Tennis Doubles Rules Explained

Tennis Doubles Rules Explained

As you may know, besides singles tennis, there are also doubles and mixed doubles. In this article, we will look at this part of tennis - what are the rules, what is the viewership per year, which is the most watched doubles match in history, and many other interesting facts.

Tennis Doubles Rules Explained

It is clear that the singles game is much more dramatic and exciting - after all, the greatest legends of tennis have played singles, not doubles… However, doubles are also very interesting to watch and it is a fact that they develop some skills that singles players don't fully have – such as faster reactions for example.

As logic suggests, doubles are much faster paced and in almost every match there are at least a couple of incredible plays at the net where all 4 players on the court exchange shots from a very close range.

Doubles, however, is not nearly as watched as singles, and the proof is that the most-watched doubles match has a viewership of only 3.1 million people at the same time - the Australian Open final between Nick Kyrgios/Thanasi Kokkinakis and Matt Ebden/Max Purcell. For comparison, the most watched singles match was between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the 2019 Wimbledon final - over 20 million viewers, or approximately 7 times more than the doubles record.

The Basics of Tennis Doubles

After covering some curious facts, let's explain the basics of doubles. The rules in doubles tennis are almost the same as in singles tennis, with only minor differences, which we will describe in the next few sections. At the start of each point of a game, one player is positioned near the net while the other is on the baseline, preparing for serve. Players serve for one total game and then the serve rotates to the other team.

Regarding team tactics, doubles can be much more strategic than singles at certain times. One of the most common tactics is for the player at the net to attack the middle of the court. This strategy is successful when the two players along the length of the court exchange shots. Then, suddenly, one of the players changes position, moving towards the middle of the court, and scores a point, surprising his opponent from a close range.

Court and Scoring in Doubles

The most important difference between singles and doubles is that the doubles court is wider - it includes the so-called "tramlines" (or "doubles alleys"), which are located on the side of the tennis court. As in singles, each game is played to at least 4 points won, each set to at least 6 games won, and each match to at least 3 sets won. When it comes to scoring in games, it's just like singles.

However, in most tournaments, the so-called "no-ad" scoring is applied. This means that when it gets to 40-40 (deuce), the next point automatically wins the game. In some doubles matches, teams only play 2 full sets instead of 3. If each team wins one set and the match is tied 1–1, they play a tiebreak game, which replaces a 3rd full set. In this case, the tiebreak game is played to 10 (also known as "Super Tiebreak") instead of 7.

Serving in Doubles

As you can see so far - everything looks pretty much the same as the singles, but with slight complications. As for the serving, things are simple here too. Let's take for example players A and B for Team 1 and N and M for Team 2. The match starts with A serving and he serves until the current game is over. In the next game Team 2 serves (player N for example), and things repeat. In the 3rd game, Team 1 serves again, but this time B will be on the baseline to serve, and so on.

When things come down to a tiebreak, everything repeats, just not in the form of games, but points (A serves first for 1 point, then N for 2, then B for 2, then M for 2, etc...).

Receiving and Returning Serves

This is where things get a little more interesting. Let's take for example a game in which player A will serve. This will be a game where Team 1 will switch positions so that A can serve from both the advantage and deuce part of the court. Team 2, however, is NOT changing positions. Thus, in the first point, A will serve N and in the next - to M. This order continues throughout the whole game.

Tips for Success in Tennis Doubles

The best advice that can be given to a player who wants to develop as a doubles specialist is to improve his reaction time by practicing every single day. This is the fastest route to success in doubles - if you and your partner have faster reactions than your opponents, your success will surely be in the bag.

Another important tip is to play with the same teammate as much of the time as possible because in doubles you rely not only on your own strengths but also those of your partner. And the better you know each other's strengths and weaknesses, the easier it is to find a playstyle that favors the team, therefore greater odds of success. Here we can also say the following – in doubles tennis applies in 100% the saying "Teamwork makes the dream work!".


Doubles are not only a great and different way to experience and enjoy this great sport; they are also a whole other way to show off your skills. And it is a fact that if you have a tennis talent, in most cases, you have the qualities to be either a singles or a doubles player - it's up to you to find out what you're better at.