Tennis Doubles Partner Blues

Dou­bles brings a com­po­nent to the game that can often be very chal­leng­ing. In fact, your partner’s tac­ti­cal approach may be so dif­fer­ent from yours that you swear they’re really on the opponent’s team!

It’s com­mon that two play­ers have dif­fer­ent tac­ti­cal ideas on how to win a dou­bles match because there are so many dif­fer­ent styles of play. What we’re talk­ing about today is a polar oppo­site team:

One player is very aggres­sive and likes the net, while the other partner only comes forward to shake hands at the end of the match.

This can be one of the most frus­trat­ing matches to play for the aggres­sive player. As he advances, his part­ner typ­i­cally backs up. He wants to keep the balls low and move for­ward but his part­ner wants to stay back and put balls up in the air.

When the aggres­sive player takes a stand at the net, every­thing goes to the deep part­ner so he gets no action at the net. It’s easy for a player who’s expe­ri­enc­ing this type of match to learn to hate dou­bles and pre­fer sin­gles. At least in sin­gles, he gets to hit the ball and play the style he likes.


Short of opt­ing for a life of sin­gles, what should you do? When your part­ner doesn’t come to the net, you should rec­og­nize that they plan to be steady and wait for an error.

This strat­egy is reflected by their base­line court posi­tion. Your part­ner plans to stay back where they have time to pick up on the opponent’s shots and block them back or lob them.

Rec­og­nize your partner’s base­line strat­egy and, when suc­cess­ful, you will emerge vic­to­ri­ous despite your need to attack. If your base­line part­ner is suc­cess­ful and the oppo­nents are indeed los­ing, per­haps you should put your aggres­sive­ness ideas on hold and join your part­ner at the base­line.

Bore­dom aside, your new found posi­tion may pro­vide a good oppor­tu­nity to prac­tice con­sis­tency, and besides, it’s working! On the other hand, when your oppo­nents stay steady and rec­og­nize that your part­ner isn’t try­ing to beat them, join­ing your part­ner at the base­line would result in a loss.

Once you’ve tried your partner’s base­line tech­nique and met with fail­ure, it’s only fair he tries your more aggres­sive ideas. Dis­cuss this fact and attempt to get your part­ner to change tac­tics and move to the net.

If your part­ner still won’t come into the net, or agrees to but remains on the base­line, you must single-handedly rep­re­sent your team in the more aggres­sive net position.

To do this, pay atten­tion for oppor­tu­ni­ties to move aggres­sively at the net. Your court posi­tion will play a major role in your suc­cess. Take a stance that’s near the ser­vice line to help ward off your opponent’s lob urges.

Pick and choose your oppor­tu­ni­ties to move out and poach the ball. If your part­ner is steady, there is no rush. Wait patiently until the oppo­nent is in some trouble. When you see your opponent’s eyes come off you to make their final focus on the ball they intend for your part­ner, move out between the hit­ting oppo­nent and your part­ner to inter­cept the ball.

Move diag­o­nally if they’re hit­ting hard and lat­er­ally across the ser­vice line if they’re bloop­ing the ball. Take this valu­able oppor­tu­nity to end the point by vol­ley­ing into an open­ing near the net play­ing opponent.


To sum­ma­rize, work with your partner’s style. If it’s not work­ing and they won’t change, head for vic­tory on your own by care­fully planned poaches.