- Get your first serve to the player’s weakness at least 60% of the time.
- The serve and volley player should hit their first volley in front of the service line in order to hit a penetrating volley.
- The serving team must be active at the net. Poach and fake poach often!
- The receiving team needs to be consistent to develop a rhythm in order to break serve. Don’t over-hit your returns – be steady.
- The receiving team must command a good lob either as a return or a good defensive measure against the hard charging net team.
- Both the serving and receiving teams must constantly communicate in order to be cohesive and effective.
- Remember one of the golden rules of smart doubles – if you have an easy put-away ball, target the person closest to you. For example, if you have an easy overhead smash, place it at the player near the net. On the other side of the coin, if you face a difficult ball, hit your shot to the doubles player who is farthest away. In other words, if you are at the net to volley and you must face a ball at your feet, find a way to send it back to the baseline area.
- Don’t be too predictable – don’t hit every return of serve crosscourt. The ability to vary returns will keep the serving team at bay.
- Steady, consistent play will win matches – hitting winner after winner is not necessary.
To me, one of the great myths about the game of doubles is that the team who wins the net has the advantage and will win the match. Clearly, there are too many important factors that will determine if winning the net is relevant. At the 2.5 and 3.0 levels, players are still learning how to volley and often miss routine balls.
Secondly, if the net team is unable to move backwards and track down lobs, they are extremely vulnerable.
Finally, if the volleying team does not gain good access to the net (moving forward enough to produce angles and simple overheads) they will not be able to hit winning shots. Ironically, even though the net team is unable to hit winning volleys, the opponents often miss easy groundstrokes because they think the team is a threat due to their efforts to come forward.
To this point, if players could keep their composure, they should welcome their opponents to hit and come into the net. Most of the CTA and USTA league matches are played on slow clay courts and good defensive players will do well with steady intelligent strategy. In particular, when a team rushes the net, well-placed lobs can deflate their desires to move forward.
When the volley team situates themselves near the service line, all one must do is hit their groundstroke right at them. DO NOT PANIC and continually over-hit groundstrokes at the net team. One of the real keys to success is not giving too much credit to your rival; one, two, three or even four good volleys does not mean they can make every single ball.
Stay the course – keep making the standard strokes and in time, your consistency will wear down your adversary. The next time you are embroiled in a tough doubles match, rely on your steady, dependable tactics and you will win most of the time.
Who is going to win the 2011 French Open? Can Djokovic stop Nadal on his favorite surface? Is there a favorite in the women’s division with so many injuries and recent retirements? Stay tuned.