Tennis Doubles Formations: Why and When To Use It

Double formations are the different variations of court positions that tennis partners can choose in order to best fit their game plan. Here’s a quick analysis of most common formations:

  • One Up/One Back Formation: Known as the standard formation, where the baseline player tries to setup their partner at the net or eventually join him/her at net.
  • Both Back Formation: Usually, a more defensive formation, commonly used by players who are not comfortable at the net or when competitors ground strokes are extremely dominant.
  • The “I” Formation: Server and net player will stand in front of each other (server serving from close to center, net player kneels down near the T).  The net player will communicate a pre-determined side prior to the returner hitting the ball.
  • Australian Formation: Server and net player will stand in front of each other (server serving from close to center, net player will be on the same side as server).  Usually, the server moves to cover the down-the-line return i.e. when serving to the ad side, the server will move to the deuce side while net player will covers middle and the ad side.

Doubles formations are one of the most valuable weapons on the court but are also the most underutilized by club players! Here are some of its benefits of using different formations:

  • Decreases the opponent’s ability to get into a rhythm e.g. forcing them to return to different locations based on where the net player is starting.
  • Isolates your opponent’s weakness i.e. the Australian formation from the ad side makes your opponent hit the backhand down-the-line which is a difficult shot for most players.
  • Makes you play your strength more often i.e. the “I” formation can allow you to play from the side you are stronger and your partner can switch sides to cover your weaker side.
  • Create confusion for the returner i.e. the “I” formation can make the returner pick his/her target later as they will wait to see where the net player is going, that alone can force errors from your opponents.

When should you use double formations?

  • If you are struggling to win points against one specific returner, give them a different look by changing the formation.
  • If you are getting beat pretty bad, try a new formation since what you are doing is not working!
  • If the match is close, it’s likely best not to experiment with something new at a crucial point.

About the Author:

Joao ‘Jay’ Pinho is Manager of Tennis Operation and High Performance Tennis Coach at the Nassau Tennis Club in Skillman, NJ.  For more information on the High Performance Academy visit, www.NextLevelTennis.Net

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