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In Doubles, Who Takes The Ball Coming Up The Middle?

By Jen Campbell @TennisLife_Mag

In Doubles, Who Takes The Ball Coming Up The Middle?

Sometimes in doubles tennis, it can be confusing as to who should take the volley when it's up the middle and both you and your partner are up at (or close to) the net. You don't want to be a ball hog, and you don't want to clash your rackets together - and you definitely don't want the ball to slip between you both for an easy winner.

So in those awkward moments, how do you know when you should go for the ball or leave it for your partner? When should your partner expect you to go for the ball or take it themselves? The tennis rule of thumb says that it belongs to the player who is closest to the ball, or the one who has the forehand shot. But is the answer really that simple?


Unless it's a bullet, whoever is closer to the net at that point should definitely go for the shot. The closer you are to the net the better/more offensive volley you will be able to hit. The ball will be higher and you'll be able to hit down on it, and hit better angles. However, if it is a bullet, the person closest to the net might not have enough time to get ready for an angled volley, in which case their partner should take it.

Suppose the ball is coming at you from a slight crosscourt direction, then it's your responsibility to cover the middle - even if you're further away from the net than your partner. If it's a floater and you're further back, then your partner should close in with a volley.

Maybe the ball is hit directly up the center of the court and the same distance from both players, then who's ball is it? Really, either one of them can take it, though the player who has the best shot (whether a forehand or backhand) should go for it.

Then there's the instance in which it's coming up the middle, and one partner has a killer (and well-practiced) sharply-angled backhand volley, which is better than their partner's forehand volley. The opponents won't be expecting that, so that partner should take it.

And in the case of a doubles team in which one partner is stronger and more confident than the other, it's best that the stronger player takes all (or at least most) of the up-the-middle balls... not just because they have a better reaction time and can do more with the ball, but because the less confident weaker player will no doubt let most of them go by anyway.

I will never say this enough - COMMUNICATION BEFORE AND DURING A DOUBLES MATCH IS CRUCIAL - no matter if you are equal-strength partners or if one of you is stronger than the other. The better you know your partner's game (and vice versa), the better a doubles team you will make. Knowing when you need to hit the ball and knowing when to let your partner to hit the ball will make your team more successful!

In Doubles, Who Takes The Ball Coming Up The Middle?

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