DOUBLES STRATEGY (9)

I based my doubles strategy on the assumption that all four players
have the basic tools of doubles. You may want to start with “two back” at a
beginning level. Club women often play “one up, one back.” My best girls’
team (even at a good college level) contended: “We just get them up at the
net and then lob it. We win!”
In doubles my main emphasis was on the service return. I encouraged
our players at every practice to hone their return by being aggressive. To sharpen or hone that return by repeatedly attacking and moving in where
ever possible. We gambled, took chances, often over hit, and did reckless things on practice returns. In matches, when a big break point would win
the doubles point for our team the pressure wasn’t nearly as damaging.
Doubles is a “one-two” game.
Being a member of a high school team is a valuable experience. Team
tennis has broadened many people. Larger squads, more fall play, schools  with more than one team, and more matches than the traditional “six
singles and three doubles” (or nine point matches) are ways to allow more
people to play that may not be too far away.
For now a youngster must set high goals to make his or her team. The
first goal is to “get a suit,” or make the team. Goal two is to get to play in the
match. Goal three is to win a match. Goal four is to win more than you lose.
Goal five (the ultimate) is to win a team championship.
Back to the starting blocks. How do you make the team? While singles
make up two-thirds of the points in the traditional team match, I have
coached too many contests that were won by the doubles point. Every
team member has realized that it is tougher to watch than to play on those
cold March afternoons when this high drama develops. As a coach, I have
also noted that good kids (or team-oriented players) have an advantage
in these pressure-packed matches. My inclination then, is to select these
people for my team. Advice well taken for the marginal player could then
be to develop your doubles ability to make the team. Some organizations
are even beginning to dictate that doubles team personnel be different
from the singles starters.
My answer to this first step question, “How can I best insure
doubles success?” is always, “Get yourself a good partner!” More often than
not a coach will make this decision for you (though most will want team
opinions). Once partners are determined, Doubles rule number two is
paramount: “Get along with your partner until the match is over.” This
doesn’t mean you have to kiss each other or that you can’t make
suggestions, but to pit yourselves against each other makes it a
three-against-one contest. My experience has been that the cardinal sin
in doubles is to blow up at your partner for the same error you have just
made or are moments away from making. (“Double faults are double
trouble in doubles!”) Doubles is a different game than singles.
Ask tennis people what makes good doubles players and they will
probably suggest that you get your first serve in, or develop a great
chip-backhand service return or to never miss that first volley or to hit a
lot of lobs and low-angled shots. While any number of skills are involved,
I have found a quick summary of each of the four players’ duties is a good
way to teach strategy. These suggestions assume each of the four players
can execute the skills of doubles (If not, you must practice fundamentals
until they are mastered). Each player will function in each role many times
during the match. Each player should memorize the basic duties of each
position, master the skills involved, and improvise as they improve. The
concept that both coach and player should bear in mind is that doubles is a “one-two” game. The core strategy is to set your partner up so he can hit
the ball down.

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