Unlike singles, tennis doubles get a little bit tricky and complicated where you have to work as a team. Creating a perfect tennis doubles strategy is the only way to survive and win on the doubles court.
“Tennis doubles” is complex in a way that there are more people on the court and the court is also bigger than the singles court. Other than this, the differences include service order, sidelines, and the standing position where you can stand as a receiver.
Throughout this article, we are going to discuss the tennis doubles rules, and the right strategy, tips, and techniques to win more at doubles.
If you are living in the United States, you will be following the doubles rules defined by USTA (United States Tennis Association), and USTA uses rules defined by ITF (International Tennis Federation).
Before we move to the tennis doubles strategy, I would like to explain a few basic things, in case, if you are a beginner player.
What is Tennis Doubles? What is the difference between doubles & singles?
Tennis doubles or doubles match is the match where 4 players play on the court, 2 players on each side as a team.
Another difference is that the tennis doubles court size is 36 feet (10.97 meters) wide and 78 feet long. While in singles court size is 27 (8.2 meters) feet wide.
As the tennis court dimensions increase in doubles, it becomes quite challenging to play on such a big court.
All entry-level players are taught to play on doubles court as their skills improve with time. So, they can learn teamwork and team coordination.
Pro Tip: If you are a beginner player, add an experienced tennis player to your team. In this way, the experienced player can immediately point out if you commit any mistake. It is the best way to get quick feedback.
However, learning tennis doubles rules and strategies, which I am going to explain in detail shortly, is still important for all-level players.
One thing that makes me a big fan of tennis doubles is that I don’t have to cover the whole court. I am responsible for the part of the court where I start, and also I don’t feel alone as the other portion of the court is held by my partner.
Besides the tennis doubles strategy and rules, you must learn the proper drills like footwork, self-feed balls, and many more.
I would suggest reading my “Training Tennis Alone” guide for solo drills and practice, where I have shared the 5 most effective solo practicing techniques.
On top of that, having the right understanding level between team players is the key to success.
Understanding Tennis Doubles Basics
Before diving into the tennis doubles strategy, understanding the basics is vital so you can also develop your techniques and strategy to take it to the next level.
Overall, tennis singles and doubles are similar, there are only a few differences like court size, order of serving, sidelines, etc.
When it comes to the court dimensions, the major difference between singles and doubles is the size of the court, especially the width.
There are 2 extra portions, aka alleys, on each side of the tennis doubles court. Each alley is 4.5 feet wider. It means both alleys add extra 9 feet to the doubles court width, which makes the court 36 feet wider.
Remember, these alleys are invalid or out of bounds areas when playing singles.
In general, there are 4 lines at 90 degrees angle to the net. The inner 2 lines are called singles sidelines while the outer lines are called doubles sidelines. These outer lines add extra 9 feet to the court.
When playing doubles, your goal is to land the ball within the boundary of doubles sidelines.
Positioning of the players on the doubles court is so important that, unfortunately, most of the players ignore it. Rather they create their stance, which can complicate things for your partner.
So, standardizing tennis doubles stance is necessary to get the full advantage of any tennis doubles strategy and to win more at doubles court.
Neither stand too close to the net nor too far, and the same guideline applies to sidelines or alleys.
Keep in mind that you are also responsible for half of your court too, your partner will not enter your portion to hit your shots. So, make yourself responsible in your area of the court.
Here are a few tips that if you standardize for your team, winning doubles will not be a dream.
- In doubles, your opponent always looks for openings on your side of the court. Here the technique is not to give them any openings. This is possible only when you cover most areas of the court.
When your partner is going to serve or return, stand between the centerline and the alleys. This is where you cover most of the area and at the same place, you have more opportunities for a volley.
- Make sure you don’t stand too far or too close to the net, just stand near the net. The sole advantage of this stance is that it puts pressure on your opponent.
It leaves your opponent without any option. Whatever shot your opponent hits, you will always be there to return.
- Your movement should not be predictable. Move (forth and back, left and right) unpredictably in your area of the court. Again, this confuses your opponent to decide what shot they should hit.
Choose the Right Partner
Besides a good tennis doubles strategy, you need to choose the right partner who listens to you and understands your level of play.
In other words, coordination, and communication is the key to success in tennis doubles, which is possible through the right partner.
When I say the right partner, I mean a player whose game level is the same or higher than you. Your partner should be open enough to mention your mistakes on the spot or compliment if you are playing well and listen to you as well.
Moreover, your weaknesses should be the strength of your partner and vice versa to make a perfect team without any flaw.
