#12 Two Back

An excellent counter-move.

Take away offense, and create some of your own. 

Playing two back as a returning team is a great idea for a variety of reasons. They are mainly defensive in nature, but certainly sometimes they can be for offensive reasons as well. It is typically used against first serves, and then the Returner’s Partner will move forward to a more traditional location right behind the service line for the second serve. Let’s explore some times to play two back returning.

1. Big Server

When you get a server who can drop some heat, then two back is a great way to counter that power. The returner faces greater difficulty against the increased power, spin, or kick off the court, which in turn brings the server’s partner far more into play preying on the weaker, more defensive returns.

When the Returner’s Partner also starts at the baseline it stops the Server’s Partner from having free reign hitting weak returns right through the Returner’s Partner’s area of the court, and also through the middle. Moving back enables greater reaction time and also enables more area of the court to be covered. Yes it does open up the front of the court, but not a lot of players have the touch to be able to exploit it.

2. No Center Window Control

Sometimes you are going to run up against a great volleyer at the net – someone who moves well and is the most dominant of the four players at the net. A great way to diffuse their front court excellence is to start two back returning to make it a lot tougher for that player to put a volley away.

3. Bad Volleys/Reflexes

Let’s face it – not everyone is Patrick Rafter or Stefan Edberg at the net. If a doubles team is losing points because the other team is picking on your weaker net player, then move them back out of that danger zone so they don’t have to be as exposed up at the front of the court.

4. Great Groundstrokes

This has become more and more common in recent years. Why hit a weak volley when you possess a killer forehand? A lot of players are moving back to the baseline in doubles so they can crank their huge groundstrokes at the other team at the net. This has proven to be very effective because a powerful groundstroke is very hard to control unless you have solid volleys – which a lot of players simply don’t have. If you and your partner are not winning with a traditional set-up, and there are powerful benefits from moving back, then that’s exactly what you should do.

The Problem: Returner’s partner getting hammered.

It’s probably not even the Returners Partner’s fault. It could very well be the quality of the serve, the weaker returns hit, or a very quick and capable net player in the Server’s Partner position. It really does not matter which one it is – move the Returner’s Partner back to the baseline to buy a lot more reaction time and stop the bleeding at the front of the court.

The Solution: Move back, cover more, and buy time.

You see this at the pro level in almost every match against a first serve. It just raises the percentages that the returning team can steal points against a first serve. It does open up the front of the court, but not a lot of players have great touch and can exploit this area with soft volleys.


Strategy Drills

1. Playing Drill

Objective – Teach players the benefits of two back against a first serve.

  • Play a set.
  • Always start with two players back against the first serve, but the Returner’s Partner moves up to the service line for the second serve.
  • See if the Server’s Partner can exploit the front of the court with touch volleys.

Variations – Sometimes play two back on second serves to see what develops and how all the players react. They may all want to find their way to the net anyway.

2. Feeding Drill

Objective – To see how two back fares against two at the net.

  • One team starts at the baseline. The other team starts at the net.
  • After the first feed, always feed to the team that just lost the last point.
  • The object is to become the net team and win three consecutive points.
  • If the net team loses the point, both players immediately go back to the baseline chasing the deep feed. Both players that were on the baseline on the previous point now advance to the net since they won the last point.
  • Drill ends when one side of the court has the net position and wins three consecutive points. The “changeover” point, when the baseline team wins and moves to the net to start the next point, does not court as one of the three.
  • Play nine rounds. Each round players rotate spots. One player always stays in the same spot to make the rotations easy. All the other players rotate clockwise

Variations – This is a great high intensity drill pitting two back players against two front players. You can vary the drill with how hard you feed the ball into play.

Go Do This

Start with the Returner’s Partner back around the baseline. Better initial defense.

Normal to move forward on second serves into the traditional starting position.

Look to use groundstroke power vs. aggressive volley positions.

Lobbing is a good tactic for two players back vs. two players up. Can cover a lot of court.

The main reason to move back is to buy more team and make it more difficult for the volley to be put away for a winner.