Many beginners are not aware of the many different Doubles Formations you can use to win points in doubles tennis.
This article will look at some of the options you can use and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of using each one.
5 Doubles Formations in Tennis
1. Both Back Doubles Formation
As its name suggests the Both Back Formation involves both players starting each point from the baseline and is probably the first one you will use when you first start to play tennis as many beginners feel more comfortable playing from the baseline.
It may be used by recreational players but you may be surprised that it is also used by professional players when they are playing against someone with an excellent first serve and/or the server’s partner is super aggressive at the net.
The difference between the pros and recreational players is that although the pros may start the point with both back, they will look to get into the net as soon as they can.
Whereas many recreational players will play the full point from the baseline and will never look to move forward to finish a point.
- As it is a more defensive in nature, it is harder for your opponents to hit winners as they have no net player to pick on
- Both players have more time to hit their shots
- Allows players with weak volleys to hit groundstrokes instead.
- It is harder to hit winners and to be more aggressive as you have to hit winners from the baseline
- Playing both back leaves you vulnerable to drop shots and drop volleys
- Your opponents will have less pressure on their return of serve when you or your partner are serving.
2. One Up One Back Doubles Formation
After the Both Back strategy, The One Up One Back Doubles Formation is often used by beginner to intermediate players.
It involves one player playing at the baseline with the other player somewhere in the service box.
The goal of the baseline player will be to avoid the opponent’s net player and the goal of the player at the net will be to intercept balls from the opponents.
More advanced teams will look to get both players at the net at some point to put extra pressure on their opponents.
In my opinion, the One Up One Back Formation is the weakest option you can use in doubles as it is much harder to hit a winner from the baseline.
By one player staying at the baseline on every point, you are giving your opponent an easy option on every shot as they can just keep hitting the ball to the baseline player until they have a ball that they can attack the player at the net with.
- Is effective against opponents that like to lob as the player at the baseline can move to hit the lob while the net player moves to cover the open court.
- It is simple to execute and doesn’t require much communication between partners e.g. if the net player gets lobbed, they assume the baseline player will be there to cover it.
- The baseliner will find it hard to hit winners from the baseline
- If you are playing against a Both Up Formation then you will struggle to win points as they can hit to the baseliner when they are in a defensive position and then hit to the net player when they have a ball that they can attack
3. Both Up Doubles Formation
The Both Up Doubles Formation is in my opinion the strongest option you can use in doubles tennis as it puts the most pressure on your opponents and is used by advanced and pro players.
The reason why this option isn’t popular at the recreational level is that players are afraid that they will be lobbed so they like to always have at least one person on the baseline to cover the lob.
Although there is a risk of being lobbed if you are both at the net, you need to learn to anticipate the lob as the benefits of having two at the net outweigh the risk of being lobbed.
Although the Both Up Formation is the strongest option you can use in doubles, unfortunately, you won’t see it used too often at the recreational level as many players fear getting lobbed if they are too far forward.
This is a shame as if you master the Both Up strategy, it can make doubles seem very easy.
- Puts lots of pressure on your opponents as they are forced to hit good passing shots or lobs against you on every point
- It is much easier to hit winners and short angle shots when you are at the net
- When both players are at the net you will be vulnerable to a well executed lob
4. I Formation in Doubles
The I Formation is an advanced option you can use in doubles and involves the server and the server’s partner taking up a more central starting position with the aim of placing doubt in your opponent’s minds as to which side of the court each player will be covering.
The player at the net will signal to the server which side they will move to so their partner knows which side they have to cover once they have hit their serve.
The I formation works best when the player serving has a strong serve as if you have a weak serve, you will be vulnerable to down the line returns from your opponents.
The I formation is used quite frequently at the professional level but less so at the recreational level as it is not that easy to execute successfully.
However, it can be a good option to try every now and then so that you can give a different look to your opponents.
- Gives the net player license to be super aggressive as the server will cover wherever the net player is not
- Puts extra pressure on the opponent’s return of serve as they don’t know where the net player is going to move.
- If the server’s serve is weak then your opponent has the opportunity to hit a strong return down the line before the server or net player can cover that shot
- The net player needs to be good at moving at the net as they will need to move quickly to close down the return possibilities.
5. Australian Doubles Formation
The Australian Doubles Formation (AKA Aussie Formation) involves the server positioning themselves close to the center T and the server’s partner positioning themselves directly opposite the opposing team’s net player.
The Australian Formation is good to use when you are playing opponents that have gotten into a groove with their cross court returns.
Similar to the I formation, the server’s partner signals to the server whether they will stay or whether they will poach after the server hits their serve with the server covering the opposite side to where the net player moves.
The Aussie Formation is great to use at the recreational level as many players won’t be used to returning against this formation so you can get a lot of free points.
Just bear in mind that it is important that you and your partner are on the same page if you want this option to work.
- Helps to keep your opponents guessing as to where you and your partner will move
- If your opponent has a good crosscourt return then you can use the Aussie Formation to reduce the risk from this shot
- Puts pressure on the opponent’s return of serve as they don’t know which side of the court the net player is going to cover.
- If the server hits their serve out wide then you will be vulnerable to a good return down the line from your opponent.