Doubles tennis is far more popular than singles tennis among recreational players. The rewards are the same, but there is considerably less wear and tear on the body. But it can take time to build a solid rapport with your partner, one that encompasses every aspect of the game. So today we’re only going to cover doubles serving strategies, identifying the four possible ways to serve smarter and frustrate your opponents:
Serving out wide is a great strategy when you’re dealing with opponents with weak backhands and/or poor movement on the court. They will struggle trying for the return and get frustrated with their weak shots and/or errors, which will chip away at their mental game as well.
Down the middle
No doubt you’ve played against someone who loves to rip those crosscourt angled returns, even with their backhand. Well, serving down the middle will put a stop to those, as the receiver will have much less of an angle to work with for his or her return. And when that return does come, it will likely be easier to cover, giving your partner at net a much better chance at poaching the ball, and you a much better chance at moving in for a slower short angle. Even though they may be a righty, this serve also works great on the ad side against an opponent who guards the alley too closely. They’d only have a second or two to move 10-12 feet to even get to the ball, much less return it well.
At their body
Even though there is a perfect target to aim at, this still is probably the most underutilized of all the serves. This strategy works best against taller or “heftier” opponents who usually have a harder time getting around their own bodies in order to return well (or at all.) You probably won’t get any aces, but you’d be surprised just how much a direct body serve can throw people off their game.
Mix up your serves
Speaking of throwing people off their game, the key to any successful doubles match is variation. For this reason, NEVER attempt more than three identical serves in a row. This way you’ll always keep your opponent guessing, drawing more errors on their part and helping set up your partner for some perfect poaching opportunities.
Communicate with your partner
This is crucial to winning doubles tennis, yet most recreational players don’t do it at all. Think about it: if you tell your partner you’re going to serve out wide, they will know ahead of time to stand a little (NOT a lot) closer to the alley in case the receiver goes down their line. If you tell them you’re going to serve down the middle or into the body, they will know ahead of time to be ready for a poaching opportunity. Do this on every serve and you will win more points!
Practice makes perfect
If you have trouble placing your serve where you want it, don’t just use your weekly (and seasonal) matches as serve practice; you need lots of repetition — and without the pressure of winning. Spend at least an hour each weekend on the court with a bucket of balls and practice your serve placement. Set some empty tennis ball cans, or towels, or anything you’d like to use as targets at the left, middle and right service lines and aim your serves at them. Before long, you will be able to place your serves with confidence and consistency.