A Simple Way to Pressure the Returner in Doubles
Updated: May 18, 2019
Here are three things you can do to be more effective at the net when you are the server's partner:
1. Start in the middle of the service box.
2. Move forward behind your partners serve.
3. Control the middle of the net.
Believe it or not, starting in the middle of the service box can be a challenging task. A lot of people do not start centered in the service box. Maybe they're afraid of being hit in the back of their head by their partners serve or the fear of being passed down the line is too great to overcome. The fact is that the majority of returns will travel through the middle of the net. Some returns will go down the line, but the lion's share will go cross court. Starting your position off-center towards the alley will put your opponents at ease knowing they have a clear path cross-court and don't have to worry about the server's partner. Don't give the returner this mental edge. Start in the middle of the service box and let them know that you are there to play.
When your partner hits their first serve it is a good idea to move forward after the ball bounces in the service box. This takes return real estate away from the returner and forces them to hit a better shot. You can still cover the down-the-line return, but gain more looks from cross-court returns. This also helps your partner, especially if they are serve-and-volleying, because it allows them to cover tougher cross-court returns.
Now don't be shy about making your move to the middle if you feel like you can intercept the return. Sometimes you will miss, but the majority of the time you will probably win the point. You'll notice that your team is able to hold serve and a lot of that will have to do with the fact that you had the courage to move forward and intercept returns in your range. By not moving forward you will get less looks at the net unless the return is hit right at you.
The average rally length in doubles will be about 3 shots (1. serve, 2. return, 3. serve + 1 shot). Understanding this concept is important in your success in doubles. When you're the server's partner you are the +1 when you close forward on a good serve. Give it a try the next time you play doubles. Your partner will thank you.