Tennis doubles is a tennis discipline played in teams of two people.
While the rules for doubles tennis are roughly the same as in singles tennis, there are some key differences.
Let’s dig in.
The International Tennis Federation dictates that a tennis court must measure 23.77 meters long. This measurement is the same for singles and doubles tennis.
However, the tennis court dimensions differ from singles to doubles: while in singles matches, the court is 8.23 meters wide, in doubles tennis, there are two added lanes of 1.37 meters each, meaning the tennis doubles courts total 10,97 meters wide.
Below is a diagram illustrating the difference between singles and doubles court dimensions.
How points are scored in doubles is similar to those in singles matches.
The regular “15, 30, 40, game” rules that tennis enthusiasts are used to in singles matches still apply and are also a part of the doubles tennis rules.
The first team to reach 6 points, with the advantage of 2 points, wins the set. If one team can’t get an advantage of two points at 6 (if the game scores 6-5), one additional point is played until 7-5. If, after that extra point, no team gets an advantage over the other (6-6), a tie-break is played to resolve the set.
When a team wins two sets, the match is over.
However, most professional tournaments apply the “no-ad scoring rule” when playing doubles, a sudden death when teams are tied at 40.
We will explain this in detail further in this article.
Usually, doubles tennis rules dictate that a team must win 2 sets out of 3. Men’s grand slam tournaments are the only exception – the first team to win 3 out of 5 sets wins the match.
However, in most doubles tournaments, there is no third set. If each team wins one set, the third set is replaced by a “super tie-breaker” – just like a regular tie break, but up to ten points, instead of the seven that are played in a standard tie break.
In singles matches, the point can go on indefinitely until a player gets an advantage of two points over his opponents.
Tennis doubles rules dictate that when the point is tied at 40-40, the team that scores the next ball wins the point. In doubles tennis, no advantage of two balls is required to win the point.
While most recreational players disregard these scoring rules when playing with friends, scoring points like they would in a singles match, this is how points are scored in official tennis doubles tournaments.
When playing mixed tennis doubles – meaning that each team is composed of a player of each gender – the no-ad scoring rule gets an additional twist.
If both teams are tied at 40-40, and a sudden death ball happens, the player that is serving must do so against the same-gender player of the opposing team.
The rules of serving in tennis doubles are very similar to those in singles matches, with the additional rule that each player in the same team alternates when serving.
So, if player 1 on team A starts serving, the following point will be served by player 1 on team B, the next one by player 2 on team B, followed by the serves of player 2, team B. After that, the cycle is repeated.
Those on the receiving end of the serve must alternate each ball. Usually, each receiving player chooses a side (left or right), and the server alternates – one serve to the left and the following to the right.
The only instance where this rule gets broken is when the no-ad scoring rule on mixed doubles is applied. In this case, the receiver must always be of the same gender as its serving opponent.
Who serves first? In tennis doubles, you can decide which player in your team starts serving at the beginning of each set. After that, the team must maintain the order for the duration of the set.
At the beginning of the second set, you do not have to maintain the same order if you do not wish to – you are allowed to decide who serves first, regardless of who served last in the previous set.
The rules of a tiebreaker in a tennis doubles match are similar to those of a regular tiebreak:
As it happens in singles, the team that serves usually has the advantage. Serves are one the most brutal balls to return if done correctly.
Usually, when you are serving, your partner will be positioned on the opposite side (if you are on the right, your partner will be on the left side of the court), near the net.
In the typical doubles formation, your partner will be near the net to cash in a volley to close the point if the opportunity arises. The best tennis nets ensure that the middle of it is lower than the rest of the net – making cross-court shots easier to play, but also riskier in doubles matches due to the possibility of being caught by a opponent’s volley.
However, they are not obliged to be on the net. They can also be near the baseline, next to you.
Your partner can even be on the same side as you, near the net. This is called “The Aussie Formation” and is played to lure the opposite receiving player into playing the ball down the line.
When receiving a serve in doubles, players must be on opposite sides (one on the left and the other on the right).
However, the player not receiving the serve (on the receiving team) can be on the baseline or the net; it is up to them.
Players can change sides, but only in between sets. For the duration of the set, players must maintain their left/right formation. This guarantees that every player returns roughly half of their team’s serves.
You can move freely on the court after the ball is served, though.
To Wrap Up
Tennis doubles rules aren’t much different from the ones in singles tennis. Apart from the super tiebreaker replacing the third set, the no-ad rule and the serving rotations, it is basically the same.
Sometimes we don’t have four players to play with and have to play tennis alone. However, it is so much more enjoyable when you are playing tennis with your friends. If you are playing recreationally, use these official rules or the rules of the standard single, as long as you enjoy your tennis! Now that you know the official rules of tennis doubles, you can even start to think about becoming a tennis umpire.