#2 Where To Stand
Where you start really matters.
A lot of success is locked up in where you stand on the court.
Doubles teams often lose the point from poor positioning before it even starts. This is especially true of the two net players as it is harder to mess up where you stand serving and returning.
Looking at where a player stands on the court to begin a point tells a lot about their speed, intentions and hunger for the ball.
Server – The server is generally going to stand wider in doubles because they have a partner already positioned on the other half of the court. The only exception to this rule is when the Server is serving in the deuce court and trying to target the right hander’s backhand. It makes it tough to do that if they are standing too wide.
Returner – The returner wants to factor in how wide the server is standing to serve, what groundstroke do they want to return with, and what is the likelihood that the net player is going to get involved.
Server’s Partner – The server’s partner is best set up right in the middle of the service box. This enables them to cover around half of the alley while still having good reach to the Center Window in the middle of the court.
Returner’s Partner – The ideal location is right behind the service line in a neutral position, waiting to see how the point develops in the first couple of shots before deciding to move forward on offense or back on defense.
The picture below represents the fundamental starting position in doubles, but there are several variations to build upon.
One Up – One Back
This is a formation that doubles teams will normally begin with to start a point, with the exception of two back to return a big first serve. I have also seen two back from the serving team but that was definitely not something that gets the job done day in and day out.
Usually with one up and one back the back player is either trying to outrally the opposing team or is probing to find the right ball to come forward to join their partner at the net in a staggered position.
One Up One Back
This is by far the best position at the net that enables the net player to to effectively take control of the front and as well as still allowing the back player to come forward more if a lob is not coming. The back player is still more responsible for the back of the court.
Typically the front player in a staggered formation is the player who is on the same side of the court as the ball. For example, the left player will be staggered forward if the ball is on the left side of the court on the other side of the net.
Together is not as good as it sounds because it is not immediately clear who has control of the front of the court and who has control of the back. Teams will generally be together for only a shot or two during a rally as the back player comes up to put a volley away. The back player can also venture further forward here, predicting that a lob is not coming from the opposing team.
The Rubber Band
It’s very important to have an understanding where your partner is on the court, especially if they are on defense and pulled wide. I have heard coaches talk about the concept of two doubles players tied together by a piece of string so that when one player moves, the other has to move with him. That’s just too rigid and does not take into account other factors on the other side of the net.
I like to think that the two players are attached by a rubber band, meaning that they will always feel that their partner is being pulled wider but they do not recessarily have to go with them. I also like it because the further one player gets pulled, the more tension is created, and rightly so the other player should start to come with them.
1. Playing Drill
Objective – To start in the right position and move together as a team as the point develops.
- Play a set.
- Draw small circles on the court with sidewalk chalk to show the ideal starting positions for all players.
- Call “freeze” during a point to highlight what the team is doing well together or what needs to improve.
- Don’t let points finish and then try and retrace the point to the teaching moment you want. Freezing the point is a better way to do it, and then replay the point
Variations – All players stop at the end of the point and quickly evaluate their position relative to their partner and the opponents. Let them take time to examine where they are, and if it is correct or not.
2. Feeding Drill
Objective – Start in exactly the right spot. One step away is not good enough. Half a step away is not good enough. Be precise with the positioning.
- Have all players start in their normal doubles positions.
- Play normal games and the coach talks DURING the point – quickly highlighting what is going well or what needs to happen.
- Talking during the point is not used enough. It’s a great way to help players instantly with their understanding of spacing and movement.
Variations – Once again, seek as much feedback from the players as possible. Let them lead the discussion at the end of the point. You will learn a lot about why they do what they do.
Where you stand to begin a point greatly affects the outcome.
Being 1 step out of position isn’t good enough. That means a mishit on the frame.
Know that where you stand visually matters to your opponent. It opens and shrinks holes on the court.
Know where your partner is during the point and move accordingly to help them.
Don’t look at your partner a lot. Look forward and read the play from the opponent’s positioning.