Posts Tagged doubles tennis strategies

Two More Bryan Brothers Doubles Tennis Videos

Watch these two, #3 and #4, after viewing the first two that I posted on January 9th. If you only have time for two, watch the earlier two first. I applied some of the Video #2 techniques yesterday, and was very happy with the results. A shame I have been poaching at the wrong time all these years. But no one ever taught me the precise way to do it, which is to start moving toward the ball during the opponent’s swing…not after the ball is hit, and you see that it is a cross court shot. Duhhhhhh. No wonder I missed so many of my attempted poaches in the past, and some players are there all the time, as if they know where the ball is going and can anticipate where to move in advance. What a great feeling. And after you make this commitment, if your opponent drives it past you down the alley…don’t sweat it. It’s a low percentage shot.

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Instructional Videos From World’s Top Doubles Team—Bryan Brothers

These are great strategy guidelines for doubles tennis enthusiasts. I know these guys are pros (75 world tour wins), not “ordinary” athletes, but I wanted to pass on the advice for those visitors who love the game like I do. It’s so amazing how easy some of these techniques are. You don’t have to be such a good hitter as much as a smart player who knows where to stand and move during the point. I can’t believe how much of what I have been doing is a mistake, according to these Bryan brothers’ ideas. I can’t wait to try out their strategies on the court.

Be patient with the dialogue and repetition, the slow delivery of the key information. Otherwise you will go crazy wading through these sluggish videos. Just enjoy the insights and the winning tips that are offered. Two more Bryan videos will be posted very soon.

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Helping Your Partner Play Better By Joe Marshall

Some more good advice from Joe Marshall that came in a few days ago.

Today Ira and I played four sets with two friends of his, Matthew and Ann. I had played with Matt before in doubles and felt I was the better player, beating his team in each set, even when we changed partners. I asked him to play a couple of singles sets, and he cleaned my clock (on Har Tru). He is very quick, and has a terrific forehand, which he can hit with accuracy, consistency, and pace, standing still or on the run. He likes to run around his backhand, so it can seem that there are no safe shots against him…..His backhand is a push shot, but a consistent one with some spin.

As I was warming up with Ann, I noticed that she too was quick, but she had some trouble adjusting to my spin shots, as a lot of people with western grips do. As the match began, she showed herself to be a person who liked to be aggressive at the net, but she missed a lot of put away volleys, hitting them hard into the net. I think part of the problem was that we were employing a two-back strategy part of the time, which can often make people over-hit at the net, when they (sometimes unconsciously) realize that the volley is not as easy to put away with that position as it is with the one up, one back position.

Ira and I won two sets 6-2, 6-2. We decided to switch partners. If you had watched the match so far, you would have thought that Ann was the weakest of the four players. Her serve was not that strong, she was making a lot of mistakes, and was unsure how to use her quickness.

When Ann and I began our first set together, I wondered what I could do to help her play better…..the obvious answer of course, is to play well myself, which I did….nothing fancy, just my usual mix of spins, lobs and blocks….but at least I was consistent, and they all said that I served well. I said to her, “If you don’t mind me suggesting, you seem to be a very good net rusher, but you might do better, if you just try to be more consistent at the net, and not hit every volley so hard…..the threat of the hard one is just as important as the hard one itself….set up to hit the volley hard, but if you have any doubt, just make sure you clear the net with it, and get it in.”

In the first game, we went to at least 6 or 7 deuces. For a while, we had all the ads, but they kept fighting them off (including one sitter volley I over-massaged into the net). Then we fought off a break point….then they got another…..I went to Ann and conferred…..”Fake a poach, and they will hit it right at you…have your racquet up. ” Sure enough, we got lucky, and it worked just as we planned. We held and went on to hold.

The other strategy we employed was playing two back on offense. This put a lot less pressure on Ann’s serve. She had help covering any great returns, and our opponents would have a hard time putting the ball away with two of us back.

The amazing thing was how well Ann played. She began to clock her ground strokes, forehand and back hand, finish off her volleys beautifully, and approach off short balls with aplomb. Several times she whacked groundies right at Ira, curling the ball over the top of the net, and handcuffing the man I call “The Wall” when his net game is on.

Maybe it’s ego-centric of me to say I helped Ann play better. Maybe she would have played just as well if I didn’t say anything (maybe she would have played even better). I will agree that I am full of myself much of the time…..and can give you many email addresses of people who will agree. But I think after playing doubles a lot for a while, that helping your partner find a way to maximize what they do well, and minimize their mistakes, is a key to doubles success. And asking them to help you when you are having trouble, can get you to figure it out when things are going wrong. Some people don’t like it at all when you suggest things, and it can be over done (Ira will attest to the fact that I over do it a lot). A good doubles team is always trying to find a strategy that works, and sticking with it until it goes sour.

