Doubles Game: Understanding Tennis Doubles Rules

a professional doubles tennis match

Tennis is a popular sport enjoyed by millions around the world. Singles matches are well-known, but doubles games add a new dimension to the game. Understanding the rules of tennis doubles is important for both players and spectators. From serving rotations to court positioning, knowing the ins and outs of tennis doubles can greatly enhance the experience for everyone involved. Let’s take a closer look at the rules and strategies involved in this exciting and dynamic aspect of the sport.

Basics of Tennis Doubles Scoring

Point System in Doubles

In doubles, the server changes after each game just like in singles. The serving player must aim for the correct service box. If they hit their partner or the opposing team before the ball bounces, specific fault and point-losing rules apply.

Alternative Serving Formation: Australian

Players can use the “Australian” or “I” formation to disrupt the opposing team’s returns by positioning the serving player’s partner at the net strategically.

Doubles matches demand specific coordination and strategy, different from singles. Strategies include switching side court positions and leveraging the serving order to suit their team’s strengths and exploit opponents’ weaknesses.

Games and Sets: How They Add Up

In tennis, the winner is determined by adding up games and sets. To win a set, a player or team needs to win six games, but with a margin of two. If the game score is tied at six-all, a tiebreaker decides the set winner. Doubles players can switch sides at the end of each set, but not during the set. The serving and receiving order can be changed at the start of each set. 

In doubles, players must take turns serving for each game, and the same serving order continues throughout the set. These rules ensure fairness and a fun experience for all players.

Deciding the Match: Understanding the Final Set

Special Rules for the Last Set

The last set in a tennis doubles match may have special rules. In USTA League play, a 10 point tie break is played in lieu of a 3rd set. In a Grand Slam, a 10 point tiebreak is played when the final set reaches a game score of 6-6. Strategic serving and aggressive net play can maximize their chances of winning. The Australian formation, where the server’s partner stands in the service box in front of the serving player, can also be effective.

Players should be aware of these special rules and be prepared to adapt their game plan to secure victory.

Serving in Tennis Doubles: What You Need to Know

a tennis serve in a doubles match

Picking the First Server of the Game

In tennis doubles, there are specific methods for picking the first server of the game. The serving team can decide which player will serve first. That same player will continue serving for the entire game. The opposing team gets to serve for the next game, and this process alternates between teams for each game. Picking the first server is important because it sets the momentum and strategy for the match. Generally, the stronger server should serve first, but that depends on the position of the sun and the wind. Also, if one player is left handed and the partner is right handed, the starting server will depend on their serving strength and the sun position. 

It also gives each player the opportunity to start the game making a significant impact, influencing the dynamics and flow of the doubles match.

Starting the Second Set: Serving Rules

In doubles tennis the team serving stays on the same rotation. The serving sequence stays consistent for the whole set. At the start of a new set, the partners can change who serves first. This makes sure that it’s fair, and players need to adjust their strategy based on who serves.

Tiebreak Time: Serving When It’s All Tied Up

Tiebreak Serving Turns

In a tennis doubles match, tiebreak serving occurs when the score reaches 6-6 in a set. At this point, a 7 point tiebreak game is played to determine the winner of the set.

During a tiebreak in a doubles tennis match, players determine the serving order by following the same serving order used throughout the set. 

Get in Position: Where to Stand in Doubles

Serving Team’s Positions

The serving team in tennis doubles has strategic positions. They choose the serving side and which player serves first. The serving player continues to serve the entire game but can switch with their partner at the start of each set. The partner not serving can stand anywhere on their side of the court and can use specific formations like the Australian formation. This involves the server’s partner standing in the service box in front of the serving player.

 The receiving team can choose which player returns the first ball but must stick with the same sides for the entire set. However, the first point starts out in the deuce court and the second point starts out in the ad court and continues this rotation until the game is over. Special rules apply when the server’s partner is hit with the serve or receiving shots to keep the game fair and competitive.

Positions for the Returning Team

When playing doubles in tennis, the best positions for the returning team depend on the players’ skills. One player is typically at the net, and the other stays at the baseline. This setup helps cover the court well and increases the chance of returning shots and winning points. Being close to the net allows for a more aggressive game, putting pressure on the opponents and causing them to make mistakes. This is the position that most doubles teams take to win points quickly by the net person.

The returning team can position both players on the baseline or one back and one up close to the net. The player not receiving the serve, has a function of calling the serve in or out. 

Switching Sides: Can You Do It in Doubles?

In a doubles tennis match, players can switch sides with their partner at the start of each set. The serving team can choose who starts serving the first game and the receiving team can choose who receives the serve first. This is a strategic decision within the match. The serving and receiving order remains the same throughout the set but can change at the start of a new set.

Switching sides in doubles allows players to stay flexible and adaptable during the match, adding strategic elements to the game.


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