Plus, one of you must be a leader to make decisions at important points of the game.
So, finding a partner who listens to you, understands your personality and game level is important.
Prepare Yourself Mentally for Doubles
If you don’t know how to or where to get started, it’s going to create problems in the longer term during the game.
In other words, if you are not starting in the right way, then probably you are not going to finish it well.
Here are a few tips that can help you prepare yourself mentally.
- First and foremost, when you get to the court, communicate with your partner and prepare a tactic to win the match. Here you are talking about the one cause, winning. This is the first step to prepare your mind.
- When you first meet your partner, talk about the match and discuss the strategy only, no other talk.
In this way, you can avoid other distractions and focus on one goal. Get all “should have”, “would have”, “could have” out of your mind and think and talk only about the present.
In other words, talk about the things only you can control now and leave all those you can’t control.
Don’t ask your partner like “how am I playing?”, “how was my last serve?” etc. It may distract your partner from the strategy.
In simple words, you should live in the now and focus on what is happening now and try to control it if you can.
Communicate with Your Partner after Each Point
In tennis doubles, players are allowed to communicate after each point, so you should take full advantage of this.
This is where you can discuss and improve your tactics. Communication is also important to encourage each other and keep the team spirit.
If you have any doubts, do discuss it with your partner otherwise it may lead to disappointment and ultimately it may break teamwork and spirit.
Remember: You get only 20 seconds after each point, so be concise and precise when communicating.
Tennis Doubles Rules
Finally, we are almost there to form a perfect tennis doubles strategy. But there is one thing still left that is an important part of forming a doubles technique.
I mean, learning and standing tennis doubles rules. So, let’s first know what are rules, a player must abide by when playing on the doubles court.
General rules, like switching ends after an odd number of games, winning by 2 games are the same. However, when there are 2 players on each side of the court, tennis rules change slightly.
Doubles Serving Rules
Before starting a service, we do the toss with a coin or the spin of the racket. The winning team decides who serves first and which side of the court they want to play.
In singles, both players alternate serving. But in doubles, the serving rule is a little bit changed. The same player has to serve for the entire game.
In simple words, if you serve the first game, you will get a chance to serve again in the fifth game.
For example, if you are serving the first game, a member of the opposing team will serve the second game. Your partner serves the third game and the second member of your opposing team will serve the fourth game.
After that in the fifth game, you will get a chance to serve again. Both teams must maintain this order throughout the game.
However, when your opponent team returns the serve of the first ball, you can decide which one of you is going to hit the ball first. Once one of you hits the ball, you must keep the same sequence for the entire set.
Doubles serving order can be described in simpler words like in the below. Suppose we have two teams, Eagle and Tiger. Both teams have two players, Player 1 and Player 2. Then serving order will be:
Eagle: Player 1
Tiger: Player 1
Eagle: Player 2
Tiger: Player 2
Note: The server must serve from the right side of the court of each game. After winning a point, he/she must switch the side.
When serving, if your service doesn’t land within the valid area, or lands out of the bounds for both serves, you will lose a point.
Remember, before starting each set, you and your partner must talk and decide, who is going to serve. The decided player will continue to serve for the rest of the game.
Doubles Receiving Rules
When receiving the return of the first serve, you can decide which one of you is going to hit the return of the serve.
Once the returner of the service is decided, the same player continues to receive the first service in all odd games in a set. The same rules apply to the opposing team.
However, before the game starts, you and your partner must talk to decide to receive serves in the deuce court or the advantage court.
Once you have decided, each one of you should serve only from the designated area of the court. You can switch the court sides when the set is over.
You can stand anywhere on your partner’s area of the court, but the service intended for your partner must be hit by your partner only.
Doubles Stance Rules
There are no strict rules about the positioning of the players in tennis doubles matches.
However, there are some stances that most of the players follow. For example, one player stands at the baseline, acting as a serve or receiver, then the other player stands near the net. While the opponent players stand near the net to return the serve.
This is the most common formation. The other formations include I-Formation, Australian Formation, and standard formation.
Players’ positioning is important during rallies. For this purpose, you can follow different formations.
Doubles Rallies Rules
Tennis rallies (a sequence of hitting the ball back and forth after the service within a point) rules for doubles are the same as seen in a singles match. Any player from your team may hit and return any shot except the service and return of serve.
However, we recommend dividing the part of your court into small portions and each player should be responsible for his/her portion and the shots intended for them. Otherwise, it may create chaos in a fast game.
