Advanced Doubles Tactics Illustrated

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Serve And Volley

Serve And Volley
(C)2010 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
In advanced doubles, serve and volley used to be a given on first serves and almost as expected on second serves. With the power of groundstrokes in contemporary pro tennis, it's not as easy to handle the return as a serve-and-volleyer, and the server can also do more with a first groundstroke in place of a volley; therefore, you'll see some doubles servers take the return as a groundstroke instead of a volley. For most pros, though, and below the pro level as well, serve and volley remains the most effective tactic, because the server or server's partner can often put away anything but a low and/or exceptionally well placed return, and the pressure this puts on the receiver increases the likelihood of a return error. Serve and volley requires more than strong volleying skills, though; it's a whole skill in itself that can take considerable practice before it pays off in percentage of points won. If the receiver's partner sees that the return will be volleyed aggressively, she should back up until the opponents are about to hit, but if she sees a strong return, such as at the feet of the incoming server, she should move forward to pick off the weak reply.
02
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Server's Partner Planned Poach

Server's Partner Planned Poach
(C)2010 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
In a planned poach (video), the server's partner will signal the server that she's going to poach no matter how the receiver hits the return. As soon as the receiver starts to swing, the server's partner will cut diagonally forward and toward the server's side in the hope that the receiver will hit the usual crosscourt return and she can pick it off with a winning volley. Having seen her partner's signal, the server will know to move into her partner's half of the court, either forward to serve and volley (the more aggressive option) or simply across at the baseline if her serve and volley skills aren't strong enough. The server's partner usually signals by showing a sign behind her back, such as one finger for poaching on the first serve only, two fingers for either serve, or no fingers for no poach. She should signal at the start of every point, and the server should say "got it" or something similar so that they both know they've communicated. On some teams, the server and her partner will signal or confer to decide where the serve will go as well as whether the server's partner will poach.
03
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Server's Partner Lobbed: Covering Own Side

Server's Partner Lobbed: Covering Own Side
(C)2010 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
If the server has come in behind her serve and her partner gets lobbed, her partner should back up to retrieve the lob. In advanced doubles, when both players are at the net, they usually cover lobs on their own sides, in large part because there's a good chance they'll be able to back up far enough to hit a good overhead, and if they were trying to cross over to cover lobs over their partners, they would lose too many overhead opportunities.
04
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I Formation

I Formation
(C)2010 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
In the I formation, the server's partner crouches over the center line as the serve passes by, and then as the receiver starts to swing, she cuts diagonally forward either to her right or her left, hoping that the return goes in her direction. As in a planned poach, she has signaled the server beforehand so that the server can cover whichever side she won't. The server stands close to the center mark so that she can easily go either way, and she usually comes in behind her serve, although she can also cover half of the baseline if her serve and volley skills aren't strong enough. The I formation keeps the receivers guessing, and if they've gotten into a successful returning groove, it's a great way to knock them out of it. The server must be ready, though, to handle a return straight down the middle that her partner can't reach.
05
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Australian Formation

Australian Formation
(C)2010 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
The Australian formation is another way to knock the receiving team out of a successful returning groove. Doubles players usually return crosscourt; the Australian formation forces them to return mostly down the line. It can also help a server who would rather get a return on a certain side (forehand or backhand) or a server's partner who would rather poach with a forehand or backhand volley.