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Men's Tennis

Tennis Tips From Nigel Bentley

Net control is key in doubles play

I recently received a call from someone seeking some suggestions to improve his doubles game. This individual had been primarily a singles player, but is now playing more doubles. One tip to remember is that when playing singles you can be successful from the baseline, but in doubles it is more difficult. Particularly at a strong level of doubles you should be more satisfied winning the point at the net. Winning from the baseline generally is a false sense of security and the net team in the long run will prevail.

Here are some additional doubles tips to remember. These ideas have derived from over 20 years of teaching experience, I refer to them as my "Ten Commandments of doubles:"

1. Win by controlling the net! The baseline player should attempt to move forward inside the service line to achieve team net position at the first opportunity. My definition of net position is anywhere inside the service line. The volleying player should continue to close on the net; the non-hitting player should drift slightly back toward the service line to help, if necessary, cover potential lobs. The non-hitting player must stay alert because if the ball is hit to them they now become the volleying player closing on the net.

2. Once you and your partner have established parallel position, the team stays together until the point is concluded, (up, back, side to side). The hitting player is the decision-maker as to where the team moves. Never be vulnerable down the middle between yourself and your partner.

3. The court should be divided down the middle with each player covering his or her own side, forecourt and backcourt with the exception of an offensive cross, or defensive switch. It is important to be strong up the middle. Shifting with your partner by "following the ball" is critical in order to be solid in the middle.

4. It is very important to get a high percentage of first serves in when playing doubles. If the server gets his first serve in, this allows his partner to control the net. The receiver's partner can control the net most of the time on the second serve.

5. The best return of serve is low and cross-court. This is effective if the server comes in or stays back.

6. The player closest to the net has priority on all balls. Advanced doubles involves a lot of crossing, so be smart but aggressive. If a team has one player up and one player back, it is the back player's responsibility to improve their position. So move, move, move and close, close for better court position.

7. Keep your shots low. Force your opponents to hit up. Hit soft on angles and hard down the middle. The safest play to win a point is to hit down the middle.

8. Shot selection: When lobbing, lob the player closest to the net. Drive the player furthest from the net. When you have favorable court position and a desirable height of ball to volley either angle or hit toward the closest player. If you lack court position or have a lower ball to volley hit toward deep player.

9. Generally the best position to be in is both players up at the net, second best position is both players back and the weakest position is one up and one back. Remember my definition of up at the net is when both players are up inside the service line.

10. Communicate to improve your teamwork. Support your partner and fine tune your strategy. Advanced doubles is played at the net, so move forward and attack. If you control the net, you will control the match.

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