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Why playing doubles can make you a better singles player and vice versa

Why playing doubles can make you a better singles player and vice versa
There’s no argument, singles and doubles are vastly different. That’s why it’s rare for pro players to excel at both, most have a speciality. People often ask me which I prefer or which is more difficult. The simple answer is that you can’t choose. Both offer their own set of challenges and rewards. Here’s how playing doubles can make you a better singles player and how playing singles can add to your doubles.

Play doubles to improve your singles

Doubles can be a little overwhelming if you are used to just managing yourself on the court. Put yourself out of your comfort zone and the following areas should see an improvement.


There is a lot more to keep track of when you’re playing doubles. The partner dynamic requires constant back and forth communication about your current situation and plans. Focusing well helps you analyze and relay that information back and forth for strategizing together. You also need to know where your partner is on the court at all times and where they are at physically and emotionally. This additional need for focus will make it seem a breeze when you go back to only managing yourself again on the singles court.

Court geometry

In singles it’s easy to stay very basic with your strategy, either hitting into the space or hitting a high percentage to your opponent's weakness. Doubles experience gives you improved court awareness and understanding of the available angles. That knowledge of court geometry will not only expand your repertoire of options on the singles court, but it will also help you run less.


There is less space available to hit into in doubles so you often have to hit back to the same place for longer periods than you would in singles. If you don’t create or wait for the right moment to attack you can easily be punished. So doubles really develops your patience and decision making.

Net game

Doubles is an obvious way to improve your volley skills and technique. But the areas often overlooked are confidence and reaction time at the net. Many singles players don’t come to the net simply because they are afraid, not because they can’t volley. Play more doubles and both your confidence and reaction time/anticipation will improve just by having that extra experience. Having net play as an option will give you an extra dimension to your singles game.

Take some inspiration from this 10 minutes of incredible doubles points from Tennis TV:

Play singles to improve your doubles

The overall intensity of singles can be a little off putting to those who usually play doubles. But ease yourself into some friendly singles to start with and you will see improvements in some of the following areas:

Physical fitness

There is no question that singles requires a superior level of fitness to doubles. You cover significantly more ground and don’t have a partner to give you a break from hitting. You also serve and return twice as often so you are going to exert a lot more energy. Add in some extra singles play to boost your fitness. It will pay off when you have some intense doubles matchups where you have to dig deep.

Mental strength

In singles you don’t have a partner to give you suggestions or encouragement, you are all on your own out there. Learning to be resilient and carry yourself through tough moments and momentum shifts makes you a stronger all round player. Not only will you have the skills to support yourself, you will have that extra mental toughness to lift up your partner if they are having a low point in a match.

More tennis

Sometimes in a doubles game you can go through several minutes or more without even touching the ball. Singles allows you to get into more of a rhythm and hit a higher volume of balls. This extra practice will improve your tennis level faster than playing doubles alone. You can then transfer these new fine tuned skills back over to your doubles matches. The extra serve practice can especially pay off.

Problem solving

It’s easy when your playing doubles to just go with the flow or rely on a partner to strategize. With singles you have no choice but to figure out what's happening in front of you if you want to be successful. Just relying on being better than the other player can only get you so far and won’t always win you matches. You have to learn to adapt to every scenario and problem solve. Bring these skills back to the doubles court and add in your partner’s knowledge and you should be able to problem solve your way through a lot of matches.

Here’s some extra inspiration from 10 of the best tennis matches of all time (with videos) from IHCTA:

In Summary

If you only normally play singles it may be a little daunting to put yourself on the court with extra players and vice versa. But even the best players in the world mix it up from time to time. Use that extra experience to improve your all round tennis game and knowledge. A good balance would be 70:30 with 70% being your preferred speciality. You may even find that you fall in love with both and end up playing nearer 50:50!

We love to hear your feedback about our articles and also your own experiences. Share them with us in the comments below.


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One response to “Why playing doubles can make you a better singles player and vice versa

  1. I just thought all the extra volleys in doubles would help improve my volleys in singles. But clearly not thought about this deeply enough… really interesting article.

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