I am often asked which lessons players should take to become effective recreational players. “I’m not going to become a pro,” says one such player. “I just want to be a reasonably good recreational doubles player.”
It’s an excellent point, really. Recreational doubles players don’t need to have every shot that Federer or Sharapova have. They don’t need a booming serve that blasts opponents out of the court. They don’t need a jaw-dropping back court drop shot.
To play recreational doubles well enough to compete and have fun, these are the only five shots you really need to work on.
The key to serving in recreational doubles is to get the ball in. Getting your first serve in is especially important. It doesn’t have to be powerful. It doesn’t need to be precisely accurate. It just needs to be in.
If your first serve percentage is consistently under 50, sign up for a serving lesson. If your first serve is over 50 but consistently under 65, practice more.
The Serve Return
Most recreational players believe that returning a serve is simply a matter of hitting a forehand or a backhand. Not true. Not true at all!
Serve returns are a special kind of forehand and backhand. They are as different from regular ground strokes as shopping carts are from minivans. If you don’t know the difference, sign up for a serve return lesson and think about taking a two-handed backhand lesson as well.rnrnThe ForehandrnrnTo play recreational doubles well, you need to be able to return short balls. More importantly, you need to be able to return them to specific spots on the court.
Accuracy, not power, is the key here. So keep an eye out for lessons that will help you improve the accuracy of your forehand. Recreational doubles players can safely take a pass on any lessons promising more power.
The Two-handed Backhand
In doubles, the two-handed backhand is the most useful of the two backhand options available. One-handed backhands are elegant and seductive; they are also more powerful and allow players greater reach on the court. Two-handed backhands, however, are more accurate and easier to control for most players. They are also better for returning topspin serves.
One-handed backhand players beware. If you do not have a two-handed backhand in your tennis toolkit, your ability to play doubles is impaired. This is especially the case when you are receiving topspin serves to your backhand while standing on the ad court.
The basic strategy in recreational doubles is to hit an angle shot that forces your opponent off court in order to return it. In most cases, this creates a wide space between the players on the opposite team into which the net player on your team pounds the ball at the earliest opportunity. Given this, it is essential that every would-be recreational doubles tennis player have good basic skills at the net.
Racquet Network offers lessons on volleying and all of the above shots throughout the outdoor tennis season. Sign up for the ones you need and forget about the ones you don’t. Racquet Network does not insist that you sign up for a full set of lessons when all you really need to do is work on improving a single skill.