Relishing Pickleball: Doubles Strategies

David Zapatka

Continuing our study of Pickleball Fundamentals Master the basics and compete with confidence by Mary Littlewood, we will now learn from two professional Hall of Fame players Ms. Littlewood quotes in her book regarding doubles strategies. Alex Hamner and Jennifer Lucore were the national women’s doubles champions in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, and continue to compete today. (Quotes are paraphrased for brevity. Buy Ms. Littlewood’s book to get the whole story!)

Move up to and back from the net together as a team. After a deep return of serve, the receiver should hasten to the non-volley zone to join her partner at the net where points are won. The serving team should stay back at the baseline and use their third-ball strategy (third-shot drop, drive or the occasional lob) then work their way as quickly as possible to the non-volley zone line where points are once again won at the net. Keep your partner in your peripheral vision to ensure you are coming in together. One partner back while the other partner is up creates a gap in the middle where the receivers can hit through your court. Stay together.

Move left and right together. Just like moving up together, stay together when moving right and left. Once again, if one partner moves left or right and the other remains in their position, a gap is opened between you leaving a hole that is easy for the opponents to hit through your court. Imagine you and your partner are tied together by an imaginary rope. Keep this rope taut at all times.

Don’t let anything through the middle of your court. This is true at the baseline and the non-volley zone line. Think “mine” not “yours” when a ball is hit between you and your partner. Go for it! Call it! It’s better if both of you go for it than neither one of you. Be decisive. Many partnerships designate one partner to make these calls. Consider this strategy.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Your call doesn’t have to be loud, but it must be decisive, clear, and short. Say things like, “mine, yours, got it, hit it, or go!” If an opponent’s shot appears to be going out, say “bounce, no, up, or watch it!” If a ball is close to the net and you can’t get to it in time, say “yours!” or “get it!” to your partner.

Once you’re at the kitchen, stay there. If you take a step back to hit a dink that has landed deep, be sure to step back up to the kitchen line. If you don’t, you may eventually find yourself in no-man’s land. Since you are moving with your partner, you don’t want your partner moving back also. Remember, points are won at the net.

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].