#18 Power Play

Gain the numbers advantage

Make it unfair. Two-on-one unfair.

A Power Play in ice hockey occurs after a fight and someone gets sent off. This creates an uneven balance of players on the ice which is a huge benefit for the team that has more players on the ice.

I want you to think of doubles in exactly the same way, and both teams can benefit from it.

Also think of this tactic in basic, raw, not tennis terms. In any endeavor, think how hard it is for one person to defeat two people. It just creates such an advantage that it’s almost impossible to overcome.

Now think tennis. The key is isolation. You want to isolate one player and completely and not let them help their partner. It’s a simple concept but rarely done well because players want to attack everywhere, instead of in a focused area.

Serving Team

The serving team has the initial advantage trying to get a power play, especially against the player that is the returner.

Way, wayyy too often in doubles players in all positions change direction of the ball without good reason. Changing direction often opens up bad angles when the ball comes back, so if you do change directions, you better make sure you are able to do something with that shot.

The serving team can elect to take every ball right back at the returner and keep the Returner’s Partner out of play, or take the battle right at the Returner’s Partner. Because the serving team gets first use of the ball, they have a better chance of establishing the Power Play.

Returning Team

A smart returning team can also gain control of the Power Play as well. It’s obviously easier initially to isolate the server and keep pounding away at that player, or the Returner can instantly bring the ball at the net player to attack a weakness.

Here’s how it works.

  • Be obvious – If you are running the Power Play well, then it should be pretty obvious to everyone watching the match that you have singled out one opponent and are not letting the other opponent play.
  • Defense = ball in play – There will be some times, especially on defense, that your shot will be a lot weaker, or have a good chance of missing if you try and keep running the Power Play to the opponent you are targetting. Sometimes smart tennis requires going back to the other partner to keep the ball alive, and then run the Power Play again later in the point when the timing is right.
  • It’s a plan – Running a good Power Play gives your team a plan, which already is increasing the percentages of you winning the point. Having both players on the same page is a big deal and this certainly helps achieve that.


Serving Team = Pound the back player.


Returning Team – Pound the net player.

Here’s some wrinkles to deal with.

  • Patience – It’s going to be tough to do it on every single shot.  You may have to rally cross to the other player for a period of time to then find the right ball to start your Power Play. That’s ok. That’s called being smart.
  • 8 Ways – When you start your power play, figure out which one of the 8 Ways to Force an Error (1. consistency; 2 direction; 3 depth; 4 height; 5 spin; 6 power; 9 court position; 8 time) will be the best weapon of your Power Play.
  • Keep Chipping Away – This is not an all or nothing strategy. It’s a wearing down strategy. Quite often the opponent will make the first couple of shots, but since you can isolate them, the 2 on 1 keeps getting tougher and tougher to get out of..

Go Do This

Talk with your partner and get on the same page. Find a good Power Play and commit to it.

You can do it serving or returning – but the serving team gets first chance vs. the returner.

Remember you gain more and more control the further the point develops with a Power Play. Be patient.

Only change directions out of a favorable Power Play to hit a winner. Otherwise, keep playing the percentages.

Nothing wrong with running it against an opponent at the net or an opponent at the baseline. Both work fine.