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Doubles is a “strange game” at the club level… by Ken DeHart
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Doubles is a “strange game” at the club level… by Ken DeHart

Most players call out “FBI” or “let’s play the first serve I finally get in” to start their doubles games.

When they do that, I immediately call “FBB” or “when you get your first serve in, we don’t start playing until I get my first return of serve back in play as well”.


Players will spend 10 minutes warming up short court, then from the back court, then volleys and a few overheads, maybe start play with “FBI” or occasionally hit 3-4 practice serves and start to play – why?


70% of all points played in a match are either a serve or return of serve.  

Only 30% of points are ground strokes, volleys or overheads! 

Why wouldn’t you practice the two shots that start every point?

1. I got bored warming up my other shots

2. We want to get started so we can play

3. I hit a few serves but I can’t practice returning serves – it slows down the warm up

4. I just want to hit shots like they do on TV

5. We only have 1 1/2 to play and we want to get 3 sets in


Setting up the ball machine

Doubles players typically go to practice on the ball machine and set it up in the middle of the opposite court then run around to baseline practice hitting ground strokes to where?  

1. Did you have a target?

2. Why wouldn’t you set the ball machine in the deuce court or the add court so you have the correct sending and receiving direction?

3. Why wouldn’t you practice sending the ball back cross court from the deuce court, lobbing down the line, hitting a drop shot to bring your opponent in then practice lobbing over their head?

4. Now switch and do the same from the add court.

5. What ever balls did not make it over the net, use them to practice serving and you will have all the balls on one end of the court and you will have gotten in a few of the most important shots in the game – a serve.


Yes but I only play the deuce court in doubles.

1. Not when you are the server.  You have to serve from the ad court then play cross court from the add court.

2. What if you are losing to a team and you need to switch sides to change the strategy of the match

3. What if your new partner only plays the deuce court?


Practicing with a friend

Do you rally up the middle when you go to practice with a friend? Do you rally cross court like you are playing doubles to practice receiving and sending the ball from a diagonal direction?

1. Do you drop and feed the ball in to start your rally’s?

2. Why would you not serve the ball to your partner to start the rally?  That way an easy serve motion start the point and your partner gets to see a serve that comes from a different angle than a underhand feed ball.  OH MY GOSH – we are actually practicing serve and returns to start our 1 hour ground stroke practice

3. Most players rally for an hour and 20 minutes then decide they should hit some serves – so they both do and no one is practicing receiving serve and you are serving just to say you did serve today.


Practice holding serve

Play points out cross court starting with the serve but you only get 1 serve. 

1. Miss your one serve and the other player becomes the server – and you can only win a point if you were serving. 

2. If the return of server wins the point, they only win the right to serve and try to win the point on their serve.  

3. Play to a certain number of points – even better – play a 7 or 10 point tie breaker using 1 serve only (you will figure out how to get a serve in play between a smash and a dink to win points) and you can only win points if you are the server

4. Your return of serve will get better to break the server so he can’t score and you get the chance to serve to win a point.

5. Practice playing from both the deuce court and the add court


Pressure points

You may not have the best serve on the court – but you can have the best return of serve on the court.

1. If you win a point while returning serve – you get 2 points. Get motivation to get the return back in play and puts huge pressure on the server to develop a serve with location, spin and variety of placement vs power.

2. Make up all kinds of games to add pressure. If you are up 40-0 and lose that point, you go back to love or (0), start all games at 30 all because the next point means some one is up 40-30. Use your imagination – you will come up with some cool situational pressure games by yourself.

3. There are no service breaks unless you hold your serve after a break. So, you better focus on that next game as critical because the best time to break serve is after a break of your opponent’s serve – beware!


Become a winner by focusing on the 1st two shots in the game to become a real champion at any level.


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Traveling Tennis Pros - Ken DeHart

Ken Dehart is a PTR Hall of Famer, PTR International Master Professional, 2 Time PTR international Pro of the Year, USPTA Master Professional and 4 time USPTA Divisional Pro of the Year. He is the Director of Tennis at Silver Creek Valley Country Club in San Jose, California. Ken travels and speaks at conferences and to pros all around the world, Australian, Wimbledon and US Open tennis teachers conferences and writes extensively for magazines and websites. He is a tennis collector with hundreds of books, racquets and tennis memorabilia in his collection. You can follow Ken on Facebook at Ken DeHart Tennis and on Instagram at dehartken.

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