Coach Marcin Bieniek, founder of instructional Enjoy Tennis Blog, explains the specific aspects of doubles tennis that can improve your singles play. Marcin is currently looking for new career opportunities, so if you are interested in cooperation, you can contact him via his personal website.
Individual format in tennis is definitely more popular among players. We can see that juniors and adults tend to practice with the aim of achieving great results in singles, as they want to take control over things and be fully responsible for all the actions. But can doubles play have positive impact on their performance in one-on-one format?
The difference between singles and doubles game
Specific aspects of singles tennis
In individual format, players have to take care of all the zones on the court. Players have to run to every ball and make decisions based on their own and their opponent’s positions. In singles, players can’t hide their weaknesses. During the match, your opponents will realize where you make more mistakes and they will use this knowledge to take advantage on the court. Additionally, singles players have to be physically ready to deal with a lot of effort, because poor shape is a limiting factor to achieve good results.
Specific aspects of doubles tennis
There are two players on the same side of the net and they have to cooperate with each other to be successful as a team. Without constant communication it is impossible to beat solid rivals who know how to play doubles. Moreover, it is a big advantage if players know something about the net game and have skills that let them put pressure with volleys and overheads. Even without perfect shape or powerful groundstrokes, doubles players can get good results, as different skills are important in doubles compared to singles.
As we can see, two formats are two different games. Does it mean that these two different games don’t have an impact on each other? No. Singles play has impact on doubles play and vice versa. Most players prefer playing singles to playing doubles, but their singles performance will definitely be better when they include some practice and matches in team format of tennis.
The benefits of playing doubles for improving singles performance
There is no doubt that doubles is a quick game. A lot of points are finished at the net, so both baseline players and net game players have to be aware of how they can put pressure on the rivals by making right decisions on the court. By playing doubles, players improve decision-making skills which are necessary to win in individual format of play. Players who can quickly decide about hitting a passing shot into the alley while seeing net game player trying to poach will also be able to execute effective strategy with only one rival on the other side.
In doubles there are four players on the court — two on each side. It means that there is less open space for every shot that players want to hit. Power is still a solution, especially to force opponents to make mistakes, but precision plays a vital role in different situations on the court. Returning or dealing with deep balls are examples of situations where without great precision the ball will land on the racquet of the player at the net. Learning how to hit with precision will improve quality of the shots in singles and also will give another weapon to the player who won’t have to think about winners only with power in mind.
Net game skills
Modern tennis is based on powerful baseline shots but there is still a lot of room for effective net game. In doubles, players start to understand how important proper positioning is for increasing their chances for winning points. They also see opportunities to use both powerful and precision volleys, so better decisions can be made in singles while coming closer to the net. In singles, players often have to compete against different styles of play, so having net game skills as a weapon is a great tool that can be used against particular opponent.
Communication in team format is of utmost importance. Players use gestures to decide about the serve’s direction and movement after the serve or they talk to each other to prepare a plan for the next action. By talking to their partner, players not only learn how to plan the point, but they can also discover different possibilities because of having another perspective from their partner. This ability is a big advantage in singles as well, where players should also look for planning and finding solutions before every point starts. Players who have a plan can play with bigger quality than players who just react to the actions on the court.
I understand that individual format of play is more appealing for many competitors, however, it doesn’t mean that doubles game should be omitted at all costs. Those who want to be great tennis players have to become better every day and playing doubles creates this opportunity. Players have to see the benefits of playing with a partner and then they will be able to use doubles to improve singles performance.
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Really interesting article!