned throughout the match and apply it each and every time you step up to take a serve. And yes, I know, that sounds mentally exhausting. But that’s your job when you’re the server.
Let your partner know where you are going to serve. Yes, by the way, please communicate continuously with your partner and let him or her know where you plan to put your serve. This gives your partner the best chance possible to make that incredible poach when you serve up the T or prepare themselves for the possible down the line shot when you serve out wide.
And keep talking to your partner. As I said at the beginning, when you’re the server, you’re the captain of the team for that game. So keep communicating with your partner throughout your service game. This not only allows you to pass information back and forth to each other, it lets the other team know you’re working together and feeling confident.
Try to get into the net. You know that the strongest formation a doubles team can be in is with both players at the net. As the server, your goal is to get to at least the service line when you’re coming in as quickly and as safely as possible. This may not be doable on the very first return shot that you hit but it should be shortly thereafter. Now, granted, this formation is not going to work for you on every point of every match you play. But both players at the net is usually the strongest formation you can take in doubles so, as the server, it is your job to try and get up to the net.
Try to get your first serve in at least 70% of the time. Getting your first serve in in doubles is incredibly important, more important than getting it in in singles. This is because you want to use that first serve as an opportunity to set up what kind of return you get and maybe even give your partner at the net a chance to finish off the point. When you have to hit a second serve in doubles, your partner will not feel less confident in what they need to do, but your opponent will feel much more confident in hitting their return. And remember, when serving in doubles, placement is much more important than power. A well-placed serve that is slower not only sets your partner up, but can also give you a little extra time to get into the net.
So that’s your job description when you’re serving in doubles. In the next episode of Tennis Quick Tips, we’ll talk about the hardest job on the court – that of the server’s partner.
Do you have more or different tips for the server in doubles? Let me know in the comments below.
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Thanks for listening and, as always, Happy Tennis!