April 8, 2024 - Top Ten Things to Remember in Doubles

(Excerpt from Table Tennis Doubles for Champions by Larry Hodges. April is Doubles Month!)

  1. Signal serves. Let your partner know what’s coming! Sometimes the server’s partner signals the serves since he’s the one who has to follow them up. Typically, signal under the table by pointing a finger down for backspin, thumb up for topspin, sideways for sidespin, and make a fist for no-spin. It’s normally assumed the serve will be short, but if you are serving long, point a finger at the opponents to signal it. (This will be covered in more detail later.)
  2. Serve to set up your partner. Discuss with him what he’s most comfortable with.
  3. Normally, don’t serve long. If you serve long, it’s usually easier to attack. At the higher levels, very few serves are long. At the lower levels, it might be effective if the receiver can’t loop it or otherwise attack it effectively.
  4. Normally, don’t serve too wide. This gives the receiver a wide angle into the forehand, which could give your partner a problem. This is a triple problem, as your partner will have to cover the wide angle, he’ll be out of position for the next shot, plus you might be in his way.
  5. Serve low. It’s amazing how many players think their serves are low until they have to serve to someone who knows where your serve is going, as in doubles, and is receiving with their best shot. In doubles, you really need to serve low!
  6. Receive to set up your partner. Talk to him so as to find out what he is most comfortable with. You should often receive to the left, so the server gets in his partner’s way. But be careful—that’s a righty’s forehand.
  7. Attack deep serves. For this reason, many players receive forehand. But if you have a better backhand flip and loop, then you should mostly receive backhand. Some players set up to receive forehand so they can forehand loop deep serves, but when they see the serve is going short, will reach in and receive backhand, either pushing or flipping. (Historically, most players received with their forehand in doubles, but in the age of backhand banana flips, that is less true.)
  8. Don’t move too much sideways. This is the natural reaction of most players to get out of the way of their partner, but it puts them out of position for the next shot. Instead, step backwards just enough to allow your partner to move in front of you. Right after he hits his shot, you start to move into position. One special case—if the opponents play the ball wide to the right, it means your partner has to move wide to the right. If you are a righty, this is the perfect opportunity to step back out of your partner’s way, move to the left, and then step in, so that you are in perfect position for the next shot.
  9. Place your rally shots. Most often hit the ball back toward the player who hit at you, or to the side away from his partner, so he gets in his partner’s way. But beware of giving the opponents an easy angle they can use against your partner.
  10. No squabbling!!! When there’s a problem, discuss it as teammates, because you are a TEAM.