Sept. '03:

When playing doubles, a good play early in the match is to return serve down the line.  This sets the tone early to your opponents that you are aggressive, have variety, and that you are not just content to keep returning the ball cross court.
It also keeps the opponent at the net from feeling like they can just cross/poach at any time.

NOTE:  Make sure when your partner returns serve down the line that you (the net player) cover or "hug" the middle of the court (the "T" of the service line).  This is where most volleys will be hit from your opponents at the net in this situation.
Philip Farmer's Playbook
Find out all of Philip Farmer's tennis tips here!
     Oct. '03:

When serving in doubles, it is very important that you try and keep your first serve percentage high (between 75-85%).  This allows your partner to be active at the net and it also keeps your opponents from getting grooved in and attacking your 2nd serves, which are typically weaker and shorter in the service box.

In doubles, when your first serve % is high, around 75-85%, you will hold serve easier, be able to take more risks on your return games, and will see your overall winning percentage increase as well.

**Note:  Some ways to help increase your first serve % are:

1.  Hit more spin on the ball - slice and/or kick

2.  Don't try and hit the serve so hard; take some pace off (add more spin) and go for more placement in the service box.

Remember, you are still in control of the point as you have your partner at the net ready to pick off the return, as well as you (the server) are seve and volleying ready to hit the first volley and attack the net!  Good luck and serve smart!
      Nov. '03:

Mix in the Lob!  Remember to use and mix in the chip and/or topspin lobs in your doubles practices and matches.  A lot of your opponents in doubles will most likely try and close the net to be aggressive so it is a smart play to hit a lob, even off the return of serve, to keep your opponents back and off the net.  It doesn't have to be a perfect lob; just try and make sure you get the ball up first with a lot of height and be ready to play some defense to scrap and win the point.

You may not always be successful winning the point off the lob, but at least you are letting your opponents know it's there and it will make them think twice about being so aggressive and getting too close to the net.
**Note  When you recognize that your lob gets over your opponents head and you see them running back to retrieve it, make sure you and your partner are quick to come forward and "take over" the net.  The percentages of winning the point are always better when both players are up at the net in doubles.
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      Dec. 03

Communicate with your partner!

It is always important in doubles to communicate with your partner, either verbally or using hand signals.  Remember, you have 25 seconds in between each point, so take advantage of that time by communicating to your partner where you are serving, whether you are poaching (crossing) or not, or even a certain play or strategy.  For example, letting your partner know before the point that you are taking the next return of serve down the line at your opponent at the net.  This allows your partner to be ready and anticipate your opponents first shot.

When you and your partner take the time to communicate, you establish a good playing rhythm, keep each other relaxed and calm, and will have a better focus and plan for the next point!

**NOTE:  It is very important to pick a doubles partner who you will communicate well with and/or someone who you have a very good chemistry with on the court.  As with everything in life,
communication is the key!
      Jan. '04

Play, Play, Play!

The best way to improve your skills and tournament results is to simply keep playing more matches in pratice and/or tournaments.

Whether its entering more touraments per month, more league matches per year, or simply playing more practice sets at home, you should always look for more opportunities to play more tennis matches and work on your shot selection and execution.

Too many players take only lessons and drills at their local clubs and dont spend enough time playing the game.  They get into a match and experience a pressure situation, somthing very common at all levels in matches, and they freeze up.

Playing practice sets and more tournaments help you deal with the pressures of competition (the "want" to win and/or the "fear" of losing), and it gives you a great opportunity to transfer all the aspects of your game you have been working on in your drills/lessons into your matchplay!

Playing more practice sets and tournaments really give you a better guage of where you really are in your game and what you need to work on in your upcoming lessons to improve and become a more competitive and complete player.

Taking private and group lessons and playing in various drills are all great and necessary for improvement, but dont forget to Play Matches, and learn how to compete and win!
      Feb. '04

SERVING WIDE----

When you choose to serve wide, (either on the deuce or ad court) make sure you communicate this to your partner.  It is good that your partner is aware of this so he can prepare and position himself to cover a down the line return off this type of serve.  As a returner, it is more difficult to return a wide serve cross court, leaving the down the line return to be the easiest choice.  Therefore, make sure you discuss serving spots and placement, and net positioning with your partner for each point and especially for wide serves.  Cover that down the line return and good luck!
      Mar. '04

ALWAYS COME PREPARED TO PLAY!

