How Do I Play Well with a Weaker Tennis Player? Part 1

We have all had the “joy” of playing with a weaker partner, but most of us aren’t quite sure what to do about that without overplaying ourselves, or getting frustrated because they are hitting every ball to that partner, or that you set her up, and she misses that easy put away volley.

Well, here’s my answer to that question, after 4 decades of playing…tactically speaking:

  1. If I am confident at the net, then I need to get involved in the points more.  So, I am going to tell my partner that after she hits 2 groundstrokes from the baseline, that MUST be crosscourt, I am going to poach the next ball, and she switches to the other side at the baseline. We call this the “2 & GO” play. She hits 2 crosscourt groundstrokes, and then I am going to cross and poach.
  2. Another great strategy is that if my partner is really struggling with hitting a backhand groundstroke, but her forehand is pretty consistent, then we will play the regular doubles formation when she is serving.  Therefore, they will probably try to hit it cross court to my partner, which is fine, she can hit a forehand. But then when she has to serve to the ad side, I must play the Aussie doubles formation, where we both line-up on the same side of the center line.  She serves close to the mid hash-mark, and after she serves, she moves to her right, so that if the returner hits down the line, it is again to her forehand, her strength. If they hit the return cross-court to me, who is at the net, yeah, I get to hit my winning volley!  So, we are covering up my partner’s weakness and making them hit to my strength. It also puts me closer to the center line, so I can get more vollies and play ¾ of the court. (Without making my doubles partner feel bad). This one is a MUST to practice.
  3. When you are the receiving team, have you and your partner play back at the baseline together.  If your partner is weaker, that usually means her vollies aren’t as good, so if she is at the baseline with you, they can’t pick on her vollies, and she is more comfortable with you next to her, feeling your encouragement. The opponents don’t have the hole in the middle to aim at any more. Then if you get a short ball, you can both move in together, which is more intimidating to your opponents.
  4. If you are the returner, a great strategy is that if you can hit a lob as a return, over the net player’s head, and move into the service line, you can now take the next ball as the opponents have to switch sides, and will hit back a weaker shot. You take any high ball coming back over the net, your partner can back up a little to play staggered formation in case of a great cross court lob.
  5. Another obvious formation is for you to either give signals to your partner when she is serving, that you will either poach or stay. (It does depend on if your partner can do this tactic), or you play the “I” formation with your partner serving, and you will straddle the center service line (be sure to duck low so you don’t get hit in the back of the head), and you will tell your partner which way you will move after she serves.

So, try these different tactics to help your weaker partner, and it will allow you to play more!

Let us know how this works in your next game!!