Craig O’Shannessy Interview: Talking Doubles with the World’s #1 Strategy Coach

Craig O'Shannessy - ATP Tennis Strategy Coach

Below is an interview with Craig O’Shannessy.

Craig is the strategy analyst for Wimbledon, the ATP Tour, and the New York Times. He has also been the strategy coach for Novak Djokovic and currently works with 4 players inside the top 100 including world #8 Matteo Berrettini. You can follow him on his website, Brain Game Tennis.

In this conversation, we talk about:

  • Coaching on the pro tour
  • Stories from Craig’s college playing days at Baylor
  • Doubles strategy
    • 5:31 – How to divide the doubles court
    • 8:14 – The center window concept
    • 10:26 – If it’s OK to play 2 back
    • 12:41 – What your ideal point should be in doubles
    • 13:34 – How club players can learn from pro-level strategy
    • 16:43 – Serve strategy
    • 22:06 – Return strategy
    • 27:27 – How to cover the lob & deal with lobbers
    • 32:50 – How Craig got an advantage during warmup in college
  • 36:21 – Craig’s favorite tennis book & non-tennis book
  • 37:23 – Craig’s favorite tennis tournament – you’ll never guess it 😉
  • 38:12 – Craig’s favorite player he’s ever coached
  • 39:57 – A “tennis story” Craig has never told anyone
  • 43:44 – About Craig’s new course Getting Tight
  • and a lot more…

The Interview with Craig O’Shannessy

Here is the 40+ minute conversation with Craig. There were a few minor audio issues due to the slow COVID-19 internet in Austin.

Interview Notes

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Below are links to things mentioned during our conversation, including images, key concepts and takeaways.

Craig’s Tennis Courses

Below are the 3 courses mentioned in our conversation.

Favorite Books

Key Doubles Concepts & Takeaways

Dividing the court. Below is how we should think about dividing the court in doubles. We don’t have sides, we have zones shown below that can change during the point.

Tennis court divided for doubles

The center window. This is the most important area of the doubles court to control.

The center window concept in doubles

In an ideal doubles point, no player hits the ball twice. It’s like beach volleyball with a setter and a spiker. The back player sets up the front player to finish the point.

Have a plan to cover the lob, but prioritize the center window.

Hit your first return of the match down the line.

Pick out the weakest volley on the other side of the net. Usually, this is a backhand volley. During warmup, and early in the match, find the weakest volley and attack it when both players on the other side are at the net. You and your doubles partner should be both know this and hit it there every time.

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About the Author

Will Boucek is the Founder & CEO of The Tennis Tribe. He has played tennis for over two decades, including in college. Will has worked with ATP & WTA tour players and coaches. He currently lives in Austin TX where he plays USTA leagues & tournaments, writes about tennis, and teaches doubles workshops.