Doubles & Singles – two different games!

In my experience, one mistake is to approach Doubles with a Singles mentality. Take the quiz below & we’ll discuss the patterns that emerge below.

1. Which requires a more semi-open, rotational approach to your swing & which requires a more linear, square stance approach – Doubles or Singles?
2. Of the five ball controls (Height, Depth, Spin, Direction & Speed), which is more a priority in Singles & which in Doubles?
3. Which game has generally a more compact swing – Singles or Doubles?
4. Which ratio of 1st. serves in is acceptable in Singles & Doubles? 60% 80%?
5. Serves are directed down the middle more in Singles – or Doubles?
6. Running-wise: is there more side-to-side running in Singles or Doubles? More forward-backward movement?


In my experience, Doubles requires, in general, a more linear, square-stance approach than Singles. Why? In Doubles, shots are coming at you at a faster rate than in Singles. You will be at the net a lot more than you are typically in a modern Singles match. A square stance restricts your back-swing & allows for quicker response time. Also, the kind of shots you will be playing – returns, approaches, volleys, overheads – function better with a square rather than a semi-open stance. This also relates to the answers in 2 & 3. The ball-control emphasis in Doubles is more on Direction & Angles than Speed, Height*& Depth*. A square stance and linear swing allows you to line up shots in a more precise way, which is what you want in Doubles, where there is less court to hit into due to 2 opponents playing opposite you. A more rotational, semi-open swing is great for power, depth, height & top-spin as per Rafa & his Singles game; but it’s not so imperative as placement & angles in Doubles. Re. question 3, the time-restrictive nature of Doubles, where quick-fire exchanges are common, means a more compact swing (both take-back & follow-through) is preferred. Re. 4. the preferred ratio of 1st. Serves in for Doubles is 80%, whilst 60% is more common in Singles (although obviously higher would be nice). The reason for a higher percentage required in Doubles is that you would much rather control the net than your opponents & a well-placed first serve is essential for doing that rather than a more neutral 2nd. serve kick serve. Again, the ball-control emphasis is more on direction than speed. In Singles, even if your opponent chips & charges your second serve, they face a volley test – on their own! (With a lot of a lot of court to cover). In general, there are more down the middle serves in Doubles, the reason being that it’s more difficult for the receiver to hit inside-out, away (cross-court) from the net person. Conversely, wide serves in Doubles give the returner 2 options (cross-court & down the line), and they are also “outside” balls, which are easier to control. Finally, more running is done laterally (side-to-side) in Singles & more front-back running in Doubles. (generally , you are either both retreating from or approaching the net a lot more in Doubles than in a modern Singles match).


I feel a mental shift is imperative when you switch from Singles to Doubles (& vice versa). For Doubles, the swing will be more compact, linear and the stance more neutral-square. In Doubles, emphasis will be more on control,direction & angles than speed & height-depth (*obviously, height is important in lobbing; however, the rally ball that I teach for Singles, with the ball sometimes passing over the net by 5-6 feet & landing deep, will be eaten up in doubles by the predatory net-person.) The kind of stroke I associate with Doubles is more of a low drive than an arcing rally ball. You ideally want to strike a lower trajectory ball, taken earlier, which will either dip at the feet of the net-person and force a half-volley, or, at least, not be poached from above the height of the net. The mind-shift is toward quick, compact, dipping strokes, exploiting angles as much as power – all executed with more of a square stance. Oh, & you better be ready for the next ball coming right back at you much quicker than in Singles – which is another reason for a less rotational semi-open stance, preferrable more in Singles base-line rallying.

The two games ARE very different – but with the right mental adjustment, equally enjoyable.

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