How To Develop Touch, And Why It's So Important In Doubles Tennis

Touch is very important in tennis, especially in doubles. In “The Previdi System”, there are many times where you must use touch to neutralize an opponents advantage and/or gain an advantage for your team. The first thing we need to do is to learn how to develop touch through some practice drills and the best way to do it is to learn the “sensation” of what touch feels like. Here are some things you should try that we use all the time in our clinics.

In order to have touch you need to have soft hands when you’re hitting. Many players hold the racket for dear life and can’t use their hands to control the speed and angle of the incoming ball. Keeping your hands soft allows you to adjust to the ball that comes to you and control the ball you send back. You also need to use your legs for whatever push you’re putting into the ball. You’re going to take what your opponent gives you, soften your hands to put touch on the ball and use your legs to make the ball go over the net.

The first drill is a volley-to volley drill between two players. The twist to the drill is that every time the ball comes to you you’re going to tap it gently to yourself before sending it back to your partner. When players first try this drill they usually hit the ball so hard when they try to hit it to themself that it goes flying away and they can’t make the second hit. I always tell them that they’re trying to “absorb” the ball into their racket and keep it as close to the strings as they can. After a few minutes almost all players are a lot better at controlling the ball off their strings. There’s also an added bonus. Hitting to yourself so you’re able to hit it again puts your racket at an optimal angle for volleying. You will stop hitting volleys into the net! Once you’ve done the drill this way, just start hitting the volleys back and forth but keep the same fast feet and soft hitting going. You will now notice a couple of things. First, you can control how fast your opponent hits the ball ( and thus how fast the point is played)by hitting the ball low and at a moderate to slow speed. Second you will get better at moving fast and hitting slow and that’s something only the best players are good at. Most players can only hit at the speed they’re moving at . If they move quickly they can’t hit with touch but you will be able to. Here are some situations where you will use the same technique you’ve just learned in very different ways. By learning to develop touch you will be adding so much to your game and once you’ve mastered “The Previdi System” you will know how and when to use all of these shots.

The first situation where we will use touch in drills and games is when one or both of your opponents is back at the baseline ( especially if they like to lob). When your opponents are back, they are vulnerable to angle and drop volleys but most players keep hitting the ball hard and deep which plays right into their hands. If we are in our Hunter-Helper positions and the Helper hits their overhead in front of the Hunter, eventually the Hunter may get a volley instead of a lob. When they do they’re going to try to hit a touch volley instead of a hard volley. If you execute the shot ( and if you’ve done our drills you will), you can easily hit a winning volley. The other situation here is when the Helper ( positioned somewhere around the service line) gets a short, low ball coming in their direction. If they close in and hit the ball deep, they will certainly get lobbed but if the close quickly, soften their hands and hit a short angle they make their opponents pay for staying back.

The other side of the coin is the team (or player) that is at the baseline and trying to return an overhead. This shot is hit exactly like a volley too but with the racket face open so that the ball goes high and neutralizes the opponent while making sure they can’t hit short shots. You use your hands to absorb the pace of the overhead and your legs to push the ball past the service line on their side. Once again, this is an application for touch and underspin using the same basic technique. You will also use this technique when lobbing a strong serve or when hitting an offensive lob off a second serve.

Lastly, a huge application for touch in doubles is when all players are closing on the net. In all my years of playing and coaching I only know a few players who do this correctly ( until they take my clinic). If you’re at midcourt after a serve or return it’s very difficult to hit a winner on your volley when the other team is closing. You should be trying to set up your team ( especially your partner since they’re closer to the net) and limit your opponents options on their return. Whether its’ a volley or half volley, slow the ball down a bit and make sure it’s below the net when it reaches your opponent. You still need to move quickly to the ball because if you let the ball come to you the opposing net player may cut it off. It’s a “move fast, hit slow” situation. You now have time to position your team to cut off all the opponents shots and you’ve limited those shots by controlling the speed and height of your shot. They don’t have enough coming to them to lob it or hit it fast, they’re hitting up so it will be a defensive shot. You have them right where you want them and you can do it all the time once you’ve mastered touch and stopped going for too much on your initial volley. You will control play in the midcourt area.

Hopefully you now know how to develop touch as well as several practical applications where you will use it that come up every time you play. I always talk to my players about recognition and execution. If we can get you to recognize when to use a specific shot through drills and games, you will get better at executing the shot through repetition. You will become an instinctive player with a wide array of weapons and a systematic (rather than random) approach on when and how to use them. I’ll be happy to have you for a partner!