When to go for the KILL in doubles tennis

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This is a guest post by our monthly contributor, Will Boucek, a former college tennis player from Austin, with over 20 years of experience playing and coaching. Will specializes in doubles and was 4.5 men’s and mixed doubles champion in Texas in 2017. Fascinated by the strategy of doubles, Will shares his valuable insights on his website The Tennis Tribe. In this month’s column, Will explains one costly mistake that a lot of doubles players make — going for the kill shot (or the winner) too early.

The goal in tennis isn’t to hit winners, it’s to win the point. I’ve told you before that most points in tennis end in errors, NOT winners. So the key is to ensure that your opponent is making the errors instead of you.

So how do we do that? Start by asking yourself a few questions next time you try to end the point.

Down-the-line winners

When I go down the line, do I need to go for the all-out winner, or can I play it safer and aim for the singles line?

Most of the time, if you hit a good shot with high margin down the line, the opponent will miss the volley (especially the backhand volley).

Look at it like this… you can:

1) Go for the all-out winner, and make 7 out of 10 – I’m being generous 😉

Win percentage = 70%

2) Go for the high percentage shot at the singles line, with more spin, make 9 out of 10. Then, win 8 of those 9.

Win percentage = 80%

Which odds would you choose? 🤔

Volley winners

When you’re at the net, should you try to put the volley away, or make the opponent uncomfortable to set up the next shot?

A lot of people go for the kill too early here as well. Let’s say you have a high forehand volley from here.

Again, you can:

1) Go for the winner and try to smash it to the open court, making 6-7 out of 10.

Win percentage = 65%

2) Hit a solid deep volley at the back player’s backhand, or at the net players feet (also backhand side), and make 9 out of 10. They’ll likely pop it up so you can close and smash the next one away.

Win percentage = 80%

Against better teams, you have to go for more, while against worse teams you can really wait for the easiest ball possible. In general, though, a solid shot to the opponent’s weakness is the right play.

Force more errors!

P.S. Did you see this doubles point at Wimbledon with Navratilova? WOW!

MORE DOUBLES TIPS FROM WILL BOUCEK:

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