The Biggest Mistake Doubles Players Make

By Will Boucek

In this post, you’ll discover the biggest mistake I see 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 doubles players making, but first, we’ll go over crosscourt vs down the line shots.

Crosscourt vs Down The Line Returns

Doubles team on the tennis court

Me and my doubles partner warming up for a college tennis match… in the snow!

If I asked you which shot is easier, 100% of you would say crosscourt. It’s obvious right?? Why is a crosscourt shot easier?

  • The net is lower in the middle than it is near the alley.
  • The court is longer crosscourt, so you have more room to miss.
  • Typically, if you’re hitting up the line, you’ll have to change the direction of the ball. Every return you hit comes from the crosscourt, so it’s easier to hit it back in the same direction.

If I could give you a way to make your opponent hit down the line instead of crosscourt, would you do it?

In doubles, we can…

The Perfect Poach

Tennis coaches have instructed players for years, don’t hit it at the net player. Almost every doubles team you face will play by this rule.

So if you poach often, then you can force your opponent to hit the up the line shot that we know is low percentage.

Assuming you’re partners serve is okay, and you’re comfortable at the net, they’ll only make one out of three up the alley returns at best.

The idea here is fundamental to one of our principles of tennis, changing it up and playing differently. Being active at the net will make you different than 90% of the doubles players out there, so it’s a great way to get in your opponent’s head and cause them to beat themselves.

Poaching also makes it easier on your partner, the server. In doubles, we can win free points by making the opponent miss the return. Moving at the net makes them second guess where they’re hitting it, and lose confidence in their shots.

The Hard Part

If this is so obvious, why don’t people do it?

It’s all in your head.

Something else that most tennis coaches have taught doubles teams that you’ve surely heard and said dozens of times… Cover your alley!

For some reason, we think it’s worse to get passed up the line than to get beat in a cross court rally, so we cover the alley at all costs. In the tennis match, they’re both one point. However, you see it when someone passes you up the line and hear a big “come on!” Emotionally, it feels like a bigger point than most, but you have to realize, it’s ONLY ONE POINT!

When people do this to me, I actually take it as a good sign because I know, they’ll usually only make one out of three. If they pass me up the line early in the match, my opponent will usually keep trying to beat me there and grow frustrated when they start missing returns. They know how to hit the shot, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a low percentage shot.

Easy Tips For Poaching In Doubles

  • Poach early in the match to see how they handle it. Pressure points are also a great time to poach. I like to move in the beginning of tiebreakers to force return errors.
  • Work with your partner on this. Experiment!
    Make them hit forehands and backhands up the line to see which side is weaker. Try slow kick serves and slices into the body. You can usually find a weakness for each player quickly and attack it throughout the rest of the match.
  • Move forward when poaching!
    Many tennis players move sideways when they try to poach and dump balls into the net. If you move forward, you’ll make more volleys and finish off points more often.

So go out in your next match and poach!

Make your opponent hit down the alley, and don’t beat yourself up if you get passed a few times. Get in the other team’s head, and experiment with different poaching strategies to find and take advantage of their weaknesses. You and your partner will win more matches and have more fun playing with this aggressive style.

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