Playing matches is a critical part of development—having sound strokes won’t matter much if they can’t be produced when it counts most. However, it’s easy to get consumed with the scoreboard at the expense of growth. The final outcome often takes precedent over all else, preventing much in the way of experimentation.

So it pays to occasionally mix things up with tennis games that forgo the usual measuring stick of traditional-set scoring. This allows you to work on parts of your game otherwise avoided for fear of losing, while still keeping the competitive juices flowing. And if match play is getting old, change-ups can help revive a stale routine.

These games—one for singles, one for doubles, and a hybrid of both—will make valuable additions to your training arsenal.

1) Space Invaders

The purpose of this game is to improve doubles execution from all of the key areas of the court. The two teams start on opposing baselines. One team feeds the ball out of hand (rather than serving) to their opponents, and the point is played out. Whichever team wins the point moves up to the service line to start the next point. The team that served then feeds another ball to their opponents, and the next point is played out. If the team that started on the service line wins this point, they move up to the net to start the next point. However, if they lose it, then they must retreat back to the baseline, while their opponents move up to the service line. If a team loses a point it starts at net, it must go all the way back to the baseline for the next point.

Once a team wins three consecutive points—one from each of the three starting locations—it wins a game. Play best of five games, alternating the serving team each time.


The two teams start on opposing baselines. Whichever team wins the point moves up to the service line

The two teams start on opposing baselines. Whichever team wins the point moves up to the service line 

2) Dingles

This mashup game scratches both your singles and doubles itches. Start with two doubles teams on opposing baselines. Play starts when both players on one side feed a ball to their crosscourt opponents, and engage in two simultaneous crosscourt singles points using half the court. When one point ends, “Dingles!” is yelled, and the remaining ball is played out as a doubles point between all four players using the entire court. A team earns a point only when it wins both the singles and doubles rallies.

The combination of both disciplines encourages players to tap into their full repertoire of shots in a quick pace. Possible variations include playing the singles points down the line; or starting the crosscourt points with one team hitting serves, with no second serves. Play to five points and then switch partners.


3) Tug o’ War

As the name suggests, this game is a real tussle. Although the format appears innocent enough—drop feed singles points—it often turns into a protracted battle of wills.

The brutality lies in the scoring system. The game starts with the (imaginary) scoreboard reading 5. Player 1’s goal is to raise that number to 10, while Player 2 wants to bring it down to 0. When the former wins a point, +1 is added to the score; the latter subtracts -1 from the total. As they go back and forth trying to reach their target, the number of points played pile up, and their determination and concentration is tested.

True grinders can raise the stakes by starting at 10 and setting the top number at 20. A single game can last longer than a deciding set at Roland Garros. If out-of-hand feeds aren’t satisfying, serving can be implemented, alternating every two points. And if you want to speed things up, you can score clean winners two points toward your goal. Just remember to never let go of the rope.