Tennis, a sport loved by many, is most commonly played in singles format, where two individual players face off against each other.
However, a less commonly discussed, but equally fascinating format of the game is doubles tennis.
Here we look into the unique characteristics of doubles rules in tennis, how they differ from the singles game, and provide a simplified breakdown for those just starting out.
What are Doubles in Tennis?
Doubles in tennis refers to a format of the game where four players participate, forming two teams of two.
Each team works in unison, strategizing and coordinating to play the ball within defined boundaries and score points.
The doubles game requires not only individual skill but also a high level of team communication and synergy.
This version of tennis is popular at all levels, from local club play to international tournaments such as Wimbledon or the ATP Tour.
Who Serves in Doubles Tennis?
One of the main differentiators in doubles tennis is the serving order and rotation.
The team that serves first chooses the player who will serve.
In the next game, the opposing team serves and chooses their server.
The rotation continues in this pattern for the duration of the match.
After each game, the serve rotates between the teams, and within the teams, each player serves alternately.
It’s important to note that the serving rotation must be decided at the beginning of each set and followed consistently.
Tennis Doubles Lesson | The Basics of Doubles
How Does Doubles Tennis Scoring Work?
Scoring in doubles tennis follows the same traditional tennis scoring system:
15 (first point), 30 (second point), 40 (third point), and “game” (fourth point).
If the score reaches 40-40, it’s known as a “deuce”, and play continues until one team secures a two-point advantage.
The primary difference lies in the “advantage” or “Ad” point during a deuce in doubles.
If the serving team wins the first point after deuce, it’s referred to as “Ad in”.
If the receiving team wins the point, it’s “Ad out”.
The team that wins the “Ad” point must win the next point to secure the game.
Doubles Tennis Rules: Where to Stand
In doubles tennis, the positioning of players is crucial.
Both members of the serving team have the freedom to stand anywhere on their side of the court, but typically, the server’s partner stands at the net, ready to volley, while the server stands behind the baseline.
The receiving team must also decide who will receive the serve at the start of each game.
After the serve, players can move anywhere on their side of the court.
How Many Sets Are in Doubles Tennis?
The number of sets in a doubles tennis match depends on the specific tournament rules.
Most professional matches, such as those in Grand Slams, are played as best-of-three sets.
Some tournaments, like those on the ATP Tour, use match tiebreaks (first to 10 points, must win by 2) instead of a third set.
ATP Doubles Rules
The ATP doubles rules are mostly the same as traditional tennis rules, with a few key differences.
One of the most significant changes is the use of the “no-ad” scoring system, where at deuce, the next point wins the game, with the receiving team choosing which side to receive the serve.
Additionally, ATP doubles matches often feature a match tiebreak in place of a final set.
Doubles Rules in Table Tennis and Volleyball
While our main focus is on doubles in tennis, it’s interesting to note how doubles play works in other sports.
In table tennis, players must hit the ball alternately, adding an extra layer of complexity.
In volleyball, doubles is a common format in beach volleyball, where the court size is the same as indoor volleyball, but only two players are on each side.
Rules of Doubles Tennis for Beginners: A Simplified Guide
For those new to doubles tennis, here are some key points to remember:
- Serve alternates between teams and within teams, game by game.
- Scoring is the same as singles tennis, but there’s an “Ad” system during deuce in traditional doubles rules.
- You can stand anywhere on your side of the court but think about your positioning strategically.
- Most matches are played in best-of-three sets.
- Communication and coordination with your partner are key for a successful doubles game.
So, there you have it – the rules of doubles tennis.
While the game may initially seem complex, especially if you’re transitioning from singles, the added layer of teamwork makes doubles a uniquely enjoyable experience.
Please check out our FAQ section for more details:
FAQs – Doubles Rules in Tennis
1. What is a doubles match in tennis?
A doubles match in tennis involves four players, two on each side.
The players on the same side work as a team to play against their opponents on the other side of the net.
This is different from a singles match, which involves just one player on each side of the net.
2. How is serving decided in a doubles match?
Before the match starts, a coin toss or spin of the racket decides which team serves first.
The winning team can choose to serve, receive, or pick a side.
The first server cannot serve again until their team’s rotation comes back around.
3. How does the rotation of serving work in doubles?
In doubles, the rotation of serve moves from one team to the other, but also between partners.
In the first game of a set, one player from the starting team serves. In the second game, a player from the other team serves.
In the third game, the partner of the first server from the first team serves, and in the fourth game, the partner of the first server from the second team serves.
This rotation continues throughout the match.
4. What is the doubles court size in tennis?
A doubles tennis court is wider than a singles court.
While the length remains the same (78 feet), the full width of a doubles court is 36 feet, compared to the 27 feet width of a singles court.
The extra 9 feet (4.5 feet on each side) is known as the “doubles alley” or “tramlines.”
5. Can players hit the ball into the doubles alley?
Yes, in doubles tennis, players can hit the ball into the doubles alley.
This area is considered in play in doubles, but out of play in singles.
6. Can both players stand anywhere on their side of the court during play?
While there are no rules explicitly prohibiting players from standing anywhere, traditionally one player stands closer to the net and the other near the baseline.
This allows them to cover more court area.
However, they must be positioned on their correct side of the court at the start of each point: the server behind the baseline, and the non-serving partner outside the doubles alley.
7. What is the “I-Formation” in doubles tennis?
The I-Formation is a strategy in doubles tennis where, prior to the serve, the net player stands almost directly in front of the server.
As the server serves, the net player moves either left or right to cover a portion of the court, aiming to confuse the receiving team and disrupt their return.
8. Can players switch the serving order or the order of receiving in between sets?
Yes, players are allowed to switch the serving or receiving order when a new set begins.
However, once the order is set for a particular set, it must be followed until the end of that set.
9. What happens if the ball hits a player before it bounces?
If a ball hits a player before it bounces, the point is awarded to the other team.
This applies regardless of whether the player is inside or outside the court boundaries at the time.
10. What is the rule for ‘lets’ in doubles tennis?
A ‘let’ occurs when a served ball touches the net cord but still lands in the correct service box.
In such cases, the server gets another chance to serve, and the let is not counted as a fault.
This rule applies to both singles and doubles tennis.