One of the most successful tactics on the professional doubles tour at the moment is playing both receivers back on the return. The Bryan brothers use this strategy often to counter the bigger servers they face and to set up their booming groundstrokes. Due to Mike being a right hander and Bob being lefty, both their forehands are in the middle of the court, which is great when two players at the net are forced to volley over the low part of the net down the middle to their forehands! This is an advanced strategy for the Bryan’s but the average doubles team can use this strategy too.
So why would a club doubles team play both back on return? If you and your partner are facing a particularly good server who is forcing errors or put away volleys for their partner, playing two back gives your partner a chance to defend the put away volley since when that player is at net they are a sitting duck for the put away volley.
Giving your opponent a look at a different return formation often disrupts the servers rhythm and has the potential to neutralize that server. This allows the returners to be more aggressive as it opens the court up for the return. Where once an errant return down the line would be a certain put away at the net player, the return team can now defend the put away volley better as they have more time to react to the ball.
Another time to use two back on return is if you or your partner are having a tough day and need to regain some confidence at the net. Two back allows you to start the point from the baseline and work yourself into a position where you can choose when to come to the net, either on a good approach from your partner or yourself. This takes the pressure off the player on the baseline who has to keep the ball away from the opposing net player and allows you to hit your volleys from an offensive position rather than reacting or defending at the net.
Mixing the two back on return is a great way to change up your strategy or adjust to strong serving from your opponents. Practice two back and you will add another strong strategy to your doubles game. The more options you have, the more you are able to adjust and change your game and avoid being predictable and one dimensional. Take a leaf out of the Bryan brothers book and try two back on return, you will like your results!
See you on the courts!
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