Firstly, I’d like to say that everyone here at SVC Tennis misses seeing you all at lessons, clinics, and around the club. We’ve been trying to stay busy and brainstorming ideas to keep y’all involved in tennis while we have to stay off court so hopefully this video breakdown will give you something you can use in your game, or at least give you a 10 minute break from whatever at home work/chores may be driving you crazy.
I selected these highlight videos for multiple reasons. Professional doubles matches typically receive significantly less media coverage than singles (my hypothesis as to why this is would require it’s own blog post) so for those of you that don’t actively seek it out, you may have never seen footage of pro doubles. Another reason I chose these highlights is because they are great examples of one team executing very basic doubles strategies that put them in good positions to win. I also picked these matches because I remembered really enjoying watching them. Doubles play creates many different positional situations and allows for some shot creativity (you’ll see quite a bit of that in the following videos) in ways that singles rallies typically don’t.
This first video features one of my favorite men’s matchups from the Miami Open in 2019, with the American pair of Bob and Mike Bryan beating rising singles star Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and his partner (and more of a traditional doubles specialist) Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands. The Bryan brothers are two of the most talented doubles players of all time, but I believe part of their success comes from their consistency in strategy. To keep you guys thinking about your own competitive mindset, we’re going to go over a few basic strategy choices the Bryan brothers (and other players on the court) make that you may want to consider using in your matches.
In the first point of these selected highlights, we immediately noticed how the Bryans utilized their positioning to allow them to be more aggressive in returning serve. Coach Gianni pointed out that “…Bryan brothers benefit enormously from having two forehands in the middle of the court,”. Dominating the center of play is crucial in doubles, so it makes sense that you would want your team’s stronger shots to be available in the middle of the court. Coach Garcian brought up how important footwork is on shots played in the middle, “the key is to always stay moving and to mirror your opponents movement so that you can react faster,” he said. We see an example of this in the third shot of the first point one of the Bryans steps way out wide to ensure they get a forehand in the middle. In your own doubles play, if your team consists of one right hander and one left hander, consider using this positioning strategy to ensure that your stronger shots are occupying the middle of play.
Another part of this video that I think is very valuable for all of our players to see is the execution on the overheads. At 0:50 we see a point where Tsitsipas has to hit three fairly difficult overheads consecutively, and he finishes the point perfectly. I want our players, especially when playing doubles and receiving a medium to difficult overhead, to consider focusing on aiming overheads crosscourt. This tactic gives you more margin for error on a shot that’s typically hit hard, as well as gives your partner the best opportunity to poach if they are at the net. We see this tactic executed beautifully in the point at 2:29 when Tstsipas backs up for a baseline overhead and sets Koolhoff up for a putaway volley.
The second highlight video I chose comes from the Wimbledon 2019 mixed doubles draw where the pair of American Serena Williams and Andy Murray (GBR) defeated Raquel Atawo (USA) and Fabrice Martin of France. I selected this video because it’s a perfect example of how great singles players like Williams and Murray transfer the strengths of their singles play to the doubles court. Let’s take a look at some ways that team Murray/Williams takes control this match.
If you’ve taken multiple lessons/clinics with me you likely know about my tennis idolization of the Williams sisters and the way they revolutionized playing with aggressive styles. If this applies to you, you likely already know where I’m going with this…learn and use the swinging volley! This is a shot that is increasing in popularity at all levels of the game, and will greatly help your offensive play if you learn to execute it correctly. Serena uses this shot in the very first point as well as at 3:14; Murray hits one very cleanly at 2:51 also. Coach Gianni noticed two main things to focus on when watching Serena’s swinging volleys specifically: “1. She doesn’t think twice on the high ball and identifies the hitting zone at which she wants to execute the swinging volley 2. She uses her feet to assure great placement on the ball during the loading phase,”.
One more tactic that I thought this video (as well as the last one) demonstrated was the use of the touch volley. In doubles placement is often prioritized over power, and hitting to open areas of the court sometimes involves taking pace off the ball and using touch. Gianni commented that this shot is used “…to expose gaps and create confusion,” which is seen in the point that begins at 0:20 as Atawo hits a perfect short, soft volley leaving Murray and Williams both out of position. “I think the main point … is that both teams show how important it is to create space in doubles. You want to be able to create a situation where one player is isolated so that you can control who gets to the ball,” said coach Garcian. We see how the pros use space with a vintage Andy Murray drop volley in the point that begins around 3:12. He’s one of the best to imitate if you’re looking for a player that utilizes touch well.
That concludes our doubles highlight breakdown discussion, I hope y’all learned something new. Hopefully we’ll see everyone back on the court soon but for now stay safe and healthy!