One basic rule for winning in doubles is to avoid hitting the ball to the player at net. After all, he’s usually the one in the best position to put the ball away, right? While that’s true most of the time, don’t make the mistake of overestimating your opponent’s volleying skills until you’ve tested them out for yourself. The next time you play doubles, hit a few returns at the net player early in the match. This will help you:
Assess the net player’s ability.
Just because your opponent is standing at the net doesn’t mean he can volley or hit overheads well. During your first two return games, try to hit one return down the line, one lob over the net player’s head, and one ball right at him. (It’s always a good idea to tell your partner in advance where you plan to go with your return so he can prepare for the most likely reply.) This will allow you and your partner to make a reasonable evaluation of your opponent’s skill at net. If he’s a lousy volleyer, you won’t have to be as precise with your returns. If he can’t backpedal for overheads, you’ll know to use lobs more frequently.
Make the net player guess.
Even if your opponent has solid skills at the net, by hitting balls in his direction early on you’ll make him less likely to poach because he won’t have the luxury of knowing that all your returns are going crosscourt. Going down the line and lobbing in the early stages sends the message that he has to be on guard for all possible replies.