How to play doubles - forget the lines

How to play better doubles – Forget the lines

It may seem like the lines on a tennis court are a helpful way to determine how to play doubles and who is in charge of what areas, left for me and right for you. 

But according to Craig O’Shannessy of Brain Game Tennis, this is an illusion, and he wants to make sure you are not fooled by it. 

Doubles is NOT a left and right game

Instead, consider the court as split front and back, NOT left and right. The net player covers the front of the court, while the back player covers, well, the back of the court. 

Remember from a previous Tennishead article, the Centre Window is the most important area and should be covered by the net player. 

The back player covers any shot that comes deep, namely deep lobs that the net player cannot cover. 


How to play doubles - front and back territory


Staggered is best

As mentioned in our piece on where to stand in the doubles court, slightly staggered is the best formation for a doubles team to set up in. 

Remember, the net player is in charge of covering short balls and the Centre Window, while the back player is ready for deep lobs. 


How to play doubles - staggered positions


HOWEVER, if the back player feels the lob is not coming, it is fine for them to come forward in order to:

  • Take time away from the opponent
  • Hit before the ball is too low
  • Hit a better angle


Move forward


REMEMBER, the front player has first rights to the entire front of the court and naturally has better angles to attack, being closer to the net. 

Therefore, the back player should not get upset if the front player cuts in front of them for a shot, they should encourage it. 


Go get it


Watch this compilation of excellent doubles rallies and note how even when a team goes on the offensive, they are often not in line with one another but at least slightly staggered and playing different roles.



Action summary:

  • Think much more FRONT/BACK rather than right/left.
  • The net player has FULL control over the ENTIRE front of the court.
  • The back player is responsible for deep lobs over their partner’s head.
  • Staggered is the best position to be at the net.
  • The back player should welcome the front player to go and get the ball in front of them.


Tennishead club competitionFor free access to Craig O’Shannessy’s complete courses on ‘25 Golden Rules of Singles‘ and ‘25 Golden Rules of Doubles‘, join thousands of other keen amateur tennis players and become a member of the Tennishead Club. Once you join we’ll immediately send you ground breaking coaching advice, a welcome pack including a full ASICS head to toe outfit including shoes, plus loads more. And it costs as little as £65/$97 to join with membership benefits worth over £600/$700 per year!

Craig O'Shannessy Novak DjokovicCraig O’Shannessy is the creator of Brain Game Tennis. For 20 years he’s been involved in tennis as a coach to players like Kevin Anderson and even Dustin Brown when he famously beat Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon. More recently Craig’s been working as a match analyst at Wimbledon and for the ATP Tour. He has also used the unique insights from his match analysis software dartfish to guide players such as Novak Djokovic with analysis of opponents and performances.

Visit to read the latest and best selling course ‘Getting Tight’ where Craig teams up with Jeff Greenwald to combine their specific skill sets to help you with the universal problem all players struggle with in matches.


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