Every player should know the basics of doubles. If your child plays High School Tennis, then chances are they are going to play doubles. If your child wants to play College Tennis, then chances are they are going to have to play doubles. Bottom line, at some point in your child’s tennis career they are going to have to play doubles. Playing doubles is not only a certainty in one’s career but can also tremendously improve a players singles game. In this article, we will be going over basic strategies for net play.
Doubles is all about ending the point as soon as possible. When your child has any opportunity, they should be looking to either put the ball away (hit a winner) or hit the net person. With that in mind here are some basic strategies for net and baseline play.
Follow The Ball
When your child is up at net, they should always be following the ball. If a ball goes wide, they need to move out wide to cover the line. If a ball goes down the middle of the court or the opposite sideline, they need to shuffle towards the center of the court and looking to poach (defined later). Why should your child follow the ball?
It’s All About The Angles
Your kid should always be looking to put pressure on their opponent, and the best way to do this is by taking away their easiest shot. When the opponent is out wide, their easiest shot is down the line. By moving to cover the down the line shot, your child puts pressure on the opponent which can lead to an error or an easy putaway ball. The same thing goes for a shot that goes down the line on the opposite side of the court. When the opponent is in the opposite corner to your child, their easiest shot would be cross court. By moving towards the middle, your kid can take away that shot and force the kid on the other side to hit a harder shot down the line. Now, when your opponent is hitting a ball from the middle of the court, shuffling over to the center of the court will put your child in the best position to get an opportunity ball. By cutting off the angles as shown in the picture your child can end a point quickly. Being in the right spot gives your child the best chance to finish the point quickly which brings us to our next part of net play…
(Wide- Notice how by moving over into the doubles alley it makes the down the line shot much harder for the baseline person.)
(Middle- By moving over your child puts themselves in the best position to get a ball within arms reach that they can put away. It will be much harder for the baseline person to hit the ball down the line from this position. Since your child moved over they also have to hit a much better cross court shot if they don’t want it to be poached.)
(Down the line- If your child’s teammate manages to get the ball past the net person down the line the baseline player will have to try and retrieve it. They will most likely be running to the shot making it harder. Add your child moving to the middle of the court and now the opponent is forced to try to hit a much better shot in order to avoid a poach. The extra pressure can lead to an error or an easy putaway volley for your kid.)
Poaching is when the person who is up at net cuts across the court to hit a volley and try to end the point. If a ball is within arms reach or hit down the middle of the court, while your child is up at net, they should be looking to hit a put away volley. When your kid poaches, they really only have two choices of where to hit the ball. They can either hit into open court or hit the ball at the net person. If it is an easy shot, then they should aim for the open court. However, if hitting a winner will be difficult the best strategy is to hit the ball at the net person. Since there is not much distance between both net players, they will not have much time to react. With less time to react there is a higher chance the opponent will hit an error or a ball that will be easier to put away.
Doubles can be a fun experience and a great environment for your child to work on their net game. An improved net game will lead to more confidence at the net. Confidence up at the net will improve your kids singles game by making them more comfortable and more capable of coming into net, putting themselves in the right position, and ending a point.
On a side note, doubles is also an excellent way to give your child some team experience in a sport that is largely solo.