It’s not often that doubles is featured in pro tennis.  Fed Cup and BJK Cup are the exceptions.  Serving/Receiving signals, enhanced “I” formation, and first strike tennis are only the take home lessons.  The intangibles, the home crowd and the enthusiasm of the worlds singles stars who have to show their doubles prowess, are the real draw for the tennis fan.  The revised formats for both events bring the excitement around the world and often in smaller cities where the events are more accessible.

Dear TennisDr:

First of all, I loved our USTA team’s clinic with you last week from beginning to end, especially our work with the Australian Formation and “I” [Ey] Formation.  Both formations worked amazingly well in our last line 3 doubles match which we won easily.  I’ve never had so many winners at the net.

At one point our opponents tried to lob us, but that didn’t work well because we dropped back a bit and my partner Larry is… (you can’t teach it), very tall.  It was all a big party until the next day and my knees started reminded me of all the “crouching”.

Thanks so much!

Dear Mitch:

First, thanks for coming to the doubles clinic and your kind words.  I will keep you posted on any openings I get in future doubles classes at your level of skill.  Congratulations for throwing a doubles
“curve ball” at your opponents!

As you can tell, my philosophy is to work on the subtleties that make a doubles player and team more dangerous.  That includes having more tools and better teamwork than other teams.   The servers
partner standing at the net at their traditional post does little to challenge a receiver mentally or physically.

These alternative tactics are what the pros use to make a net player take at least 50% of the responsibility for holding serve.  The easier holding serve becomes, the more a good team can focus on breaking.  The tempo, the longer games, then tip toward your opponents who are struggling to hold and more opportunities to break them.

As far as your knees go, use “I” formation/Aussie formation more sporadically with the following factors in mind:  early in the set to let them know you’ve got a rabid dog on a leash, when your team gets behind, against the better receiver, against the ad court player (where the game is usually won or lost), and certainly in a tie breaker.

Pick and choose your moments to “unleash the hounds”!  Above all, have fun mixing up your strategy and keeping your opponents off balance.


I was asked for the best advice for the partner during a crosscourt rally so here is the pro, best in the world, poop on that role:

This subject came up during our Mixed Doubles class last night.   Now that she is fearless with her new Oakley polycarbonate eyewear, and doesn’t mind a bruise or two (or three!), Jill prefers to build a fort at the “O” (a chalk mark I put in the very middle of the service box which stand for “offense”) while her partner plays from the baseline during a cross court rally (unless she knows the opponent will tag her).

Despite Jill’s fantastic reflexes at the net and intimate knowledge of her opponent, I prefer she go back to the “Star” (a chalk mark I put at the middle of her service line on my teaching court) in mixed or women’s doubles.  This prevents lobs from going over her head so that her partner can come forward without worrying that they need to cover that shot.

The Bryans, Hingis/Mirza (1), and Mattek-Sands/Safarova (2) have all discussed the role of the partner in interviews when the crosscourt baseline rally is going on.  That role is huge in pro doubles.

The “home” for the pros who are partners during a baseline rally is the “O” or the “Star” (see above)—> HOWEVER—they run from the Star to the center line, to the O, depending on the quality of their partner’s/opponent’s crosscourt shots.  They do this EVERY time the ball crosses the net!   They are that mobile because they are trying to intimidate the baseliner into an error or make them change their shot to down the line.  The best poach for winning volleys.   This kind of constant movement requires a LOT of off court preparation.

The best players in the world say they get a lot more tired than the baseliner so, unless you have Sania Mirza’s forehand groundstroke, to prevent the wear/tear on the partner, the pro baseliner should come forward ASAP.  Even Sania knows she has to make something happen so Martina doesn’t melt doing all that footwork!

Recreational Tennis:  if that kind of effort can not be put into every crosscourt rally by the partner, both on the Star ready to go to the O is best (or both back second best) but the team should ALWAYS try to avoid being extremely split by one being at the O and one on the baseline.  Make sense?

