In this point we see two important tactical concepts. First, we see the returner following her return to the net. It is usually a good idea to return and attack the net on a weak serve when the server stays back. Doing this puts pressure on the server and forces him/her to come up with an aggressive second shot, which frequently leads to mistakes.
In doubles you want to be the team hitting down so aiming low at the opponent’s feet should be an on going tactic. This exchange is a good example of this concept.
A big misconception in doubles is that the player with the forehand volley covers the middle. In reality the type of stroke does not play any role in this decision. It all has to do with the geometry of the court.
Within a doubles rally the net player will often have to back up quickly to give himself more time to react in case the opponents play aggressively at him/her. In our clip, the net player stays too close to the net and is unable to control the volley.
Any time your partner hits down the line and you are at the net you need to move towards the centre of the court and make sure the opponent’s volley does not go through the middle.
When playing one up and one back the players at the net should be in constant motion trying to poach or to defend against a poach. Too often players make the mistake of standing on one spot watching their partner play. When at the net get into a habit of moving and adjusting your position every time someone hits the ball. Here you can see Cermak and Fisher fighting for position at the net as their partners rally from the back.
When you are at the net and your partner is serving, make sure you move forward as you hear the serve. This will get you ready to move for any ball hit close to you. Here we can see a good example as the Jurak/Morosi team serve. The player at the net gets in motion as her partner serves and is ready for the down the line return.
When you are at the net and your partner is back, keep your eyes on your opponents. Do not follow the ball back and forth. Pay special attention to your opponent at the net. His movements will reveal the quality of your partner’s shot.
One of the most important goals in doubles is to make the opponents play. Therefore, making a large percentage of returns is essential. Whenever you find yourself missing too many returns or hitting too many high returns that can be attacked, ask your partner to move to the baseline. This will take some of the pressure from your return since it will make it much harder for the serving team to attack your partner off a weak shot.
During a point, everything can change in a fraction of a second, from offense to defense and back to offense. In this match between Gulbis and Ferrer at the Madrid Open 2014, we find Gulbis with an opportunity to attack the net. He chooses his approach shot and drop shot targets in such a way as to make Ferrer cover as much court as possible.