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.