Holding Serve as a Doubles Team: 4 Key Tactics
One of the great advantages of doubles is that you have a teammate to share responsibilities. Unless one player is just radically playing horribly, it’s up to both of you to be accountable for winning and losing. The same goes for holding serve. It’s a team effort (assuming one partner is not double faulting each point away). The net player should never think it is just the responsibility of the server to hold.
Sure, it would be nice to rely on big serves to set up easy volleys and overheads, but we don’t always have that luxury. Instead, no matter what serve is delivered, you can devise a strategy of shot placement and movement with your partner to hold serve as a team. Obviously, this begins and ends with good communication.
Objective one is for the serve to get the serve in. Sounds obvious, I know, but not always as easy as it seems. Sometimes that means you must dink or underhand the serve. Never give free points away by double faulting. Now that serves are hitting inside the box, here are 4 tactics you can employ to hold serve:
You always want your opponents to feel your presence at net. If they know you’re just going to stand still, they’ll never be concerned on their returns. So right from the start of the match you want to get in their heads by showing your opponents a few poaches. This is especially effective if the server can serve to the T or body.
At GlamSlam clinics, we teach a Command Poach. This is a tactic you plan with your partner. The net player will go for the poach no matter what the return is, so the server must make the switch. Just be sure to employ good poaching tactics, which means not moving until the opponent’s head goes down to hit the ball. As they say, timing is everything.
Whether you do a command poach or you spot a last second opportunity to poach, moving at the net makes the returner uncomfortable sending the ball back across the net.
Serve & Volley/Baseline
The server can make the returner uncomfortable as well. Mix up your movement between serving and volleying and staying back at the baseline. When you stop being predictable, you keep the opponents on their toes and often thinking too much about their return.
These two formations are great to use when your opponent is killing a second serve or just simply returning well with angle and pace that are giving the server trouble. It also helps keep the opponent net player guessing which way your net player will go. Be sure not to use it all of the time or for just one player repeatedly. Again, the goal is NOT be predictable, to leave them second guessing what you will do next. Be sure to communicate well with you partner as to which way you will go after the serve hits the box.
If you are missing volleys at the net, your opponents are able to place the ball wherever they want at will, and your team is good at the baseline, consider both of you staying back. You take away the target at the net as well as give yourself more time to place the ball where you want. You can always close the net with each successive shot and retake net position. As mentioned above, don’t get too predictable, even if it is working. Mix it up!
Next time you find yourself having trouble holding serve, use a few of these tactics to put your opponents between a rock and hard place. Sometimes even just a little disruption can sway the points, game, and match in your direction. Good luck!