For example, if you are standing at the net and your partner is playing from the baseline. If your partner hits the ball and it touches you, your team will lose the point.
Again, team coordination is very important. So, talk to your partner and decide the areas of play for each one of you.
Doubles Scoring Rules
Whether it’s a singles or doubles match, we follow the same scoring system. For example, if you win the four points (love, 15, 30, and 40), you win the game, where love means zero.
However, if the score is tied at 40, you will need 2 more points to win the game. This situation is called a deuce.
As a server, if you win the point after a deuce, it’s called ad-in otherwise ad-out. After ad-in, if you win one more point, you win the game. However, if you lose the point after ad-in, the game goes back to deuce.
Tennis Doubles Tiebreak Rules
In doubles, we follow the standard tiebreak rules defined by ITF. The only difference is that a match tiebreaker (or super tiebreaker) is played as the final set.
A standard tiebreak is called a 12 point tiebreaker or 7 point tiebreaker, where a player has to win at least 7 points to win the match.
Generally, a tiebreaker is played whenever a set reaches 6-6 (six games all), and the player who is going to serve next, starts the tiebreak from the deuce court. The next player in the service rotation serves 2 points from the ad count.
In match tie-break or super tie-break, a team must win at least 10 points by a margin of 2 points to win the match.
Note: In super tie-breakers, the order of service remains the same as in doubles. However, before starting a match tie-breaker, players are given 120 seconds of set break.
Tennis Doubles Strategy
So finally, after learning the basics and rules of the doubles, we can create our effective tennis strategies for doubles.
The idea behind all of the strategies we will share is finding the opponent’s weaknesses and frustrating them.
Stressing again, communication is the key in any tennis doubles strategy. So, if you find any weakness in your opponent’s game, let your partner know about it. After all, you are playing as a team with a common goal, winning the match.
Moreover, almost all of the strategies for doubles are designed for net players because doubles are mostly played on the net.
Let’s discuss strategies without further ado!
1. Over the Net
In a singles match, players usually enjoy playing rallies and extending the game. But in doubles, it’s different.
Here the goal of both teams is to finish off the point as soon as possible, which is possible only when you are near the net to put the point away as soon as possible.
So, the first doubles strategy is that both of your team members must be very sharp at the net standing near the net. Neither too close nor too far, just near the net. Both of you must be strong at volleys.
However, if both of you can’t maintain a stance near the net, at least, one of you should be present over the net most of the time.
If one of you is playing from the baseline, then he/she can perform the lob shot and move up to the net.
Another advantage is that when both of you are standing near the net to put the point away, it can put a lot of pressure on your opponent’s team.
In simple words, your team has to take control of the net.
Note: When playing at the net, you are exposed to the lobs. So, stay sharp!
2. Exploit the Weaknesses
In this strategy for doubles, you have to identify all the weaknesses of your opposing team.
None of the doubles teams are perfect, there is always a weak player. In this strategy, you have to identify that player.
Pro Tip: In the start, try to keep the game pace a little slower than usual. During this time, focus on your opponent team. Look closely at how they hit the serve, return of serve, how they react to aggressive shots, and which one of those players make more mistakes.
As soon as you have identified the weak player and all of his/her weaknesses, now it’s time to exploit them.
Direct most of your shots towards that weak link, it will disturb the other player as well. It will also create tension among them and they both may make more mistakes, at least the weak link will do.
Note: Direct only shots towards the weak player that are possible. Don’t force your shots. The idea is to stay unpredictable. Otherwise, if the opponent team identifies your strategy, they may take it as your weakness.
In other words, keep both players busy while exploiting the weak player and then make your opponents uncomfortable.
3. Dominate the middle of the court
In doubles, there are 2 players on each side of the court which limits the number of safe places to hit the ball.
What does it mean?
It means most of the time, the ball will be passing through the same places. This is where your team must dominate the area.
Imagine your team dominates all the safe places, it will confuse or even put the opposing team in trouble.
When this situation arises, your opponent will look uncomfortable and they start making mistakes. Here you can also apply our previous tennis doubles strategy (exploiting the weaknesses).
Note: Again communication is very important in this strategy. If both players in your team are not very familiar, it can cause problems.
For example, when the ball reaches your middle of the court, you may both be standing behind and both of you miss the ball or if you both try to hit the ball your rackets may collide.
So, before starting the point, communicate and decide who hits which shots. In a nutshell, divide and conquer.
If we look from the opponent’s side, if they both are standing side to side at the net, you should be attacking the middle of their court. With this, you can create confusion among them.
