Discover the Top Doubles Strategies for Winning!

Discover the Top Doubles Strategies for Winning!

Mark Brossman

Pickleball is more than just a game—it's a social activity, a workout, and for many of us, a passion. As a professional pickleball player, I've spent countless hours on the court and have seen firsthand how crucial good doubles strategies can be. For suburban married men between the ages of 35-55, pickleball offers a fantastic way to stay active and bond with friends or even your spouse. Let's dive into some top strategies that will help you dominate on the doubles court.

Understanding the Basics of Doubles Play

The Foundation of Doubles

Before we delve into advanced strategies, it's essential to understand the basic structure of doubles pickleball. Unlike singles, doubles play relies heavily on teamwork and coordination. You'll need to cover less ground individually but must work in sync with your partner to cover the court effectively.

When I first started playing doubles, I quickly learned that it's not just about hitting the ball well; it's about moving and thinking as a unit. My partner and I developed a rhythm that made us formidable opponents, and that rhythm started with a solid understanding of the basics.

Key Differences from Singles

In singles, you're responsible for the entire court, which can be physically demanding. In doubles, however, the court is divided between you and your partner. This division of responsibility can make the game less tiring and more strategic.

One of the first things I noticed was the need for better communication and positioning. Unlike singles, where you can rely more on your own abilities, doubles requires a synchronized approach to both offense and defense.

Communication is Key

Importance of Communication

Effective communication is the backbone of successful doubles play. Whether it's calling for a shot, indicating your position, or planning your next move, clear communication helps prevent errors and confusion.

When I played in my first competitive doubles match, my partner and I lost a few points simply because we weren't communicating effectively. We quickly realized the importance of talking to each other constantly, even if it seemed redundant.

Techniques for Effective Communication

Developing a system of signals and verbal cues can significantly improve your coordination on the court. Simple phrases like "mine," "yours," "switch," and "stay" can make a huge difference.

My partner and I often use hand signals behind our backs before serving. This allows us to indicate the intended serve direction and our subsequent movements without tipping off our opponents. It's a small tactic, but it keeps us on the same page.

Positioning and Court Coverage

Basics of Positioning

Proper positioning ensures that you and your partner can cover the court efficiently. Generally, you'll want to stay side-by-side near the net, moving together as a unit.

When I first learned about positioning, I struggled with the concept of "stacking," where both players start on one side of the court. It felt unnatural, but once I saw its effectiveness in forcing opponents into awkward shots, I was sold.

Maintaining Optimal Positioning

Throughout the game, it's crucial to maintain this optimal positioning. Move together and avoid leaving large gaps that your opponents can exploit.

I remember a match where my partner and I kept getting caught out of position, leading to easy points for our opponents. After the match, we focused on moving in unison during practice, which paid off in our next game.

Serving Strategies

Importance of a Strong Serve

A strong and strategic serve can set the tone for the rally. In doubles, your serve can help you take control of the game from the outset.

In my experience, a well-placed serve that targets an opponent's weaker side can disrupt their rhythm and force a weak return, giving us the upper hand.

Variations in Serves

Mixing up your serves—using power serves, spin serves, and placement serves—keeps your opponents guessing and prevents them from settling into a rhythm.

I used to rely heavily on my power serve until a coach pointed out that my opponents were getting used to it. By incorporating spin and placement, I became a more unpredictable and effective server.

Returning Serves Effectively

Techniques for Consistent Returns

Returning serves effectively requires consistency and control. Aim to return serves low and deep, making it difficult for your opponents to attack.

When I was first learning to play, I often tried to do too much with my returns, leading to unforced errors. By focusing on keeping my returns simple and controlled, I improved my consistency.

Setting Up Offensive Opportunities

A good return can set up your team for an offensive play. Aim to place your returns strategically, such as targeting the feet of the opposing net player or hitting deep to push them back.

In one memorable match, a series of well-placed returns allowed us to dominate the net and win several consecutive points. It reinforced how critical a good return can be.

The Third Shot Drop

Significance of the Third Shot Drop

The third shot drop is a pivotal shot in doubles pickleball. Executing this shot well can neutralize your opponents' advantage and allow you to advance to the net.

Initially, I found the third shot drop challenging. It requires finesse and precision, but once I mastered it, it became a game-changer in our strategy.

How to Execute a Successful Third Shot Drop

To perform a successful third shot drop, hit the ball softly so it lands in the non-volley zone, forcing your opponents to hit up. Practice makes perfect—repetition will help you develop the touch needed for this shot.

