In TQT 006, I give you six simple and straightforward strategies to use in your doubles matches. These are easy to remember, pretty easy to apply and usually produce great results. Below is an edited version of the transcript for this episode that you can read through if you don't have time to listen to the episode or want to refer back to it later.
When I play tennis, I don’t want to think. I just want to hit and have fun. I don’t think I’m alone here. But, Surprise! I’ve found that if I don’t think, I don’t have as much fun because I usually don’t win that way. And losing is definitely not as much fun as winning.
Now one of the things that requires thinking in tennis is strategy. And, in doubles, strategy is so important. In fact, it can be WAY more important than the ability to hit a good shot. But, guess what? Strategy requires THINKING.
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew some winning strategies that didn’t require much thinking at all? Good news! I know some!
These are strategies that you can apply in any doubles match you play at any point in the match. In fact, you should at least consider using these in EVERY match you play. And once you learn them, you can apply them without much thinking at all!
So here they are – my six no-fail strategies for tennis doubles.
1. Pick on the weak link. You and your partner should be figuring this out right from the get-go, during the warm-up. In every doubles team, there is almost always a weaker player and that is who you need to be hitting to. And I don’t care if that person is older than you, tireder than you, or just really, really nice. If you want to win, you need to pick on the weak link.
2. Get up to the net – both of you! You’ve heard it over and over – the team that controls the net, controls the match. So you and your partner must always be working towards taking over the net. It may happen right away, on your serve or return, or it may take a few balls for you both to get up there. But make it your goal to control the net as often as you can. Usually, if you’re both playing back or you’re playing one-up, one-back, you’re playing defensively and that is not a winning strategy.
3. Go down the middle. I love to hit angle shots. When they work, they’re so pretty. But when they don’t work, they’re ugly, very ugly. Hitting to the middle is often the safest shot for you to hit because you’re hitting over the lowest part of the net. And it is often the most confusing shot for your opponents to get to. Because just who is responsible for that ball in the middle? You can win a lot of points while they try to figure that one out.
4. Hit at their feet. No matter how young or how fit they may be, tennis players do not like to squat down and take the low ball. They will bend from the waist and mis-hit the ball. They will reach down with their racket while remaining upright and mis-hit the ball. Or, they will just not try at all and outright give you the point. And when they don’t even try, they’ll usually tell you that you’ve hit a “good shot” which you may or may not have done. So exploit laziness and bad knees! Hit low!
5. Lob over their heads. Maybe the other team has taken over the net and keeps taking over the net. Just lob them. And, don’t worry about hitting a great lob. Just hit it deep, over their heads, and make them run. Move it around and try to mix in some short balls. But mainly lob. While many players can run down lobs, they can’t run down lobs all day. And like the shot down the middle, it can get confusing for teams to decide who is going to get the lob and how to do the switch. Even players who move well can get exasperated with this kind of stuff and will often start making errors.
6. Hit short dinky shots. Personally, I hate short, dinky shots. I’d much rather have a ball hit hard at me with some pace. I do not like to play matches where there’s a lot of short, slow balls being put into play. And a lot of people I talk to feel the same way because they feel like it’s not “real tennis.” So take advantage of the impatience of players like me and hit easy, short shots. It does not require much skill on your part to hit these and let someone like me whale on these shots and, invariably, hit them out.
Now that you have these six no-fail strategies, how do you know when to apply them. Well, that depends on several factors, including what skills do you bring to the court? What are your opponents like? What can your partner do? How well do the two of you play together and what can you best accomplish as a team? These are all questions that you need to think about when deciding how best to approach each match. But, the bottom line is, the six strategies I’ve outlined are very basic, very easy to apply and at least one of them should work in whatever doubles situation you find yourself in.
So, to quickly review, here are your six no-fail strategies for doubles.
1. Pick on the weak link.
2. Take over the net.
3. Go down the middle.
4. Hit at their feet.
5. Lob over their heads.
6. Hit short, dinky shots.
So that’s it for this week’s Tennis Quick Tip.
But I want to say thanks to Clif Render of hifitennis.com for his comment on Tennis Quick Tips Episode 3 – What To Do When You When The Spin. In that episode, I talked about why choosing to receive when you win the spin of the racquet at the beginning of a match can give you some great advantages over your opponents. Clif had a great comment regarding this. He says:
“I used to make the same choice to receive and it worked great for me at the Men’s 2.5 and 3.0 level. Since I’ve been playing more 3.5 and 4.0 rated players, however, I’ve found that many of them have a much more powerful and consistent service games and need very little warm-up to be effective. Because of this, I’ve found that getting that first service game on the board can be a huge psychological advantage when I can get it. I now choose to serve first because it means that the other team always feels like they’re having to play catch up. This could be a difference between the aggressive style of the men’s game and the more cerebral style of the women’s game.”
Clif, I think you’ve made a great point. And I agree that, especially at higher levels, choosing to serve first can be the right decision. Especially if you have a strong serve and you feel you can win that first game right off the bat.
I really appreciate Clif’s taking the time to post his comment and if any of you are interested in seeing that or in giving your own opinion, you can find that the transcript for that episode as well as the show notes and comments over at tennisfixation.com/quicktips3.
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Thanks for listening and, as always, Happy Tennis!