Rules for Doubles Tennis


Doubles tennis--two players on each side of the net instead of one--is popular among older and less mobile players who have trouble covering the court in singles, athletes who relish playing close to the net and person who like the social aspects of playing tennis as part of a team. The rules--even the court dimensions--are slightly different from those used in singles, but you will see they are not hard to learn.

Court Dimensions

  • The doubles court becomes 9 feet wider than the singles court by using the outside sidelines. The width between each singles sideline and doubles sideline is 4.5 feet, and the space is called the doubles alley. One thing that does not change is the service box. Even in doubles, the serve must land inside the singles sidelines to be good.

    The net posts should be situated 3 feet outside the doubles sideline, just as they should be only 3 feet outside the singles sideline for singles tennis. On most public courts, however, the net posts are stationary.

Serving Order

  • The team that serves first (decided by a coin or racket flip) decides which player will serve that game. Her partner will serve the third game, and that order will remain throughout the set. The other team decides which of its members will serve the second game, and his partner will serve the fourth game. Teams must keep the same serving order between partners for an entire set, but they may switch the order at the beginning of a new set. The team that serves second in the first set will serve first in the second set. As in singles, each player must make her first serve from behind the baseline and to the right of the center mark on the court, and the server has two chances to put the serve into the cross-court service box. If the server hits his partner, it is considered a fault.

Receiving Order

  • Receiving order is also decided by the partners on each team at the beginning of the set. However, the player returning the serve changes on every point. The player receiving the first serve will stand in the "deuce" court, and the second player will set up in the "ad" court. This order also must stay the same until the end of the set.

Errors in Order

  • If a player serves out of turn, the order should be corrected as soon as the mistake is discovered, but all points played in the wrong order are counted. If a game was completed by a server out of turn, the serving order should stay as altered. If a player receives out of turn, the order should stay as altered until the end of the game but return to the original order the next time the team receives serve. All points played under the mistaken order are counted. For more on playing tennis without officials, see "Resources" below.

Hitting the Ball

  • Only one partner may hit the ball each time it is on that team's side of the court, but after the designated receiver returns the serve, either partner may hit the ball any time it enters that team's side of the court. Partners may clash rackets, but if both rackets touch the ball, that team loses the point. For more on playing strategy, see "Resources" below.

Other Considerations

  • If one player must stop playing, his partner cannot play by himself against the other team.

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