Joe Salisbury Rajeev Ram US Open doubles champions how to play doubles

How to play doubles – Controlling the Centre Window

As many variables as there are in singles, doubles is a whole other story. With two more players, two doubles alleys and more angles but less open space to work with, to play doubles is almost a different sport altogether. 

Here at Tennishead we want to simplify things with a specific concept that Craig O’Shannessy of Brain Game Tennis calls ‘The Centre Window’, the keystone of any good doubles player’s game. 

The Centre Window

An outline of the ‘Window’ is displayed below in yellow. It is 9ft, or 2.74m wide, the width of the double alleys combined, and 3ft, or 0.91m, high, the height of the net in the middle.

The Centre Window is by far the most important part of the court to control in doubles play as most balls travel through this area.


Brain Game Tennis - Doubles Centre Window


Now, expanding on the concept of the Centre Window, the doubles court can be seen as an hourglass. On either end of the court are two larger areas that converge to a small opening in the middle, the Centre Window, the highest traffic area in doubles play.

“The Centre Window is a virtual target that all players should play through because it offers the highest percentage place to win the point,” O’Shannessy asserts. “If you control the Centre Window, you control the match.”


Brain Game Tennis - Doubles Centre Window with Hourglass annotation


But, if you don’t control the Centre Window, stop playing there immediately.

“If a doubles team is better than you are at getting control, then take the battle elsewhere,” explains O’Shannessy. 

Instead, play the ball:

  1. Down the line or right at the net player
  2. Lob to force overheads
  3. Hit short angles away from the aggressive net player

Once you even the playing field you can return to the Centre Window as your point of focus.

Here are two key elements for understanding the Centre Window:

  1. Traffic – Most of the action is in the Centre Window – Don’t wait for the ball, go and get it in the middle of the court
  2. You don’t start there – Except in ‘i’ formation, no player starts in the Centre Window – You must be active and get the ball via a “j” or “v” run from deeper in the service box

WATCH: Even in this compilation of insane doubles rallies, players look to return the action to the Centre Window whenever possible in order to reset the point and gain the upper hand.



In summary: 

  • The Centre Window is the most important piece of real estate on a doubles court, PERIOD.
  • Visualise the Window – See the ball gong through there constantly – See yourself getting the ball
  • If you don’t control the Centre Window – Play around it or over it – Then come back to it
  • From the baseline against two net players – play heavy and low through the Window constantly 
  • Know that all players should play through the Window – Whoever hits better, lower shots in this area gains control


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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