Doubles Hand Signals: Elevate Your Strategy and Surprise Opponents

Doubles tennis is a highly strategic game that requires constant communication between partners. One of the most effective ways to communicate on the court is through the use of hand signals. Doubles hand signals are gestures used by the player at the net to indicate where the server should hit the serve and where the net player will move after the serve.

These signals are essential in tactical coordination and surprise, as they can minimize verbal communication, maintain focus, and give your team an edge. By using hand signals, you can keep your opponents guessing about your next move, making it harder for them to anticipate your shots and giving you an advantage on the court.

There are several commonly used doubles tennis hand signals, including directional signals for T-serve, body serve, and wide serve, as well as net-player movement signals for staying in position or poaching. Learning and mastering these signals can take your doubles game to the next level, allowing you to communicate more effectively with your partner and outmaneuver your opponents on the court.

Essential Signals for Every Doubles Pair

If you want to have a successful doubles game, you need to communicate effectively with your partner. One of the best ways to do this is by using hand signals. Here are some essential signals that every doubles pair should know:


When serving, there are three essential signals that you should use:

  1. Serve Location (Body, Wide, T): Use clear, predetermined gestures to dictate the direction of your serve. This will help your partner anticipate where the ball is going and position themselves accordingly.
  2. “Going for It”: Indicate an aggressive serve aimed for a winner or service return weakness. This will let your partner know that you are taking a risk and that they should be ready to cover the court.
  3. Second Serve Strategy (Safe, Kick, Slice): Inform your partner of the intended serve type. This will help your partner prepare for the return and position themselves accordingly.


When returning, there are three essential signals that you should use:

  1. Crosscourt or Down-the-Line Return: Guide your partner’s positioning by indicating the direction of your return. This will help your partner anticipate where the ball is going and position themselves accordingly.
  2. Lob or Deep Return: Communicate your intended shot type. This will help your partner prepare for the return and position themselves accordingly.
  3. “I’ll Poach”: Signal your intent to intercept at the net. This will let your partner know that you are going to take a risk and that they should be ready to cover the court.

Advanced Tactics with Hand Signals

Hand signals are an essential tool for communication in doubles tennis. They allow you and your partner to coordinate your movements and execute successful plays. However, hand signals can also be used to deceive your opponents and take your game to the next level. In this section, we’ll explore some advanced tactics you can use with hand signals to gain an advantage on the court.

Fakes and Deception

One way to use hand signals to your advantage is by faking signals to mislead your opponents. For example, you can fake a crosscourt return signal and then hit a down-the-line shot instead. This can catch your opponents off guard and give you an easy winner. To make your fake signal convincing, use exaggerated motions to sell the fake and make it look like a genuine signal.

Pre-Arranged Plays

Another way to use hand signals is to pre-arrange plays with your partner. For example, you can signal for your partner to rush the net immediately after the serve, catching your opponents off guard and forcing them to hit a difficult passing shot. Alternatively, you can signal for a “switch” in positions after a return to exploit matchup advantages. These pre-arranged plays can give you an edge over your opponents and make your doubles game more effective.

Adapting to Match Situations

Finally, it’s important to adapt your hand signal use based on opponent tendencies and court conditions. If your opponents are picking up on your signals, try to switch up your signals or use them less frequently. If the court conditions are making it difficult to execute certain plays, adjust your signals accordingly. By being flexible with your hand signals, you can stay one step ahead of your opponents and make the most of your doubles game.

Developing Your Signal System

As a doubles player, developing a clear and effective signal system with your partner is crucial to your success on the court. Here are some tips to help you create a system that works for you and your partner.

Clarity and Simplicity

When choosing hand signals, it’s important to choose signals that are easy to remember and unambiguous. Basic hand signals such as a fist for a serve down the middle or an open hand for a wide serve are a great starting point. Avoid using complicated signals that could be easily misinterpreted, such as signals that require multiple movements or signals that are too similar to other signals.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you’ve chosen your signals, it’s important to drill them regularly to ensure seamless execution during matches. Practice your signals during warm-ups and drills, and make sure to communicate with your partner to ensure you’re on the same page. The more you practice, the more natural your signals will become, and the less likely you’ll be to make mistakes during a match.


While basic hand signals are a great starting point, it’s important to tailor some signals to your specific team’s strengths and preferences. For example, if your team is particularly strong at the net, you may want to develop a second signal for your net player to poach. Alternatively, if your team struggles with returns, you may want to develop a signal for your server to aim for a specific spot on the court.

By following these tips, you can develop a signal system that is clear, effective, and tailored to your specific team. Remember, effective communication is the key to success in doubles, and developing a strong signal system is a great way to ensure you and your partner are always on the same page.

Additional Considerations


When using doubles hand signals, it is important to maintain subtlety to avoid tipping off your opponents. Keep your signals discreet and avoid making exaggerated or obvious movements. This will help ensure that your opponents are not able to anticipate your next move, giving you an advantage on the court.

Eye Contact

Before signaling to your doubles partner, it is important to make eye contact to ensure that they are ready to receive your signal. This will help prevent confusion and miscommunication, which can lead to lost points. Maintaining eye contact also helps build trust between you and your partner, which is essential for effective teamwork.


Using doubles hand signals ethically is essential for good sportsmanship. Avoid using signals to deliberately distract your opponents or gain an unfair advantage. Remember that the goal of doubles tennis is to play a fair and competitive game, and using hand signals in an unethical manner goes against this principle.

It is also important to note that in many jurisdictions, certain hand signals such as the middle finger or other offensive gestures are illegal and can result in penalties or fines. Stick to basic arm gestures such as pointing or waving and avoid any signals that could be interpreted as offensive.

By following these guidelines and using doubles hand signals in the right knowledge, you can improve your communication with your doubles partner and gain an advantage on the doubles court. Remember to always signal from your original position and use common hand signals to ensure that your partner understands your intentions.


The beauty of doubles hand signals lies in their potential to transcend the tennis court. Think about it: clear, subtle communication is crucial in any team endeavor. Whether you’re navigating a work project or collaborating creatively, the principles of doubles hand signals – pre-established cues, subtlety, and adaptability – can streamline your efforts and lead to greater success.


Q1: Why are doubles hand signals important in tennis?

A: Doubles hand signals are essential for a few key reasons:

  • Coordination: They allow you and your partner to communicate your intended serve direction or return strategy without giving away your plan to the opponents.
  • Element of surprise: Hand signals help you execute surprise plays and keep your opponents guessing.
  • Focus: Relying on pre-determined signals minimizes the need for loud discussions mid-point, allowing you to stay focused on the ball.

Q2: What are the most common hand signals used in doubles tennis?

A: The most common hand signals in doubles focus on serving and returning:

  • Serving: “Wide,” “T,” “Body” (indicating serve direction); “Going for it” (aggressive serve).
  • Returning: “Crosscourt,” “Down-the-line,” “Lob.”
  • Net player movement: “Poach,” “Stay.”

Q3: How can I improve my doubles hand signal communication with my partner?

A: Here’s how to strengthen your hand signal game:

  • Choose clear signals: Make sure your signals are distinct and easy to remember.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Drill your signals off-court and during warm-ups to ensure quick execution in matches.
  • Eye contact: Always establish eye contact with your partner before giving a signal to make sure they’re ready.

Q4: Are there advanced doubles hand signals or tactics to learn?

A: Yes! As you get more comfortable with basic signals, you can explore advanced tactics like:

  • Fakes: Signal one direction but serve/return to the other to deceive opponents.
  • Pre-arranged plays: Develop coded signals for specific set plays (e.g., serve and volley).
  • Match adaptation: Learn to adjust your signals based on your opponents’ tendencies.

Q5: Can left-handed players use the same doubles hand signals?

A: While the concept remains the same, left-handed players might need to mirror the hand signals or agree on slight variations with their partners to ensure clarity on serve direction.

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