Doubles, you either love it or you hate it. We often don't give too much respect to doubles in table tennis but here are three tips to help you to improve your doubles play.

In doubles, as with everything in table tennis, there are specific strategies, training, and little secrets that you need to know in order to perform well. This post will share some of the most helpful.

1. Find the "perfect" partner

Some players immediately work well together. For others, it takes a bit more time. It’s a matter of two players “clicking”.

Even the most unusual combination can produce a great doubles team. And that doesn’t just apply to the playing style but also to the players’ level combination. A pair made up of two very strong players can be a worst team than a team with a top player and a lower level player, for example.

The combinations are unlimited and the outcome not always predictable.

Lefties and Righties

One thing that is almost 100% definite is that a lefty/righty doubles team has advantages to a two right-handed player team. The reason is that you don’t have to cover such a great distance in order to leave room for your partner to play, and you always have the whole table open to you.

In a lefty/righty team you can just move slightly to the back and side and your partner has the whole table covered with his forehand facing you. Then he can step back and you come in and play.

When playing in a same-hand doubles team you have to run to the back and around the other player. This can cause confusion and makes it easier for your opponents to tie you up in knots.

Whoever your partner, the key to being a strong doubles pairing is to play a lot of practice games together and get used to being alongside each other. This is why it's not always the two highest ranked singles players who win the doubles event!

2. Use simple serves

When playing doubles, keep your serves simple.

Alternating under spin and no spin with the same motion is very effective. Then use a long surprise serve once in a while. Make sure you partner knows which serve you are going to make otherwise they are going to have a tricky time selecting the appropriate third ball attack.

Placement of the serve is most important. When serving to a right-handed player, serve as close to the middle line as possible, to pull him into the table thus leaving no space for his partner to step in and play.

When serving to a lefty you don’t have a great advantage so instead you should focus on serving from the edge of the table and getting out of your partners way as fast as possible. That way they'll have more time to deal with the return.

3. Make the first attack

It's very important that your team initiates an attack as soon as possible. In doubles it is even more difficult to react to an incoming attack than in singles. A strong attack, into a tricky position on the table, will usually lead to winning the point.

  • When you are serving make sure your serve is convenient for your partner to attack. That means communicating the type of serve (probably via a hand signal under the table) and then getting out of the way so that your partner has space to cover the table and attack.
  • When you are receiving your priority should be to try and attack the serve, if you can. If that isn't possible, make sure you return in a way that prevents the other team from attacking - or at least forces them into a soft attack.
  • When your partner is serving you must be thinking about the likely returns, based on their serve, and getting yourself in a good position to quickly move in and attack. Make sure you are down in a good ready position when they are serving.
  • When your partner is receiving you have a little more time before you will need to make contact with the ball. However, don't get caught on your heels!

And don't forget to have fun. Playing doubles can be a lot more enjoyable and relaxed than playing singles - so make the most of it!

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by Ioanna Papadimitriou