It’s amazing how many players get their first exposure to doubles in college. It seems like the only time doubles is embraced is when players get older and their movement isn't as nimble and diverse as it once was. Coaches are taking notice and are recommending more doubles play from their juniors. If you are an adult or junior and not playing doubles, this article will shed some light on why you need to start playing doubles now!
- Improve your return of serve
The return of serve is the second most important shot in tennis. With this shot, focus is a top priority. When a person is at the net, your return improves out of necessity. Being slightly off target with the placement of your return could end the point abruptly in the opponent’s favor. This is most likely one of the biggest benefits of playing doubles. Don't overlook the importance of the shot.
- Improve your net game
This is an area that most players fear the most. The modern game has developed more power baseline tennis, making the net area a strange place to play. Having to play from inside the midcourt can be as fun as going on your first blind date. The proximity to your opponents can be intimidating. By forcing yourself to be at the net and hitting volleys and overheads, you will naturally overcome any fears. The key is to close the net and be aggressive. Closing will allow you to put volleys and overheads away much easier.
- Improve your strategy
Singles players of all levels occasionally fall into the trap of simply blasting ground stokes without too much thought. Unlike singles, the nature of doubles involving teamwork and a shared goal means that by necessity some time must be spent discussing and giving thought to strategy and tactics, both before the match as well as between points. Singles players are not necessarily accountable to another player should their play not follow a set plan. The increased emphasis on strategy in doubles means that all players must be mindful of how their shots fit in within the wider context of a game plan. Discussing tactics with your partner will heighten your understanding of tennis. Many of these strategies can then be transferred to your singles game.
- Improve your finesse game
With singles tennis resembling a baseline slugfest in recent years, the use of a lob or a drop shot has reduced, as players use it only a last resort when stretching for a wide ball. In doubles, the lob is much more of an attacking shot, which players are often not exposed to when playing singles. Knowing how and when to use a lob adds value to your singles game because the implementation is an alternative to a passing shot when your opponent approaches the net. A well-placed lob can cause your opponent to scurry backwards in an effort to reach the ball as it sails over their head and lands in the backcourt, often forcing your opponent to play a defensive stroke in return.
Tennis is often looked at as an individual sport. This changes in doubles. The more you play with a person; the more you develop a symbiotic relationship. You know each other's every move and tendency. You need to communicate with one another and realize that the only way you can be successful is by playing as one.
- Serve with better accuracy
Some singles players just blast huge first serves and when they miss, they dink their second serves in to get into the point. Serving in doubles is a team effort. Missing first serves and throwing in weak second serves is a recipe for disaster and sometimes for the morale of the team. Servers are forced to land a higher percentage of first serves and to strategic spots on the court to help set up the partner.
- Improved reflexes
Having four players on the court in a doubles match means that points tend to be faster than those in a singles match, putting a greater emphasis on the sense of anticipation and quick re‑flexes of all the players involved. A doubles rally can see a series of shots ricochet back and forth across the net in quick succession. This forces players to react quickly and rely on their keen sense of anticipation, ready to hit the ball when it is next struck in their direction. This type of fast paced play in doubles can help to improve reflexes, reaction time and court awareness. Each of these improved skills will greatly improve your singles game, as you look to utilize your improved split-second decision making and reaction times next time you take to the singles court.
- More exposure to big points
Doubles matches are often more competitive score wise than singles as holding a serve in doubles is much easier. Closer and competitive matches mean bigger points per set/match. Playing big points under match conditions can never be duplicated.
If you are serious about becoming a well-rounded player and improving your overall performance, an excellent way to do so is to find a suitable playing partner and spend time playing doubles together. Just as it helped to sharpen the skills of some of the legends of the sport, it will also help to improve your game, no matter what level of tennis you play.