This strategy is effective when one player of the opposing team is left-handed and the other one is right-handed.
Why is this the case?
It means both of them are either at backhands or forehands. So, if you hit the shot in the middle of your opponent’s court, they are supposed to take this with their forehand. This is where it confuses them.
In other words, they don’t have any angles to handle this shot.
4. Lob Them
This strategy is again about making your opponent uncomfortable. Basically, in this strategy, we will disturb the playing balance in the opponent team.
Once you have performed this strategy in the right way, it will force your opponent team to change their positions, playing style, and directions.
In this strategy what we do is to lob over the weak player’s shoulder’s side of the net player. There are two advantages of this:
- The net player won’t be able to reply with a powerful shot in case if your lob is poorly executed.
- In the case of a perfectly executed lob, it forces the net player to move back to handle the overhead while the other player calls them off along the way.
As a result, it creates confusion in the opponent’s team. However, this strategy is not as easy as it seems. Executing a perfect lob is tough at a high level.
Note: Don’t execute lob shots too much, the idea is to stay unpredictable.
5. Play Long
This strategy works well when the game pace gets a little faster and the opponent team is attacking the net aggressively, the idea is to slow down the pace.
In this case, we play longer with groundstrokes deep into the court. Remember, this strategy is a little risky.
Apply this doubles strategy only when your opponent players are out of balance and position and your ball is going deep into the court.
6. Serve and Volley
This is an old-school doubles strategy. We call this strategy a dead art because now this strategy is rarely used by players.
The purpose of this strategy is to pressurize your opponent. In this technique, the player immediately moves toward the net after hitting the service to return a volley afterward.
Once you hit a serve and pressurize your opponent, you can quickly finish off the point. This strategy is effective only when:
- You hit a serve good enough to expose your opponent’s weaknesses.
- You must be skillful at volley to return a perfect volley,
Mastering this strategy is a little tough, but we would recommend using this strategy for doubles.
7. Moving All Players Back
Unlike other strategies where we have been putting pressure on the opponent team, here we will be reducing the pressure from the opponent and letting them be more creative. This strategy also reduces pressure from your team.
By moving your team back to the baseline, you are removing your opponent’s target which is volley at your partner’s feet.
Moreover, by following this strategy, you get more chances for the lobs. For example, if you are good at lobs, it is a straight winning point for your team.
In the other case, you will get the chance to get control of the net again.
As the name suggests, we will be faking our moves to create confusion among the opponent players in this strategy. This strategy works well when you are at the net.
For example, if you are moving for a shot on the right, move your body to give a glimpse that you are going to move to the left.
As a result, your opponent will be alert for the left side, but it will surprise them when you hit the shot to the right.
The other faking move could be, hit a low shot with the appearance that you are going to hit a higher one.
These are just examples, you can try it differently to find out what works best in your scenario.
Conclusion: Our Final Thoughts on Tennis Doubles Strategy
If you want a summary of this article, good doubles strategy and communication are the keys to win more at doubles. So far, we have shared 8 strategies for doubles, but it should not be limited to this.
You can craft your strategy by mixing up the techniques and tips we discussed above. There is always room to improve your doubles game style.
All you have to do is find the strategy that works for you and then improve it by practicing and take it to the next level.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and must have learned something new. If yes, do share these tennis doubles strategies with your game partner or family and let them take advantage of this guide.
1. How can I improve my tennis doubles?
Tennis doubles can be improved by practicing and by having the right strategy. There are many tennis doubles strategies but the ones that really work on the court are:
- Over the Net
- Exploit the Weaknesses
- Dominate the middle of the court
- Lob Them
- Play Long
- Serve and Volley
- Moving All Players Back
2. What is tennis doubles?
A tennis doubles match is a match where 4 players instead of 2 players play on the court. 2 players on each side of the court as a team. In tennis doubles, the width of the court changes to 36 feet (10.97 meters).
3. Why is tennis doubles not popular?
One of the major reasons is that the top famous names do not play doubles while tennis attracts viewership based on the big names. Another reason which I think is, it’s poorly marketed.
4. Where to stand in tennis doubles?
There are no strict rules for the stance in doubles. The server can stand anywhere near the baseline while the partner anywhere on the court as long as the ball doesn’t touch him/her as it passes.
While the opposing players are also free to stand anywhere except the service box.
5. Which side a lefty can play in tennis doubles?
In case you a team comprised of a lefty and a righty player, it’s recommended to put the lefty on the ad court and righty on the deuce court.