One of the most frustrating things about being a club level tennis coach is when my clients are either trying to play like the pros or have been taught to try and play like the pro’s, especially in doubles. Being taught technically rather than tactically, told to hit it as hard as they can, constant working on topspin forehands that will never materialise are all things that I see week to week and aren’t helping people get the right results in doubles games.
Doubles is very much a tactical game not a ‘who’s got the best forehand’ game. It requires commitment, confidence and a good tactical brain to work out how to beat the two opponents in front of you with the skills that you have, not skills the pros have.
Should we use the pros tactics?
The main difference between the pros and club players is the speed and consistency of the shots they hit. The pro’s hit the ball generally at one speed, hard. And they can do this on every shot. The net player therefore can rely on this and move to a position at the net accordingly. Their skill level and physicality means they can get balls that club players can’t such as deep lobs and can dart across the court for volleys that are far away from them. At club level you will see much more variety; more lobs, slices, drop volleys and often shots that the players haven’t even meant to hit! With this in mind club players have to be able to react and change from attack to defence and back again multiple times within just one point. They therefore need to know and understand where to be on the court and how to cover the court well for their level and physical ability.
What should we do instead?
At the pro level it is very much about the serve and the first volley of the server’s partner. This is because they can aim their serve reliably and will receive a weaker return than the speed of the serve that has been hit so they can plan to either intercept or stay knowing that the returner will be under pressure from the serve.
At club level the serves are not as strong as the return so a good way of making it easier to win points is to make it your tactical intention to get to the net at the earliest time in the point. As soon as you come into the net you force your opponents to do something different, the shot they have to play needs to be better and they will feel more pressure as they have less time. Take a look at the video below to hear two of the greats discussing it:
How to do it
- The earliest opportunity you get is on a 2nd serve, just hit it cross court and come in.
- Only go to the service line and don’t forget to stop just before they hit it so you can change direction and cover the lob.
- Always hit your first volley cross court and don’t go for a winner.
What else do you need to know
You need to understand positioning as a pair, pick the right shots and know how to cover the court. There’s a very simple formula I use, you can find out more by signing up to online membership, there are a series of videos you will have access to throughout the year to learn how to make getting to the net your game style, even if they lob you!
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