After the match we had a lively discussion on what was happening for the two sets Ann and I played together (which we won, 6-1, 6-2). Ira and Matt knew they should change strategies, but couldn’t figure out just which one would work. It turned out that they had been playing one up, one back all the time. And never tried coming in behind the return of serve or moving into the two-back position. Ira, whose greatest strength is his net game (he has those ping-pong hands, and no fear), let a couple of good lobs I hit scare him into backing off the net too much, and he wound up getting stuck in no-man’s land a lot. Matt, on the other hand, had been hitting some good returns of serve, but was not following any of them in, allowing me to just float them back with no pace, or hit short slices to bring him in.

I hope we play again. It will be interesting to see how things turn out after we all try to make adjustments.

Here is Matt’s comment to Joe’s assessment:

Hi Joe,

Pretty accurate evaluation of the game. Good job. I could have been more aggressive and tried a few different tactics. Since I play mixed doubles all the time and enjoy the slow pace and more volleys to keep the game going, I didn’t want to go for the killer shots. When I play doubles mixed or otherwise, I try to set up for my partner and I love watching them put the ball away. It’s more fun for recreational tennis. Of course, it is beneficial to listen to comments and learn from it. As I said, you were very right on what you said. Keep it up…Matthew

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The Art of Poaching By Joe Marshall

Here is another article by Joe Marshall. You can see all of them by typing his name into the search box above and to the right. His doubles tennis strategies are really worth applying to your game.

Poaching, I believe, originally referred to stealing game by hunting on someone else’s property. In tennis, poaching refers to the art, in doubles tennis, of a person leaving the side of the court he is protecting, to slant in to his partner’s side, and steal a point by putting a volley away.

Most of the time, the partner of the server stands on the alternate side of the court from the server, near the net, covering the opposite side of their half of the court, hoping for a weak, or poorly placed, return of serve, that he can easily put away. In club doubles, the net man rarely poaches unless he has an easy floater. He is so concerned about “covering his side of the court” that he rarely ventures off his real estate, for fear of the embarrassment of the returner hitting the ball right where he HAD been, for an easy winner.

Let me say something before we go any further……Winning tennis, at all levels, is about playing the percentages……if you ain’t poaching, you ain’t helping. In many cases, you’d be better off back at the baseline with your partner, trying to win the game with ground strokes and lobs, rather than just sitting there and never poaching. The whole purpose of the net position is to play aggressively. To “boldly go where no man has gone before,” picking off what the returner thought were good returns, making them take their eye off the ball with dramatic, but subtle fakes, putting away overheads, and, in general, making their returning lives miserable.

In a tournament match, I like to poach on my partner’s first serve of the match. And I mean POACH. Set up in the middle of the service box (middle from side to side, AND from front to back), and SLANT IN QUICKLY, performing a split step as the ball bounces (moving forward and sideways), with your racquet raised high, anticipating a return halfway between the net strap and the sideline.

Now the big question…..where do you hit the sitter?

Many volleys are missed because the volleyer hasn’t anticipated what he would do with the volley before he got there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Changing Momentum By Joe Marshall

This may be Joe Marshall’s seventh article about how to play better tennis. His insights keep working for me. I played the best tennis of my life today with—and against—Joe. I have improved my serve by keeping my left shoulder aimed at the net (instead of my chest), added a wrist snap to the serve, am using 5-6 different serves, changed my grip from continental to eastern forehand, brought my elbows close to my body for my service returns, am lobbing more, shifting positions with my partner as Joe suggests…it’s all adding up and adding much more excitement to the points and victories. I am sure Joe’s insights can work for you as well. Send Joe an email ( if you have specific questions or want a doubles strategy lesson.

The other day, I was involved in a third set in an indoor match. We had a break lead, but played a sloppy game, and our opponents evened the score. The set progressed to a tiebreak. They got up 4-2 playing inspired tennis, and were about to serve, when I realized something.
“Hey, isn’t it time to change sides?” I said.
“Yeah, but we’re playing indoors,” the server said.
“Well that’s the side with all the points on it, we want it,” I joked. So we switched.

Now some may say that the main purpose of the rule that you switch after each 6 points of a tiebreak is to even up any advantages caused by wind or sun. Being indoors, why bother. But the hidden reason to change sides is the momentum change.

Any time you have the momentum, it is best to play at a nice rhythm, changing as few things as possible in your routine. Any time your opponents are playing confidently, it is to your advantage to slow things down or give them a different look. Nothing accomplishes this better than changing sides. You relax, say a few words, encourage your partner, and give yourselves a fresh start. Our opponents had to move to the opposite side, and think about their lead….not always a good thing to do. We won the last five points and the set. Apparently all the points WERE on that side.

