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Who's Ball is it Anyways?
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

In doubles play it can sometimes be confusing who should hit the ball, you or your partner. You do not want to be a ball hog, you do not want to smash racquets together and you most certainly do not want the ball to slip in between both of you for an easy winner. So how do you know when you should go for the ball or leave it for your partner? When should your partner expect you to go for the ball or when he/she will have to play the ball?

In doubles this issue comes up more so when both players are at the net. Usually if your partner is on the baseline and you are at the net a ball that gets by you (down the middle) can easily be recovered by your partner at the baseline. However, if you are both at the net there is no recovery time and there are no second chances. So the question still stands, who's ball is it anyways? Who should have hit the ball? Here is my answer: Who ever is closer should hit the ball.

But is the answer really that simple? Sometimes. Maybe the ball is hit down the center of the court the same distance from both of you, then who's ball is it? Whoever is closer to the net at that point should go for the shot. The closer you are to the net the better/more offensive volley you will be able to hit. The ball will be higher and you will be able to hit down and hit better angles. I have played with people who do not like to be close to the net to hit their volleys. I like to be fairly close to the net. I will cut off a ball going to them because I am closer to the net and I have the better shot selection and the better percentage due to my position. Whoever is further behind the net will have a volley that is lower, slower, tougher to hit and forces that person to hit more of a defensive volley rather than the player closer to the net. These points I have suggested here are more for a doubles team of equal strengths.

If you are a doubles team where one player is better than the other the stronger player may naturally take over and hit the ball if it is hit down the middle. He/she may react quicker and have more confidence to hit the volley. The only problem is that the stronger player must be aware of what their partner is thinking. The weaker player may tend to let some balls go thinking the better player would get them. In that case the stronger player will always have to be ready to move even if the ball is hit a little closer to the weaker player. This also forces the better player to cover more court while at the net which is a downfall but something the weaker player should be aware of if they plan on letting the better player hit more volleys.

Communication is a key element in doubles and the better you know your partner's game the better doubles team you will make. A lot depends on how well you know your partner and how many times you have played together as a team. Knowing when you need to hit the ball and knowing when to let your partner to hit the ball will make your team more successful!

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker