Tennis Doubles Rules Explained

Doubles Court

The major difference in the doubles is the tennis court’s borders. In doubles matches the tennis court must be 36 feet (10,97 meters) wide compared to the singles court which is 27 feet (8,23 meters) wide. The length of the tennis court is the same 78 feet (23,77 meters) for both singles and doubles play.

In doubles play the center of the net posts must be also 3 feet or 0,91 meters outside of the doubles court on each side. This way the net must extend over the court’s borders.

In simple terms, the whole tennis court is in use in doubles play, including the area between the tramlines.

Tennis tramlines

Doubles Rules

The doubles matches follow the same rules as the singles matches. There are a few differences such as the game format, serving and returning order, and the player’s starting position.

Game format

Doubles are usually played with no-Ad rules meaning that there are no advantages. When the game is tied at 40-40 the receiving team’s players can choose which one of their players is going to receive the last serve.

In addition, doubles matches are also shorter and they are usually played in best-of-three formats where the last set is a match tie-break to 10 points.

Serving And Returning Order

In doubles matches the pair who is serving in the first game decides which of their players will serve first. In the same manner, the pair who is receiving in the first game chooses their sides of the court.

For example, if the receiving player A wants to return from the backhand side of the court he/she then must only return from the backhand side of the court for the duration of the current set. During a set, a player can’t receive from both the backhand and forehand side because it would mess up the serving and receiving order.

After a set is played players are allowed to change their positions and serving order so for example if player A wants to receive from the forehand side it is possible in the next set.

In simple terms at the start of every doubles set the players choose positions which are then locked until the next set.

Example of the serving order and receiving order in a doubles match:

  • Team 1, players A and B
  • Team 2, players C and D
  • Team 1 selects player A as its first server.
  • Team 2 selects player C as the first server
  • So, the serving order in the games is: ACBDACBD
  • The receiving order at the first game can be: DCDC

Positioning Rules For The Serving Team

The positioning rules for the serving team are more lenient than the positioning rules for the receiving team. The serving player’s partner can stand anywhere on the court.

The most common formation is that the serving player’s partner stands diagonally at the net but it is also possible to stand on the same side with the serving player.

After the serve is done players are free to change sides during play but must return to the corresponding positions before every point.

Tennis doubles standard formation
Standard formation
Tennis doubles aussie formation
“Aussie” formation

Positioning Rules For The Receiving Team

The receiving team’s players must stand in the court that they are receiving serve from. The receiving team’s players must stand on the opposite side of the court.

After the return is done players are free to change sides during play but must return to the corresponding positions before every point.

Tennis standard receiving formation
Traditional receiving formation
Tennis alternative receiving formation
Alternative receiving formation

Tie-break Serving Order

When it comes to tie-break the doubles serving pattern goes as follows:

  • Team 1, players A and B
  • Team 2, players C and D
  • Player A servers the 1st point
  • Player C servers the 2nd and 3rd point
  • Player B serves the 4th and 5th point
  • Player D serves the 6th point
  • Players switch ends of the court
  • Player D servers the 7th point
  • Player A serves the 8th and 9th point
  • Player C serves the 10th and 11th point

Generally, the serving order is the common 1-2-2-2.. tie-break serving order.

If a match tie-break is played instead of a third set, teams can choose who they want to serve first because it counts as a new set.


What happens if the serving player hits his/her partner

— The serve is counted as a fault

What happens if the serving player hits the opponent’s net player on serve?

— The serving player’s team receives a point

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