How to play doubles like Murray & Soares

What do Jamie and Bruno, the Bryan Brothers and many other doubles specialist do to be at the top of the game?

Andy is not the only Murray who has had a phenomenal year. Jamie with his Brazilian partner Bruno Soars have this evening at the ATP finals booked there place in the semis with their 3rd win of the event over Marcelo Melo and Ivan Dodig. The doubles game is a totally different beast to master, the aggressive net play has not diminished in this form of the game like it has in singles.

The short answer is, they do the simple things and dominate! So I hear you asking……What are the simple things?

  • get to the net as much and as soon as possible
  • when close to the net play aggressive to the opponent closet to the net or wide
  • when at the baseline play to the deeper positioned opponent
  • when neutrally position at the net (at service line) or defensively positioned at the baseline, hit down the middle of your opponents
  • move forwards, backwards and sideways as a team and always look to close up the space between you and your partner in the middle of court
  • communicate with your partner constantly

All players from professional to club players can also implement these basics into their games with practice. In order to be able to execute these doubles basics effectively, players must develop in 4 areas; volleys, serve, return and movement. With good skill in these areas, they will then be able to put a lot more tactics into play during matches. While watching the doubles at the ATP finals you will constantly see players adjusting their position at the net and on the bassline either when they are serving or returning. You will also see a small space down the middle between them. The images below from the ATP finals this week show Murray and Soares running a service play (left) and Murray moving at the net to put away a volley after a serve from Soares (right). Notice in these images the small distance between the middle of them compared to the space on each of the wings combined. Having the skill level in the 4 areas mentioned allows them to constantly set up these service plays and to keep their opponents guessing and allow them to feel comfortable while closing this space between them.

murray-soares-3 murray-soares-5

How you can improve these doubles skills quickly

Volleys – As doubles is an attacking game, won more often than not by the aggressive players, volleying well and consistently is essential. Murray is always looking to get forward into the net. This is one of the strongest areas of the Scot’s game and whenever he has the opportunity to get to the net he will be there trying to put his team in the ascendency.

Tip – hit solid volleys without the need to go for too much, you will soon create a very easy put away or your opponent will go for too much from the baseline and miss. Remember you have the positional advantage, so use it!

Serve – This shot is crucial in all forms of tennis, but in doubles it can set your team up very nicely if executed correctly. A powerful and accurate serve will help your net partner move to intercept the return with a put away volley. In reverse a weak or inaccurate serve will leave your net partner in a vulnerable positon to be attacked by the returner. Murray and Soares will discuss the target for the serve before each and every point. The net player will then move to an agreed position to put away the most likely return from that serve.

Tip – serve down the tee more often, this will close down the angles for the returner and therefore help your net partner cross and hopefully put away the volley.

Return – As we mentioned above the serve is a crucial part of doubles. From the returning side, if you can build the pressure on your opponent’s service game by making a lot of returns and also giving your opponents a tough first volley, this will certainly carry through to a break of serve at some point in the set/match. When you watch the top doubles players they are hitting the majority of returns crosscourt to the feet of their opponents, so the returner’s net player can get involved whenever possible. However, they still do mix it up with a return down the line sometimes to keep their opponents honest.

Tip – if you are struggling to make returns, ask your partner to come back to the baseline to take the pressure off hitting a very accurate return and change the aim of the return to a simple goal of getting the ball back in play. This will allow you a chance to get into the point and hopefully apply some pressure.

Movement – A doubles player has to be able to move forward to the net very quickly to take advantage of any opportunity to attack their opponent. Once at the net they must also be able to move forward and backward, side to side and on the spot so they can position themselves adequately to execute their volley technique, while also closing down any angles that may open up for their opponents to hit to.  Murray in particular has perfected the movement forward into the net. He knows his strengths lie up the court and he works hard after serves and returns to get there as often as possible. Furthermore, Murray and Soares are experts at maintaining the correct position at the net with their strong movement skills

Tip – make sure the gap between you and your partner is small, don’t allow your opponents to hit winners between you; if your partner moves 2 steps to the right, you move 2 steps to the right.

Murray and Soares are one win away from clinching the number 1 doubles team ranking for the season, that is if they make the final here in London. The mastering of the some the simple skills involved in doubles tennis has enabled Murray and Soares to reach the highest heights of the game.

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