Different formations can be used when playing doubles. Players must use the formation that best suits themselves but if it isn’t working then changing the formation can help cover weaknesses. The standard formation is where the player that is serving starts next to the center mark in the deuce court just behind the baseline.
Tennis Doubles: Standard Formation
The serving team: The player that is serving starts next to the center mark in the deuce court just behind the baseline. The server’s partner stands just inside the service box in the advantage court, in a crouched position, with knees and back bent, but up on their toes ready to try and intercept the return.
The returning team: The player that is returning will stand diagonally across from the server around the baseline area. They may decide to stand closer to their weaker side. E.g. if the player feels their backhand is weaker they may stand closer to this side to give them more opportunity of hitting a forehand return. However players have to be careful not to stand too far to one side as this leaves the court open.
The returner’s partner should stand diagonally across from the server’s partner, just inside the service box in the advantage court, again in the crouched and ready position.
What happens next?: This is up to the players. Some doubles pairings will play front and back most of the time others will try and keep to their own sides. Some will play very attacking and both try and get into the net, and others will play defensively and both stay back. It is also determined by the opponents and how they play.
Tennis Doubles: Australian Formation
The first formation a team should use is one that plays to their strengths. However if this formation is not working a team can switch formations to cover up their own weaknesses, exploit the opponents weaknesses or to try and defend against the opponents strengths.
The serving team: Both players stand on the same side of the court. For example if the server is in the deuce court standing next to the center mark just behind the baseline, then the server’s partner would take up a position close to the net and the center line, in the service box directly in front of the server.
The returning team: Stand in the same positions as for the standard doubles formation.
What happens next?: This is known as an aggressive style of doubles play. The most effective way to use this formation is for the server’s partner to cross over into the other service box after the server has hit a serve down the center line or at the opponents body. This will not only distract the player attempting to return the serve but also will give the server’s partner a good chance of intercepting a shot down the line.
This style is also good because it allows the server to come into the net via the shortest route if they hit a good serve.
This formation confuses, distracts and keeps the opposition off balance if used correctly. The serving team: Stand in a slightly altered australian formation. The serving player stands in the same position but the net player stands on the center line with a foot in each service box, around 3 or 4 feet from the net. This allows the net player to move either way depending on where they think the returning player will hit the ball.
Communication between the net player and server is key to this formation working as the net player must signal to the server which way they are going to move before the ball is hit. This is so the server knows which side of the court they have to cover after hitting the serve.
Make sure the net player mixes up which side they go to confuse the opponents, and keep them off balance when trying to hit the return.
The returning team: Take up the same positions as in the standard doubles formation
What happens next?: Usually because the net player chooses a side to go on the serve, players will play side to side. If the net player chooses the correct side to intercept the return then the server may come into the net as well to attack. However if the net player goes the wrong way this forces the server to stay back and try and retrieve the ball.