The focus on juniors in competitive play and training is usually on singles. Singles is always the main attraction at every major televised tournament and brings with it the most prize money. Singles is at the heart of the spirit of tennis. It’s you against your opponent, one on one, the best you have against the best they have; no outsiders allowed. Although this is the case, juniors players should be made aware of all the benefits that doubles can bring. Here’s why your child should be playing doubles.
Doubles is, on the whole, a much faster game. This is partially due to the fact that net play is a primary component. With each team fighting to get to the net first, in order to have an easier time winning the point, the ball is getting to the players much sooner since they are twice as close. Because the game is faster, you have to react faster, thus improving your footwork and coordination. Doubles requires a player to be more aware and sharp. It’s easy to become lulled into a false sense of security if the ball is not struck to you for the majority of the point, but you have to assume it will be and here is where the awareness and footwork improves. Players who are sluggish on court, who are used to controlling the center and working the other player, or rely on one aspect of their game to find success must improve their split steps and movement since winning in doubles requires you to have different tools in your toolbox.
This leads into a second reason why your child should be playing doubles. Volleys and overheads are shots which are seen far more often in doubles than in singles. While you may be able to set up a volley or solicit an overhead in singles, those shots are requirements for good doubles. A player may be able to avoid hitting them altogether in singles and work to their own strengths, maybe their serve or forehand, but in doubles, you simply cannot get away with it. Success in doubles is directly proportional to your skill in hitting good volleys and overheads. And because a player will have more opportunities to hit these shots, their skills will improve and they will be a better and more well-rounded player.
Doubles is also good to build teamwork skills. Working in tandem with another player is something that does not come naturally. Communication is something you don’t need in singles, whereas in doubles, it is vital to winning. The ability to communicate and coordinate a strategy with another player is exceptionally rewarding and brings another dimension to one’s game. The structure that doubles provides is important to the mental side of the sport. Singles is a forgiving game where a bad shot may not turn out in losing a point. Singles also allows for a great deal more passing lanes than you would see in doubles. Playing with another person against another team requires you to make less mistakes. A short ball or a bad lob is going to be punished immediately. There are few second chances in doubles. The game also requires you to work the point a bit more since there are far fewer passing lanes. One opponent may miss a ball or not be able to reach it, but what about their partner. Their partner might be able to recover the ball, and so patience and strategy are developed on a greater level.
Finally, doubles is just plain fun. Singles is difficult in part because you’re out there by yourself and you have to figure things out on your own. Players can enjoy a camaraderie in doubles that you cannot find otherwise. It provides our juniors a break from the pressures of singles and they get to meet new players and build relationships.
Doubles has several benefits (improved footwork, different shot selection, team strategies, camaraderie) that you wouldn’t normally get out of singles, and it is for that reason that we should be encouraging our juniors to play it more often. Our goal as mentors to our children should be to build a well-rounded player who can handle anything on the court. Doubles is a vehicle that can get them there faster.
Miguel Cervantes III
Miguel Cervantes III teaches at Carefree Racquet Club and privately outdoors. Miguel specializes in teaching beginners, training juniors and coaching doubles. He may be reached by e-mail at UnderstandingTennis@gmail.com.