Easiest Way to Win in Doubles

When I was asked to express my opinion about which doubles formation is the best and which is the least effective at winning points quickly, I did not hesitate: both players at the net (both up) would be my favourite, while the two players at the baseline (both back) to be the defensive one and taking longer to finish/win points.
best doubles tennis formation

Here is my argument and why you should consider playing at the net more often:

But before I get into the details I want to point out that my analysis is done as a general guide and, when assessing one team’s best tactics and strategies, we should consider each player’s technical skills, experience, and their capability to work and communicate as a team.

I believe that the best doubles formation is… both-up.

When the two players manage to get to the net they will be in the best position to put pressure on their opponents, cover the court and finish the points in the quickest way possible.

When the team is at the net, the best chance for the opponents to pass them is using the back court by sending the ball over their heads (lobs).

The both-up formation has the following advantages:

    1. It puts pressure on the opposing team (which is defending) – gives them less time to prepare for the shot.
    2. They can cover a lot more court and there is almost no opening for the opponents to pass (except when using the lob which, if not executed properly, can be a “smash” opportunity).
    3. The ability to put the balls away (finish points) is greater at the net due to the many angle opportunities and the fact that they can contact the ball above net level.

But let’s not rule out the reasons why some players or teams prefer to play from the baseline, in doubles…

The case for both players staying back can be understood considering the following aspects:

  • Both players are not comfortable playing at the net but they possess reliable ground-strokes.
  • The team is receiving against a strong server – in this case, it is wise to begin the point with both players on the baseline and advance after the return is safely made.
  • The team’s serves are being aggressively attacked by the opposing team (example: if the serve is not powerful or deep enough, the returner attacks the net player; in such situation it is a good idea for the server’s partner to begin the point further back, close to the baseline).

Disadvantages of playing both-back formation:

  1. Many angle openings for the opposing team to put the ball away.
  2. Hard to cover the forecourt (against drop-shots or short angles etc.).
  3. Difficulty in finishing the points – they wait for the opposing team to make mistakes.

Any committed doubles player should strive to improve the net skills (volleys and overheads) and most importantly transitioning to the net which for most part can set them up for a comfortable play at the net if executed properly.

For more detailed analysis of how to play and win in doubles, sign up for the Training membership to learn how to play against different doubles formations, how to communicate with your doubles partner, how to cover the court and get to the ball quicker – watch easy to follow graphics and detailed information for beginning and advanced players.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

This Mistake Cost His Team the Tennis Match…


As I woke up this morning, I turned on the TV to watch the Australian Open tennis matches. There was a doubles match going on and close to the end of it.

The serving team was up a break and trying to close the match leading 5-4 in the final set. This team lost the game and… the match!

The cause for this was, in my opinion, the net player.

This net player, whom I blame for losing the match, is actually a top 20 in singles and top 50 in doubles rankings. But, to my surprise, he was making a mistake that I would attribute to the less experienced players:

As his partner was serving and engaging in cross-court rallies, this particular net player kept following the ball looking back (to his partner hitting the ball) and forth (to his baseline opponent) instead of keeping his eyes fixed only on his opponents; especially the opposing net player. This is a basic mistake that I was surprised to see a pro player making.

As a result, while his partner was serving to close out the match, they lost the game and eventually the set and match due to the fact that most of the points were lost by this net player who was too late in making his volleys. (At the end I could see his partner throwing his racquet against the chair in frustration – I could only guess why he was so angry)
Never Look Back During the Rally!

To summarize this short article… when you are at the net, avoid looking back when your baseline partner has the ball – there is nothing you can do in this case. Instead, your eyes should be fixed on your opponents and in particular on the closest one who is at the net.
As your partner will hit the ball back in play, the closest opponent (at the net) is the most “dangerous” one because if he poaches the ball will come to you and you’ll have less time to react.

Have fun and play smart!
Cosmin Miholca
Certified Tennis Teaching Professional
WebTennis24.com