All original content copyright © Mike Hopley
Doubles is a team game — a team of two. Many doubles players, however, act as though they are playing
This article will teach you how to cover the court effectively as a pair, and how to choose the right shots.
Your range of tactical options will be heavily influenced by your hitting skill, your movement skill, and your physical fitness.
For example: if your smash is weak, then it will be a much less effective choice of shot. Or if you are unfit, then you will miss out on many attacking opportunities.
This guide is written with the assumption that you do not have any obvious weaknesses. I understand that’s an unrealistic assumption for most players!
You will need to adapt your tactics to cover your weaknesses — and also to exploit your opponents’ weaknesses!
And of course, you can train to eliminate your weaknesses.
At high levels of play, one basic strategy is completely dominant: aggressive attacking play! Attacking play usually beats defensive play — in the end.
Attacking in doubles involves hitting the shuttlecock downwards, especially with net kills and smashes. These two shots are the most common winning shots.
Any shot can potentially become an
attacking shot — even a lift — but when we talk about attacking play in doubles, we really mean hitting downwards.
Attacking play — in the sense of hitting down — is not dominant in singles. That’s because it’s easy to escape the attack: you just have to block the opponent’s smash back to the net.
In doubles, however, it is difficult to escape the attack because the two attackers work together to maintain their attack. One player smashes from the back, and the other intercepts any replies to the net or midcourt.
Attacking play is based around the smash. When you play a powerful smash, it creates a dilemma for the defenders. What can they do? If they lift the shuttlecock, you just continue smashing. If they block the shuttlecock to the net instead, your partner will play a net kill.
It is possible to escape the attack, of course; and indeed, turning defence into attack is a crucial element of good doubles play.
If you’ve never played against a strong attacking pair, it’s hard to appreciate just how difficult it can be to escape the attack. Once they started smashing, you can easily find yourself trapped: your defence crumbles a little each shot; the smasher is a little nearer each time; and the front player cuts out all your attempts at counter-attack.
If you’re still in any doubt about the supremacy of attacking in doubles, watch some world-class men’s doubles matches (Wijaya/Gunawan vs. Cai/Fu is a good start).
Attacking play is exhausting. You need a high level of fitness to maintain a prolonged, powerful attack. You also need determination: you need to be motivated to make the effort.
Smashing requires a violent throwing action. Covering the court so that you can keep on smashing requires fast, explosive movements including sideways and backwards jumps.
While the attackers are doing all this hard physical work, the defenders are standing relatively still and using little effort to lift the shuttlecock. It’s common to see the attacking pair leaping all over the court, while the defending pair hardly moves.
But it’s worth the effort. The defenders are likely to make the first mistake. It’s difficult to maintain an accurate defence; eventually, a lift will travel long or short of the back tramlines. If it’s long, then you win the point just by letting it fall out; if it’s short, then you have a chance to play a decisive smash.