Doubles – How The Server’s Partner Can Often Control The Return of Serve

When I’m serving in doubles, I want my partner to feel as if they are a MAJOR influence on the quality (or lack of quality) of the opponent’s return of serve.

I don’t need my partner to be poaching on every return of serve and knocking off a winner, but I do want him/her to at least show some kind of movement to distract the returner’s visual landscape.

As the server’s partner, I like to “show” the fake poach in the first couple of service games on every serve to let that returner know that I’m here and that I’m trying to help my partner, especially if my partner doesn’t own a Federer like serve.

A fake poach can add force that returner to slow down their swing speed just enough so that their return of serve isn’t as big and as tough to handle for my serving partner’s transitional shot.

Once the fake poach has been established, you’ll have a better understanding for the timing of the real deal, a poach, depending on your partner’s serve type and where the returner likes to receive serve.

Here’s a video that features top 60s player Tony Dawson as the server’s partner …


“Doubles – Why & When To Be Where On The Court”

A Doubles Strategy “Chalk Talk” Course by Brent Abel

Just imagine…

You and your partner are playing the deciding league match for your team, and in fact, this match will determine whether or not your team gets to go to the section playoffs…

It’s come down to match point with you returning serve, and as the “feeder”, you set up your partner, your partner is now the “attractor”, and guess what, once again you handle that big serve and set up your partner, your partner moves to the middle, and the put away couldn’t be any easier…

Your teammates are high five-ing each other and rushing the court to get to you for a total team congrats…

This is a 21 video chapter course that will teach you (and hopefully your favorite doubles partner too!) when and why to be where on the court so that you and your partner can maximize your court coverage and put yourself into the best position to play winning shots.

Here’s Chapter 16 – Follow The Ball


Click here to get more information and to pick up this course.



  1. Like this I concept.

    Ove tactic I use now is to start a bit deep in box, then move forward on serve and split step as receiver is moving to contact. (Saw this on Bryan brothers video…though they are WAY faster than me,)

    Gives me flexibility to go left , right or stay….and gets me up on my toes to move quickly on any weak return

    • Hi Kirk.

      Your early footwork is a good way to get yourself on the move and be ready from a small split step rather than starting from a still position.


  2. Hey,Brent there’s no audio on your most recent what’s the right shot video. Thanks L.S.

    • Hi Lou.

      I’ve got audio coming through on my computer on both videos above. Check to make sure your speakers aren’t muted.

      Anyone else having audio problems with these videos?


  3. should I tell my partner when I intend to poach or depend on the direction of the service return only?

  4. Hey Brent,

    Like the instruction for moving up and back for server/returner’s partners with the ball. However, I would also like to have emphasized just as strongly (if not more so) the need for the returner’s partner to slide towards the middle to take away the gap down the middle. More times than not if the returner is unable to get the ball away from the person at net, the net person’s volley will be a ball down the middle and it is critical for the returner’s partner to be in position to at least stand a chance to make a play on this ball as the returner may be off court and the ball is going away from the returner as well. Up and back with the ball is important but moving left and right and covering the middle and forcing a more difficult cut angle volley by the volleyer is essential for good doubles and one that I see few teaching Pros and TV commentators talk about and even Pro players moving to cover.

  5. Hi Brent,

    I didn’t see a reply to James’ question. I’d really like to know what you think.

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