Relishing Pickleball: Doubles Tactics for Players of Any Level

David Zapatka

Continuing our study of Pickleball Fundamentals Master the basics and compete with confidence by Mary Littlewood, Ms. Littlewood offers these basic doubles strategies for players of any level. To read all her advice, buy her book.

Always face the ball on the other side of the net. Regardless of where you are on the court and where the ball is on the other side of the net, assume a position that is always facing the ball. In addition, always be prepared for the ball to be hit to you.

Know where you are on the court and where the boundary lines are. Many beginners will hit any ball coming to them regardless of the flight of the oncoming ball and where they are standing on the court. Every time you hit a ball that would have gone out of bounds, you’re extending the rally when, had you let the ball hit the ground first, you would have won the rally.

Always strive for placement and control rather than speed when you hit the ball. The more games that you play, the better you will be able to see where your opponents are on the court. As the ball is coming to you, note where your opponents are and in what direction they’re moving (if they’re moving). Then place the ball behind them or in an open space on their court.

Stacking. Stacking means that during the serve, the stronger player, whose forehand should be down the middle, lines up either at the baseline or at the non-volley zone line to the left (facing the net) of his partner. If the doubles team consists of one right-hand player and one left-hand player, the right-hand player would always line up to the left of his left-hand partner.

Jim Hackenberg, winner of multiple gold medals in men’s doubles and mixed doubles, explains two situations in which it is particularly beneficial:

* For a doubles team with a left-handed and a right-handed partner, stacking allows them to keep both their forehands down the middle. Since hitting the ball in the middle of the court is one of the best shots and the net is lower in the middle of the court, opponents will frequently attack the middle. Having both players’ forehand strength in the middle is to their advantage.

* Stacking also can be an advantage to a doubles team that consists of one player who is more dominant, quicker, stronger, and more consistent-than his partner. Mixed-doubles teams that consist of a player who is stronger than the other often use stacking so that the stronger player’s forehand is covering all middle shots.

The advantage to stacking is both partners hit more shots with their forehands. The dominant partner can cover more of the court.

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