Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Devising the Best Practices for a Winning Doubles Combination in Table Tennis

I have been deliberating on this topic for quite a while, so my apologies to Javier Chong who asked me if I could write about useful tactics for playing doubles. Fortunately doubles has always been a strong point for me as I tend to work well in a team pairing and also being left handed I developed fairly strong serve receives. So off the back of my silver medal in the New Zealand Open Men's Doubles event with Adam Hugh, here are some tactics for making the best performances in doubles!

Me and Adam Hugh NZ Open Doubles Semifinal
Photo Courtesy of Murray Finch
The First Rule of Doubles: Possibly one of the most important things to remember when you are playing doubles is that it is almost a totally different game to singles. The combined level of two individually strong players does not necessarily create a good doubles pair. Take for example the Bryan brothers in Tennis, not overly well known for their singles performances but incredibly dominant in doubles for many years.

What Makes a Good Doubles Team?

Communication is probably one of the biggest factors which contributes to a good doubles pairing. A constant stream of information going back and forth, feedback, tactical information and of course positive vibes between the two players. Two players can create an incredibly amount of confidence and momentum given the right situation and behaviour during a match.

Play as a Single Unit, doubles is very much a team match and you need to change your tactics. Remember you are setting the ball up for your partner not for yourself, this means you need to take their strengths and weaknesses into consideration whenever you make a play. Here are some pointers:

- Let Your Partner Call the Serve:
The follow-up on the serve is a crucial start to the point in doubles and as such it should always be your partner who calls your serve in order for them to anticipate the ball they would like to receive back. On many occasions allowing your partner to choose your service will allow the best chance to get ahead and take initiative in a point and it also allows them to work with their strengths.

- Find the Best Way to Maximize Strengths:
You need to find the right tactics in order to play to the strengths of the team. This means coordinating set plays and each of you working to set your partner up for the best possible play within their style and capabilities. Good team combinations often include one anchor/tactician and one attacker or a pair of offensive players with coordinated tactics.

- Latch on To Any Weak Links:
As a team you need to be aware of any weak plays or opportunities from the other team, if you can find anything to force easy points from one player this can sometimes place a strain on the opposition team. This can also offer a psychological advantage if the mental game of the opponent side crumbles (can occur through breakdowns in the partnership, blame games etc.). Also taking advantage of easy setups off a weaker player makes it more difficult for a stronger player in the pair to stay on the front foot. This causes the opposite team as a whole to play much weaker. As in many things a team is only as strong as its weakest link IF you can expose the weakness.

- Make Sure You Have Coordinated Footwork:
One big area of doubles which is often overlooked is the footwork patterns. Coordination of footwork is crucial for a team to operate within each point. Some players prefer to circle rotate around each other, others prefer the diagonal in and out method. It's important (especially in right and left handed pairings) to be careful of being pushed into the corner and of crossovers (where one player blocks the sight of the other by being in front). Errors with footwork coordination can usually cause massive exposure of weak areas and gaps in defense so it's rather important.

Spectacular Doubles Video

- Tactics Should Focus on Lots of Variation:
As you are dealing with two players within one table, emphasis on variation of depth and width placement are fairly important. Bringing players in and out from the table as well as targeting crossovers, body and wide angles are paramount in doubles as disrupting balance and positioning can be much more rewarding in doubles than singles on occasion. Not only can you create space to play into but you can also target the body of the player who just made a play to you in the hopes that they won't be able to move in time, this is a common tactic in doubles.

So I hope that has made an adequate response on the topic, a lot of these pointers are relatively simple because of course formulating specific tactics really depends on your opposition, but these are all important areas to work on to maximize your team performance.

Please remember any questions or topics can be sent to mhtabletennis@gmail.com

1 comment:

  1. Practice makes a man perfect. This phrase works in all aspects. You have written a very informative blog for the players of table tennis. Good job

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