Doubles Positioning of the Bryan Brothers: Photo Lesson

01
of 10

The Bryan Brothers in Classic Serving Formation

Bryan Brothers in Classic Serving Formation
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Lefty Bob Bryan serves as Mike stands in the classic position for the server's partner, roughly in the middle of the opposite-side service box. From this position, Mike can cover any but a brilliant return down the line, and he can also threaten to pick off any balls not sent crosscourt with sufficient angle.
02
of 10

The Bryan Brothers Serving to Ad Side

Bryan Brothers Serving to Ad Side
Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images
Like most doubles players, Mike serves from a wider position on the ad side than on the deuce side, because serving out wide to an opponent's backhand is usually a much better option than serving wide to a forehand. Bob stands a bit farther toward the sideline in case Mike does serve out wide. At the net, you should always shift left and right with the ball. If Mike serves out wide and Bob does not shift to his right, the opponent will have too much opening to pass him down the line.
03
of 10

Leander Paes and Martin Damm Using the I Formation

Leander Paes and Martin Damm Using the I Formation
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Here, Leander Paes and Martin Damm are using the I Formation against the Bryan brothers (off camera). Damm is crouched so that Paes can serve over him. After the serve passes over him, Martin will rise, and as the receiver begins to swing, he will cut right or left, hoping to intercept the return. Using signals or conferring briefly before the point, both partners know in advance which way Martin will go, which is essential so that Leander can cover the side Martin leaves open. Unless Paes and Damm are giving some unintended cues, the Bryans have no idea which way Damm will go and will thus have more to worry about while trying to hit the return.
04
of 10

The Bryan Brothers: Easy Poach

Bryan Brothers Easy Poach
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
Here, Mike has a fairly easy ball to poach. When you're at net, you should always pick off an easy ball that's headed toward a partner who's much farther back.
05
of 10

The Bryan Brothers: Bold Poach

Bryan Brothers: Bold Poach
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
This is a much bolder poach; Mike has had to cover a lot of ground to reach this ball, and it's low enough that he'll need to cut it to get it over the net under control with a reasonably low bounce on the opponents' side. It's often a close decision whether to poach this type of ball, and it's one you have to make in an instant.
06
of 10

The Bryan Brothers Both at Net

Bryan Brothers Both at Net
Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images
When you've hit a ball that won't allow the opponents to hit an aggressive reply, the strongest position for your team is both at net, where one of you can put away all but the best defensive shot. Assuming competent net skills, the odds of winning a point greatly favor the team who get to net together first behind an appropriate shot.
07
of 10

The Bryan Brothers Both Back

Bryan Brothers Both Back
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
In a defensive situation, such as when one of your team has given the opponents a weak ball to attack, your strongest positioning is both back, because you'll have more time to react to your opponent's aggressive shot.
08
of 10

Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman in Classic Receiving Position

Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman in Classic Receiving Position
Hamish Blair / Getty Images
Bob is serving against the team of Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman, who demonstrate the classic receiving positioning, with the receiver's partner on the service line. Typically, if the receiver hits a strong return, he and his partner will move forward to attack. If the return is weak, the receiver's partner is back far enough to have a decent chance to defend, and he can improve his chances by backing up farther if there's sufficient time before the opponent makes contact.
09
of 10

The Bryan Brothers Shifted

Bryan Brothers Shifted
Mark Dadswell / Getty Images
As do most good doubles teams, the Bryan brothers try to move as if connected by a pole. When one shifts left or right, so does the other.
10
of 10

The Bryan Brothers Handling a Ball Down the Middle

Bryan Brothers Handling a Ball Down the Middle
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
One of the smartest shots you can employ against any doubles team is to hit down the middle. No matter how experienced they are at playing together, they will still be vulnerable to uncertainty about who should take some balls right between them. As a rule, if the ball is equally distant from the two players, the one closer to the net should take it. If both players are equally close to the net, the stronger volleyer or the one toward whom it is angling should take it.