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Return of Serve in Doubles

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John Mills, USPTA

You are receiving the serve in doubles - where should you return the ball and where should you go after hitting it?

  1. In general, when the serve is hit reasonably close to you (a step or a step and a half away) then you always have the option of moving forward toward the net to take a volley position.

  2. If you are returning this serve as in example 1, and you are often not being successful coming in and making the volley, then your other option is to stay back (behind the baseline). From here, you can hit a full stroke or a lob and still go to the net later in the point.

  3. If the serve is hit well and pulling you way outside the court, you have two good options. First, you can lob over the opposing net player. By returning the wide serve crosscourt, you are hitting to a very small area of the court and your partner will have no clue which side to cover. If the lob you hit is good and deep, you can take control of the net. If the lob you hit is short, you can warn your partner (saying "short") allowing them to move back out of harms way (playing defensively). When you return the wide serve as a down the line groundstroke, you are taking away the "poach" and you are allowing your partner to cut off anything that goes down the middle.

  4. If the serve is hit so as to pull you toward the center of the court, throw up a lob. This will give your team time to reposition and wait for a better shot to attack.

In general, do not come forward after being pulled into the corner of the service square. Stay back and wait for a better opportunity. Also remember that when you move inside the baseline to return a serve and you are successful, you should not wait in the "No Man's Land." Either move forward to volley or move back to hit a full groundstroke or lob.

Good Luck!

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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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