By Chris Chaffee
Weekly motivational quote: “Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.” — Arthur Ashe
Doubles tactics: Don’t be fooled by playing doubles. Doubles is a great workout in itself and it is also a game of strategy. Doubles is almost more challenging in singles. You have to figure out how not to beat one opponent across the net, but two. You have to learn now to construct points and have a couple different game plans. Here is a great tip to remember. During a match, before a point try to have a certain purpose you are going to perform when you get the ball. During the point the less you think about the better.
You aren’t thinking about a firm wrist on the volley, you are thinking of keeping it away from the net person. One of the most important things in doubles is to communicate with your partner. Unlike in singles, talking is OK. Saying phrases like “I got it,” “Yours,” “Mine” and “Switch,” are terms that are allowed to say aloud. Now that we got that covered let’s head into some basic doubles strategies that will get you in a winning position.
In doubles, the main objective is try to get on the offensive and get to the net. The team that usually is at the net most wins the match. Attacking the net puts pressure on your opponents and it puts them in a defensive position. But, it isn’t always easy to attack the net, so you have to have a game plan.
Think about the type of shots that would put you in a good position to get there. Some of these shots are lobs that hook back, low balls, deep balls and angles. Playing doubles doesn’t mean rushing the net or getting there as quickly as possible. It is about working your way their on the right shot selection.
Another great tactic to have is to always be shifting with you partner. This is so critical because, as a team, you don’t want to leave any big openings in the court. If you aren’t sure how to shift in doubles, well follow the ball. If you are following the ball to where it is hit on the opposite side and on your side, then guess what, you are shifting!
Hitting the ball low is extremely effective in doubles because it pops the ball up from the opponents. You can hit a low ball by either hitting heavy topspin on your groundstrokes to get the ball to dip at the opponent’s feet or by hitting a slice shot that stays low.
When hitting your groundstrokes make sure you are hitting them with depth. Anything short, you will be attacked. A deep high ball will give you time to come in. Try to aim for the deep corner near the doubles alley.
Poaching in doubles is also very effective because it is an offensive strategy that ends the point. If you are at the baseline and your partner is up at the net or vise-versa, and the ball is being hit back and forth (crosscourt) from the baseline players, then whoever is at the net, should be thinking of poaching when that ball is in the middle.
Poaching is also effective when you or your partner is serving and whoever is at the net, is anticipating to hit the ball back from the return back off the opponent’s racket. The more aggressive the doubles team the more likely they are to win the match.
In doubles, the phrase “down the middle solves the riddle,” This means down the middle is the safest shot to hit, but it also can make your opponents guessing. Hitting down the middle sets up an opening to use angles. A low ball means you can go ( move forward), high ball you die, (so move back or be ready for it to go whoever is closet to the net. Shadow your partner like you are attached by a rope or a rubber band. And try to hit angles with placement rather than go for winners. This sets up the point. Finally remember, be up or back. Don’t set up camp in the transition zone known as no man’s land or the travel zone. Get out of there!
The Training Block: Cross-Training: Playing other sports can not only be fun but they can also help you stay in shape. Cross-training in other sports can sharpen your skills and take your tennis game to another level. For example, basketball, has similar footwork to tennis. It relies on short bursts of energy made of sprints and lateral movement. Tennis and basketball have fast twitch muscles (start, stop, pivot, in unknown various directions).
Another good sport for cross-training is skiing. Living in the mountains and in a ski town, skiing is awesome. It strengthens your legs and focuses on you constantly being balanced to hit your tennis shots.
Soccer is a popular option because it is similar to the benefits of basketball in the footwork. As we approach the summer time, why not go for a swim. But don’t just jump in the water, do some laps, and make sure you are using your whole body when trending water. Swimming is very easy on your joints and it builds lean muscle. It is a total body workout giving you more endurance and flexibility. Swimming targets those key muscle groups like the shoulders, legs, back and core.
Next week, we talk about singles strategy and tactics!
Chris Chaffee lives in Fryeburg, Maine, and is a teaching tennis professional around the Mount Washington Valley. He is also a JV tennis coach at Kennett High.