Art of Doubles – “Opportunistic Play”

Here are ten ways to take advantage of situations and patterns to close out (or stay in) a point or match.

  1. Recognize and take advantage of return tendencies and patterns of your opponents. As an example, drift to the middle and crowd the center of the court if your opponents rarely if ever hit the return down the line.
  2. Recognize and take advantage of serving tendencies and patterns. For example, you can cheat to the middle of the court to favor your forehand (or backhand) if your opponents show a reluctance or inability to hit the serve out wide.
  3. Close and crowd the center of the court anytime you can get the ball down at the feet of your opponents. Jump and attack anything hit up by your opponents (which is likely when your opponents have to dig out low balls).
  4. Close (to about the service line) and crowd the center of the court whenever you can get a lob over the extended reach of your opponents. Look to finish the point with the next shot with a decisive volley or overhead.
  5. Play the score. Be more aggressive and apply pressure when up in a game by either two or three points or up by one or more breaks of serve. Bear down and get more balls in play when down by more than one point in a game or down by a break of serve.
  6. Look to close from the baseline and attack the net in response to anything hit short. Apply pressure on your opponents by pouncing on short balls.
  7. Recognize the comparative strengths and weaknesses of your two opponents. Sometimes it is as simple as hitting the ball to the weakest player and/or avoiding hitting balls to the strongest player.
  8. Create opportunities and gaps in coverage by isolating one player at the baseline (with his or her partner at the net). The best opportunity or positional advantage in doubles is to be up at the net with your partner while your opponents are split in coverage (one up and one back).
  9. Play to your strengths. Put yourself and your partner in a position to be successful. If for example your strength is the forehand groundstroke, create situations where to you get to hit more balls off your forehand side. This can be accomplished by non-traditional starting positions such as an Australian shift when serving from the ad side (for a right-handed player).
  10. Protect your weaknesses. If your game is not suited to extended rallies, look to shorten the point by taking balls on the rise, taking more balls out of the air with volleys, attacking with your strike (serve or return), etc. Conversely, if your game is built on consistency and endurance, look to extend the rally with lobs, baseline exchanges, etc.

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