It is always important to come prepared to play in your practices and matches by packing/bringing EVERY piece of equipment you might NEED.  This might include items like:  atleast two rackets, water and/or an electrlyte drink (gatorade-powerade), extra shirts, grips, warm-up suit for cold weather, wristbands, hat or visor, and snacks (powerbars, bananas, apples)

Like Brad Gilbert explained in his book¨"Winning Ugly", it can never hurt to bring too much stuff with you or be overprepared with your equipment when practicing and/or playing a tennis tournament.  It really can help your tennis by giving you that little extra bit of comfort and confidence knowing that you are truly prepared with anything you might need to practice or compete on the tennis court!

** Situations that might pop up on you where you would need extra equipment besides just your tennis racket include:  random cold weather or rain, dehydration, cramping, breaks in between matches or even before your sets, and broken strings or rackets in the middle of your practices and matches.
      April '04

"Hit and Move"

Movement is always important in tennis at any level.  The key is to remind yourself to hit and then move and/or recover to the next shot or position on the court.  A common mistake is to hit your shot and then stand there (flat footed) watching your ball to see where it goes.  You know where you are trying to hit the ball and once it has left your racket, there is nothing you can do anyways, so try and anticipate and get ready again to move to your next shot.  Work on building a reaction to where every time  you hit a ball or finish a particular shot, you then start moving your feet to recover and get your racket ready to hit another shot.
This helps many aspects of your game:
1.  Helps you to maintain a good rhythm on the court by having continuous footwork.
2.  Prepares you for your next shot by giving you more TIME to hit each ball.
3.  Helps you recover and get into better positions on the court.

**  Note:  Be careful you are not rushing when trying to hit and move and recover to each shot.  Commit to and finish your shot first, then start moving the feet again to get set up for the next shot.  Just as legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, once said to his  players, "be quick on the court, but don't hurry!"  Take your time and hit your shot, then move and get ready for the next ball, and then take your time and hit that ball again and again and again!
This is your next goal. now see if you can make it a good habit out there on the tennis court.
      May '04
Practice Your Serve and Return!

Serving and returning and two of the most important and difficult aspects in tennis, but are also two of the most under practiced parts of a players game.

Don't wait until you play your match or tournament to hit serves and returns.  Be prepared by hitting lots of them in your drills and/or practices.  Your serve and return are huge parts of your game as they basically start every point for you and your opponent.  They can also be potentially two of your greatest weapons that will help you:
1.     Dictate and control a majority of your points

2.     Allow your doubles partner to be active at the net and move and/or poach off these good quality serves and returns.

3.     Will help increase your service % and therefore increase your chances of holding serve each time.

4.     Will help increase your chances of breaking your opponent's service games.

Spend just a little bit more time on the practice court each day hitting a few more serves and returns and this will help you greatly in your play.  After your private or group lessons, grab a basket of balls and hit ten minutes of serves (5 minutes to the deuce and 5 minutes to the Ad) and make sure you also put out various targets within the service boxes to help your focus, control, and aim.  Next, grab a friend, coach, doubles partner, junior, or anyone available who will spend an extra ten to fifteen minutes hitting you serves so you can practice your returns.  It is also good to set out targets within the singles AND doubles court to practice different types and depths of returns.  Also, it is always good to practice your returns from both the deuce and ad courts, and from a left-handed and right-handed server.Don't just be content to spend all your time on the court with your forehand and backhand groundstrokes or volleys.  Give time to what starts each and every point off in your matches; YOUR SERVE AND RETURN.  REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION!!!!!!
FOR EXAMPLE,  WHAT DO PEOPLE TALK ABOUT WHEN THEY MENTION TWO OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS OF ALL TIME-- ANDRE AGASSI AND PETE SAMPRAS??????

ANSWER-- PETE'S DOMINATING SERVE AND AGASSI'S AWESOME RETURNS!

FOR YOU DOUBLES PLAYERS-- BOB, MIKE, AND I PRACTICE AND SPEND QUALITY TIME ON SERVES AND RETURNS EVERY SINGLE DAY AND IT IS WHAT WE FOCUS OUR WHOLE GAME AND STRATEGY AROUND!  A SOLID SERVE AND RETURN WILL HELP GIVE YOU MORE FREE POINTS, AN EASIER MORE EFFECTIVE FIRST VOLLEY, AND ALLOW YOUR PARTNER TO POACH AND FINISH OFF POINTS AT THE NET MORE OFTEN.
      June '04
Stringing your rackets