If my team is ahead in a tiebreak indoors, and I realize it’s time to change, I always say, “Hey, that’s six points, do you want to change?”
The opponent almost always replies, “Why bother? Just play.” And we stay where we are……Oh well, I gave them a chance……

The next day we were in a third set, and we were down 2-5. My partner has a solid game, but his serve is his weakest link. By the third set, the balls had lost their liveliness and our opponents were focused on returning his serve and approaching the net, which they both do very well. They had already broken my partners serve. We lost the first point. So what did we do?

We played two back. “Two back on offense?” you say.

But think about it. We were actually playing one up and one back (the weakest formation), and our opponents were playing two at the net (the strongest position). We had two options. Either my partner had to come in behind his serve and take the net away from them, which is not his game, or we could try to beat them by playing good defense from the back court, mixing solid ground strokes with well-place lobs, and coming in behind them.

The game went to several deuces, but we held, and went on to break back and even the match at 5-5. After that we lost a close game and the set 7-5, but we had them thinking.

To summarize: use your changeover when you are down in a tiebreak, and some times two back on offense is the right position to try. Always change a losing game, Never change a winning game. Have fun!

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Lob Return In Tennis Doubles By Joe Marshall

Here is more insightful tennis doubles strategy from Joe Marshall, who plays a very unconventional game that results in numerous victories. He tells you where to stand and how to maximize the effectiveness of your lobs. This is Joe’s fourth article, and you can find the earlier ones by typing his name into the search box up above on the right.

Once you become proficient at the basic tennis shots (ground strokes, lobs, volleys, and overheads….also serves and returns of serve), you can focus on strategy… is where most matches are won or lost…especially in doubles.

There are three basic positions for a doubles team to choose from: The first is one partner at the net, and one at the baseline.

weakest defensive position that most club players choose: one up and one back

The second is both partners at the baseline.

second best position: both back near the baseline

The third is both partners at the net.

The strongest position is the last. The weakest is the first. Yet most teams play the weakest most often and the strongest the least!

The idea is to get a decent approach shot that challenges your opponents to beat you from the baseline when you have two players at the net waiting to put away a volley or an overhead.

most aggressive and best position: both players at the net

The lob return of serve, used as an approach shot (that means that each partner of the lobbing team tries to get into an aggressive position near the net) accomplishes a shift of advantage from the serving team to the returning team. If you can get the lob deep enough that the net man can’t hit an overhead on it, and you follow it in to the net, you team is in an offensive position, and your opponents are in a very difficult defensive position, which is compounded by the fact that 99% of teams don’t move properly to defend the next shot.

To hit a lob return, start by playing in the two-at-the-baseline formation. In this way, you still have a decent chance to return an overhead if your lob is not so great, yet you have plenty of time to both approach the net if your lob is good. When lobbing from the deuce court, position your self out wide, with one, or even two, feet into the doubles alley. This will encourage your opponent to serve toward you backhand side, which is what you want. As soon as the server begins his toss, slant in quickly toward the net, a couple of steps or more in front of the baseline, running around your backhand, anticipating a serve that you can chip up high on your forehand. Move into the ball with quick feet, eyes at ball level, like you would on a volley, but follow through up high, pushing the ball at a 50 or 55 degree angle ten feet or more above the net man’s head. This is an aggressive shot with weight behind it. Think of the ball peaking halfway between the opponent’s baseline and his service line, or even deeper. You will be amazed at how the ball stays in the court. Follow the shot in to a position just inside your service line. Try to read if your opponent is going lob or pass. If you read “Pass,” move in further, If you read “Lob,” be prepared to back up or move in quickly for a smash.

Don’t do more with the next shot than you feel comfortable with. If the opponent hits you a decent ground stroke that dips below the net, don’t fell obligated to try to angle it away…..Just block it back deep and controlled (not necessarily hard). This keeps the advantage on your side, the opponent must still come up with something good. Keep blocking the ball back until you get a ball that you can hit aggressively: A poor lob leading to a chance for you to hit an aggressive overhead, or a high ground stroke that you can move into and angle away.

As I said before, 99% of teams don’t defend this strategy well. When you hit a lob over their head, the net man moves to the other side of the court to allow the deep man to return the lob….but the net man SHOULD move across and BACK TO THE BASELINE. This would allow his team a chance should his partner hit a less than perfect lob and your team tries to put away an overhead……in other words, they should go into defensive position (two back) against the opponent’s (that’s you) two-forward offensive position.

Once you employ a successful lob return or two, you will notice that most opponents’ net player will back off the net a step or two (as he should). This will open up more room for your ground stroke returns, and make it more difficult for him to poach. Once they back up, you can even try a ground stroke return right at the net man, since he is going to have a more difficult time angling a way a volley from his deeper position. Any spin you can put on the lob return is also helpful in both controlling the shot, and making the opponent’s next shot more difficult.

If you sense that an opponent wants to lob YOU at the net, play in close, then suddenly back up quickly as your partner serves. Looking for the overhead….you just might spook him into a mistake or you might put away an overhead.

And remember: two back on defense, two up on offense…that’s winning doubles!

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