I spent hours drilling this shot with my partner, and the effort paid off. It became a reliable part of our strategy, helping us control the pace of the game.

Dinking Strategies

Importance of Dinking

Dinking is crucial for controlling the pace of the game. A well-placed dink can force your opponents into a mistake, giving you the upper hand.

When I first started, I underestimated the dink's importance. After losing several points to skilled dinkers, I dedicated time to mastering this technique.

Techniques for Effective Dinking

Use soft hands, keep your paddle face slightly open, and aim to place the ball just over the net. Target different areas of the non-volley zone to keep your opponents off balance.

In one of our practice sessions, my partner and I focused solely on dinking. By varying our shots and keeping them low, we became much more effective in matches.

Offensive and Defensive Strategies

Balancing Offensive and Defensive Play

Knowing when to attack and when to defend is crucial in doubles. Balance your play based on the situation and your opponents' strengths and weaknesses.

Early in my career, I often played too aggressively, leading to unforced errors. Learning to balance offense with smart defense made me a more well-rounded player.

Techniques for Aggressive Net Play

Aggressive net play involves volleys, smashes, and poaching. Move quickly and decisively, but also be aware of your partner's position and the overall court coverage.

I remember a match where our aggressive net play overwhelmed our opponents. By constantly pressuring them at the net, we forced errors and won crucial points.

Defensive Strategies

When on the defensive, focus on resetting the point and getting back into a neutral position. Block hard shots, lob over your opponents, and use dinks to slow the game down.

In one tough match, we found ourselves on the defensive often. By staying calm and using these strategies, we managed to turn the tide and win the game.

Partner Dynamics and Roles

Understanding Strengths and Weaknesses

A successful doubles team understands each other's strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to play to your strengths and cover for each other effectively.

My partner and I have spent years playing together, and we know each other's games inside out. This understanding makes us a stronger team.

Assigning Roles

Assign roles based on your skills. Typically, one player takes on the primary attacking role while the other provides support and covers the court.

We found that defining our roles improved our coordination and efficiency on the court. It also helped us avoid confusion during fast-paced rallies.

Building Chemistry and Trust

Trust and chemistry with your partner are built through practice and communication. Spend time playing together, discussing strategies, and supporting each other.

Our success as a team is built on trust. We encourage each other during matches and work through any issues off the court, which strengthens our bond.

Handling Pressure and Adapting to Opponents

Staying Calm Under Pressure

Pressure situations are inevitable in doubles play. Stay calm, focus on your strategy, and trust your partner.

In high-stakes matches, I've learned to take deep breaths and stay positive. This mindset helps me perform better under pressure.

Analyzing Opponents

Understanding your opponents' strengths and weaknesses allows you to adapt your strategy. Pay attention to their patterns and adjust your play accordingly.

We often review our matches to identify what worked and what didn't against specific opponents. This analysis helps us improve and prepare for future encounters.

Drills and Practice Routines

Recommended Drills

Drills that focus on communication, positioning, and specific shots like the third shot drop and dinks are essential. Practice regularly with your partner to build your skills and coordination.

We have a set of drills we run through before each practice session. These drills keep us sharp and improve our teamwork.

Importance of Regular Practice

Consistent practice is key to improvement. Set aside time to practice with your partner, focusing on both individual skills and team strategies.

By committing to regular practice, we've seen steady improvement in our game. It's also a great way to stay fit and enjoy the sport.

Simulating Match Conditions

Practice under match-like conditions to prepare for real games. This helps you get used to the pressure and pace of competitive play.

We often play practice matches against other teams, simulating tournament conditions. This experience is invaluable when it comes time to compete.


Mastering doubles strategies can significantly enhance your pickleball game, making it more enjoyable and competitive. Remember to communicate effectively, maintain good positioning, and balance offensive and defensive play. Practice regularly with your partner, and don't forget to have fun on the court. By applying these strategies, you'll be well on your way to winning more matches and enjoying the camaraderie that doubles pickleball offers.

Additional Resources

  • Suggested reading materials and videos for further learning.
  • Links to local pickleball clubs and communities.
  • Information on upcoming pickleball tournaments and events.

Pickleball is more than just a game—it's a way to stay active, bond with friends and family, and challenge yourself. Whether you're a seasoned player or just starting, these strategies will help you take your doubles play to the next level. Happy playing!

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