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Operation Doubles:

Tennis Doubles Strategy and Tactics


A Tennis Article by Kathy Krajco, publisher of

So, what you know about tennis doubles strategy would fit on a post card? Here are some tips on how to master the game.

First, avoid playing by rote. Rote is doing something by following verbal instructions with little thought or understanding. An example of doing something by rote is following a recipe to bake a cake. You have no idea why you must do these things or why they change the batter the way they do. You just follow the instructions like a robot and, voila, out comes a cake.

It’s a no-brainer. Fine, but you can’t play tennis that way. That is, you can’t play tennis by following a bunch of memorized dos and don’ts.

I could give you a hundred. Get your first serve in. Hit deep to deep and short to short. Don’t go for a finishing shot unless you’re less than 14 feet from the net. Volley through the angular gap between up-and-back opponents. Don’t position wide of the sidelines when you and your partner are both back. Don’t angle a volley to a baseline opponent’s alley unless he or she is too far away to reach the shot. And so on and on.

Those are all verbal instructions. Now, here comes the ball and your brain has less than a second to search its whole database of these axioms to recall the right one(s) for this shot. Can’t be done.

Especially when you’ve memorized them as no-brainers and follow them just because someone said to, not because you have any idea why. They’re just words then, not ideas and concepts that can inform your choices without conscious thought.

What’s more, by trying to remember rote rules of tennis play, you waste precious brainpower needed for other things, like keeping track of the ball and the parts of your body as you move to hit this shot. For example, your brain will be forced to take fewer snapshots of the approaching ball, so you won’t see it as well.

You need to play the way you drive a car, by just seeing what to do and doing it without thinking – that is, by doing it intuitively.

To play tennis intuitively you can’t just memorize what to do, you must understand the game and its strategy and tactics. The idea is to think while you’re learning off court so that you don’t have to think on court.

Learn one thing at a time. Let it sink in and become part of your play before you try to learn the next thing. If you thus resist the urge to cram, you’ll progress fast, learning most things in just one or two days on court.

You’ll have to read or listen to some verbal explanations, but they stimulate the imagination to visualize, so they aren’t just words like verbal instructions are.

Nonetheless, learn as much as you can visually. Watch tennis doubles on TV. Watch it in three dimensions from behind a court. You needn’t watch advanced players only. You can learn much from the mistakes you see intermediates make. Chances are you’ll realize that you make some of them yourself. View court diagrams. Have a piece of scratch paper handy and sketch a diagram as you look at it, so that you get a mental image. Then make sure you have it by re-sketching the diagram with your eyes closed.

When you’re learning something, always picture yourself doing it.

Then when you go out on court you’ll find yourself noticing things you never did before. For example, suddenly you’ll see that big angular gap between up-and-back opponents. It will jump out of the background and grab your focus like a bull’s eye. You won’t have to think or remember what to do: you’ll aim for it instinctively, like a hunter aims and shoots at game that suddenly appears.

And what will you be doing between points? Instead of thinking things you shouldn’t be thinking, you’ll be cooking up a delicious little tactical scheme for the next serve or return.

Then you’ll be getting the most out of your game: the most fun, the most enjoyment, and the most success.

- Written by Kathy Krajco, publisher of

Other Tennis Articles by Chris Lewis:

Are Tennis Champions Born? -- Or Made?
Pete Sampras: Sorry Pete, But That's No Sacrifice
Wimbledon Center Court: What An Experience
On Court Coaching: Should It Be Allowed?
Tennis Parents: "The Ugly Parent Syndrome"
Tennis Ethics
A National Junior Development Program Disaster
Harry Hopman: A Tennis Legend
Vitas Gerulaitis: Rest In Peace
Tennis Marketing: Substance Versus Image

Other Articles by Chris Lewis:

A Tribute to Maria Montessori -- An Article on Child Education

More Tennis Articles:

Mental Toughness - by Tomaz Mencinger
Tennis Psychology - by Tomaz Mencinger
Tennis Shoes History - By Cheri Britton
Womens Tennis Apparel - By Cheri Britton
The Wimbledon Trophy -- A History - By Miguel Seabra


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