Some simple tips to restring your racket are:
1) Although there are recommended tensions for particular rackets, a good rule of thumb is if you need more control - increase your tension.  If you want more power - decrease your tension 
2) Strings differ with playing styles.  For example, if you are a player who likes to come to the net to volley often, it is best to use a softer string like natural gut or synthetic gut.  If you are a player that stays at the baseline, then try some of the new "poly" strings which are more durable (keep in mind the natural and synthetic gut strings break quicker and can be more expensive to replace, but they are easier on your arm!)
3) Finally, restring as often per year as you play per week, but at least twice per year.
You will find that sometimes you will face opponents that actually return serve better off power/pace, so it is always important to recognize your opponents strengths on returns and be able to mix in some slice serves into the body (to jam them!) and kick serves out wide (forcing them to move wide and hit their return high above their heads).

Next, it is always good to mix in a flat power serve to get those free points during your matches.  One of the key components to a powerful serve is racket head speed.  When you are going for a big serve, there is always more risk because you are going for more, so it is important that you choose the right times to go for this.  A good time to hit a power serve is when you are up 40-0 or even 40-15 in your service game  or also at 0-40.  Another good time to bring out "the bombs" in your service games  is when you are already up a couple of breaks of serve in the match (have a nice cushion/lead) and therefore can take more risk/chances and go for some free points!

Finally, the third apect to becoming a great server out there is your placement.  This part is key!  If you dont have a great kick serve or you lack the power to hit a huge serve, you can still hurt your opponents by placing your serves to their weaknesses.  If you go out and practice with targets and hit buckets of serves to both the deuce and ad courts and are able to hit all spots within the service box, your chances of holding serve in your singles and double matches will increase greatly. If you can execute good service placement, you will be able to HIT TO A PARTICULAR SIDE (forehand/backhand) of your opponent that they might be stuggling with that day and you can help KEEP THEM OFF BALANCE by hitting all different spots in the service box.

THE KEY TO HAVING A GREAT  SERVE IN TENNIS IS BEING ABLE TO ADD VARIETY AND MIX IT UP WITH SPIN, POWER, AND PLACEMENT.  BOB AND MIKE WORK ON THIS MANY TIMES THROUGHOUT A TOURNAMENT OR TRAINING WEEK AND WE WILL CONTINUE THIS IN OUR WORKOUTS.  THIS IS DEFINITELY ONE REASON THE BRYAN BROS. ARE NUMBER 1 IN THE WORLD!

THE BRYANS STILL USE CONES OR TENNIS CANS AS "TARGETS" WHEN HITTING BASKETS OF SERVES IN OUR PRACTICES.  I PLACE THESE SERVING TARGETS  IN VARIOUS SPOTS ON BOTH THE DEUCE AND AD COURTS AND CHALLENGE THEM TO TRY AND HIT EACH AND EVERY TARGET WITH BOTH POWER AND SPIN SERVES!  THIS REPTITION WILL ALSO HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER SERVER AND ACHIEVE GREATNESS OUT ON THE TENNIS COURT!  GOOD LUCK AND MIX IT UP!!
(c) Adidas 2003
      July '04

Recognizing negative energy and reinforcing the positives!

In doubles, communication and your playing relationship is so important, that you must have good, positive energy out there while you are playing and competing.

It is very important to recognize when things aren't going great for you out on the court and you are starting to have negative thoughts.  You must try to recogize this negativity early and get it out of your mind by reinforcing positive thoughts and compliments.  You can do this with yourself but also to your partner.  If you see that your partner is having a bad day and not returning as well as he/she wants, communicate with him/her in between points and games and give him/her some positive reinforcement such as, "that's ok Judy, you got it right here, this is your return and your point!", or after he/she does hit a good return, "there you go doug, that's the way to step in and rip that return; great shot!"
This positive reinforcement (compliments) really helps you and/or your doubles partner feel more COMFORTABLE and CONFIDENT out there on the court, especially during competition.  It is so important to get those negative thoughts/energy out as soon as it creeps in, and start thinking and communicating to yourself and your partner all the positive things that are going on or are possible!

One important reason why twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan are Grand Slam Champions and Number 1 in the world, is because they reinforce positive energy in their doubles matches and they "build each other up!"  Bob and Mike are constantly communicating positive thoughts and complimenting each other out in those pressure filled doubles matches.  They are always reminding one another how well they are playing, returning, poaching, serving, volleying, etc. which brings confidence to their amazing doubles connection.  Finally, they are the best at this when they are not playing at their best, which is the key!  You are not always going to play at your highest level in your matches, so you have to stay strong, positive, and confident.