Hey TennisDr:

What is the latest advice from the on air pundits and professional coaches that I can put into my game?

Tiger Topspin

Hey Tiger:

Great question!  When I watch recreational players, I see some of the same issues that touring pros face.  Too many singles shots in the net, usually when they are out of position.  Here are some tips from world class authorities:

1) Tennis pundits and pro coaches use the terms “Rally Ball (RB)” and “Aggressive Shots to Conservative Targets (ASCT)” frequently on the air.  Recreational players need the same advice.

RB means a ball that has no business being anywhere near the level of the net.  Typically, you are out of the center or off balance at the baseline and your shot selection is not appropriate.  Loop or floater are the correct selections.  Like the chant at a basketball game,  “D-D-D-D-Defense!”

2)  ASCT:  EVERYONE, pros included, goes through patches in which the confidence/accuracy in your aggressive shots is dips.  ASCT means to try that same racket speed a few times down the middle of the court to the T to get your confidence back.  If you are still missing after that, slow the racket and use RB’s (see above).

If you need help with these, ask your local pro.

Professional doubles is rarely broadcast.  That is a shame because doubles is the most popular form of tennis.  Go to a college tennis match and see how different it is as a team sport.

First, it is rare when both partners are on and making aggressive shots successfully and taking risk at the same time.  Most of the time its a bit of a see saw, one player hot, the other has to be steady.  It’s important to note that in mixed doubles its not always the guy who is thermal.

One of my best mixed doubles teams got down 2-5, and the guy was showing outward signs of dejection.  He felt responsible for their plight, but doubles is always about the teams shared responsibility.  That’s why the pros and college players ALWAYS approach each other, fist bump, or high five no matter the out come of the last point.  The feeling of sharing responsibility must be reinforced as often as possible.

His female partner dolled out the proper amount of encouragement on the change over and he dedicated himself to keeping his body language positive plus, choosing safer shots.  His partners advice in this case was the key.  She had taken on the role that makes a valuable partner for any competitive team, always encouraging her teammate.

Her role became tactically important as he reigned in his aggressiveness, she got bolder.   She started taking some chances and it paid off with a 7-2 win in the tiebreaker.  There is no “I” in team…unless its Dominique Thiem!

You can get great discounts on an introductory lesson from the TennisDr any of the following e-commerce sites:

I feel that intermediate players should serve/volley and poach more often in doubles to help translate that into a team option, as well as, their singles game.

Tactically, I feel you should serve and volley more often as it adds perhaps 15% more power when you move forward through a serve. I would encourage you all to do so for that reason and, as a counter strategy to short, drop angle returns.

All of you have concerns about the difficulty of a first volley after serving–one
reason for this note. In my classes, we isolating the appropriate footwork
and balance to make a strong first volley.

1) Servers: for your homework, serve and volley more often on first serves and focus your attention on the receivers ANTICIPATED body posture at contact.

Poachers and Servers should ask yourself, “Are they about to hit hard or soft?” and, “What is the center of the body doing before contact?”.

Receiver contact with a laterally, extended posture or backward steps results in soft shots 90% of the time! They are offensive opportunities for the serving team.

This will tell you whether split stepping to stretch/move laterally will be necessary.
The educated guess to these questions tells poachers WHEN to go. Go ahead and make
mistakes Poachers as it’s only an educated guess, but a fun one!

This is the study of Basic, Belt Buckle, Biomechanics! 🙂

The Bryan Brothers get passed up the line trying to poach often….but not often enough
to be the second best team in history. Take some chances on what you see!

2) Servers: don’t worry about running forward as fast as you can. Being in balance
when the second shot arrives is WAY more important then WHERE that

3) Since it takes longer to get there, a spinning serve is actually a better way to give yourself more time to get in balance for the first volley than a flat serve.

“I see!”, said the blind man.

If you pay attention to #1, #2, and #3 a new offensive frontier will open to you for both singles and doubles.