A common question asked by many intermediate to advanced tennis players is how do I win doubles with a weak partner?
With this in mind, I decided to provide some tips that should help you win more matches when playing with a weak doubles partner.
How to Win Doubles Tennis with a Weak Partner?
1. Play on the ad side of the Tennis Court
As a lot of important tennis points will be decided on the ad side of the court e.g. 30–40, 40–30, it is a good idea that the perceived better player plays on the ad side.
I have also found that most weaker players prefer playing on the deuce side as most prefer hitting their forehands and have weaker backhands.
2. The Stronger Player Should Serve First
In my opinion, the stronger player should always serve first as if you hold your serve, it will give your partner more confidence when the time comes for them to serve.
If the weaker player was to serve first and then lose it straight away, this may have a bigger impact on the rest of the match than if they lose their serve in the middle of a set.
It is also important to get a good start in the first set as this will help your partner gain confidence.
3. Don’t Overplay to Compensate for your Weaker Partner
A common mistake I see when individuals are playing with a weaker player is trying to solve the problem by hitting through it i.e. trying to hit more powerful serves or going for groundstroke winners all the time.
Doing this is a recipe for disaster and you are just making it easier for your opponents as you are more likely to hit the ball out.
Instead, you should try and play within yourself and not make any more errors than you usually would.
4. Provide encouragement
This is probably one of the most important things you can do to win more doubles matches as a lot of tennis is between the ears.
Your goal should be to keep your partner’s spirit up by congratulating them when they hit a good shot, not dwelling on their missed shots or errors, and giving them encouragement when you are behind in a set.
5. Play Two Back When the Weaker Partner is Serving
I have found this to be a good doubles strategy to use when playing with a weaker partner as often they will have a very slow serve that your opponents will be able to attack.
If the stronger player was to stay at the net then it is likely that they would be in a vulnerable position and would be easy prey for their opponents to hit a passing shot by them or by hitting an aggressive ball right at the stronger player at the net.
The stronger player can avoid these problems by moving back to the baseline when their partner serves.
With both players at the baseline, this will be a very defensive position so it will be hard to attack your opponents (especially if they are both at the net).
If your opponents are playing one up/one back then you should hit the ball towards the opponent who is at the baseline and look for opportunities to move into the net.
6. Move into the net when you can
When you are playing doubles with a weaker player, you may find yourself being at the baseline more than usual (see tip 5 above), however, you should still be looking for opportunities to move into the net as soon as you can.
If you remain at the baseline, then your opponents are likely to target the weaker player as they don’t have to worry about a net player poaching the ball.
7. Take Control of Balls hit Down the Middle
Before any match starts you should agree with the weaker player that any balls hit down the middle of the court, will be hit by the stronger player.
By doing this you will avoid any confusion between you and your partner about who should take those kinds of balls and the better player will also have the opportunity to hit an aggressive ball that they can follow into the net.
8. Introduce an Element of Unpredictability into Your Game
A common mistake I see in doubles tennis is where the better player will be at the net and the weaker player at the baseline.
In this scenario, your opponents are just going to constantly hit the ball to the weaker player at the baseline with the better player barely moving at the net.
If the better player wants to win more points, then they need to be more proactive at the net.
If you never even attempt to poach, then your opponents are going to get very comfortable at hitting to the weaker player.
You may be worried that they will hit a passing shot down the line if you try to poach but you need to take that risk if you want to put pressure on your opponents.
Otherwise, you might as well be at the baseline as you are not helping your partner by just standing at the net, watching balls fly by you.
9. Target the Opponent That is More Likely to Make an Error
You might have noticed that I didn’t say to target the weaker opponent.
This is because often I have found one of my opponents will be more prone to errors than the other.
This isn’t necessarily always the weaker in terms of technique as I often see players who have good technique but they go for far too much on their shots or they will go for a very acute angle which leads them to make a lot more errors than their weaker but more consistent partner.
10. Communicate with Your Partner
Good communication is often overlooked in doubles tennis at the beginner to intermediate level and it doesn’t have to be over complicated to make a big difference.
Simply shouting “Yours”, “Mine”, “Let it Bounce” or “Out” has won me so many points over the years.
Doubles Partners I have played with say they like the reassurance my shout gives them on a ball that is going out as they might have hit it otherwise as they were unsure whether it was going to land in or not.