Now, you must learn to build yourself and your partner up, especially when things aren't going to plan and you recognize any negativity!  You are not always going to play at your highest level in your matches, so you have to stay strong, positive, and confident, and learn to win in these conditions.  Compliment yourself and your partner when you recognize these negative moments and always try to reinforce positive thoughts to bring you through to victory!

My college tennis coach and good friend Paul Lockwood (University of Oklahoma) once told me, "I am not worried about your results when you are playing well; I wan't to see you handle adversity, negativity, not playing at your best, and still find a way to execute and win!  When you are not playing your best but still find a way to stay positive and win, then that is a true sign of character and a CHAMPION!"
      Aug. '04

Mixing Up Your Serve:

You can be an effective server by being able to mix up your serve in 3 ways:

1.  Spin (slice or kick)

2.  Power

3.  Placement

It is very important to be able to hit different spins on your serve, keeping your opponent off balance and out of rhythm.  Adding spin to your serve gives you more control and helps move your returner/opponent out of their return positon.  Adding spin also increases your first serve %, therefore making it easier for your partner to poach and for you to hold serve more often.
      Sept. '04

Using a video camera in your lessons, drills, or matches can help improve and raise the level in your game!

Some people are audio learners and some people are more visual learners and can make more improvements when they can see it.  Therefore, I think it  is a great idea to video tape your lessons and/or matchplay at least once per month.  This is something you can set up yourself on the court (with your own video camera) or your pro/coach may have at his or her club.  By video taping yourself in your private lessons or matches, you can go back later and see what your strokes look like and see if you are executing correctly what you and your coach have been working on lately.

You can see right on film exactly what your technique looks like on your forehand and backhand groundstrokes and volleys, overheads, dropshots, and serving and returning.  You can also check your progress on your movement, conditioning, balance, footwork, and agility around the court, and see where your strenghts and weaknesses lie.
Seeing it on tape helps you believe and understand to make that change!  For example, have you ever worked on your serve in a lesson or practice and your coach has told you that your toss is way too low and you have to get it higher?  Did you then work on a higher toss thinking it was then wayyyyy too high?  Have you ever video taped your toss and then found out that your "wayyyy too high toss" was actually in the "perfect place" and not too high?

This is when seeing your tennis on video can make a huge difference.  It is sometimes very difficult to see what our mistakes are or what we are doing out there on the court by just HEARING what our corrections need to be and by just HEARING what we are doing wrong.  I feel that a very big part of coaching and learning and improving in tennis is also being able to see it on film, either by pictures or more importantly by video tape.

Now, you can even get video camera's that are smaller than the size of your palm and easy to travel with and bring on the tennis court.  Also, most of these cameras have the "slow motion" feature that allow you to play it back immediately and see it in a clear, slow motion frame, so you can really pinpoint certain parts of your technique and catch certain mistakes you are making.

Most of you probably love watching tennis on t.v, and i feel you will really enjoy watching your own game on video, and be able to see and really understand your tennis game even more clearly.  This will also help you and your coach/pro make the necessary improvements and adjustments to raise the level in your singles and doubles game!
      Nov. '04

Throwing in the drop shot!

Anytime your opponents (either in singles or doubles) are standing back at the baseline, it is smart to MIX IN the drop shot.  If your opponent(s) is standing pretty far back behind the baseline, then it is evident that they are more comfortable playing back/deep and hitting groundstrokes rather then coming up and volleying.  They are typically more of a "defensive" type of player who does not like to play aggressively at the net.

When you recognize these type of opponents in your matches, it is smart to adapt and mix in some drop shots (typically cross court) and bring them out of their comfort zones, deep behind the baseline.This will help bring them into a very uncomfortable position on the court that they are not used to, and will put you into a good position to win the point with three options:
1.  Hitting the ball right at them -  safe play, making them hit the volley, which they are not comfortable with

2.  Hitting the passing shot down the line or cross court - good play as you have two choices and an opponent who does not want to be at the net and probably does not have the best instincts on where to cover your passing shot

3.  Lob! - tough for your opponent to cover the first two options (above) and still have the speed and strength to read your shot and get back for the lob and put it away

** again, if they are a "defensive" player, choosing to play back deep behind the baseline, then odds are they probably do not have the best overhead.

GOOD LUCK OUT THERE AND REMEMBER TO MIX IN THE DROP SHOTS!!!!
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