Player with His Free Wrist Pointed Up
Player with His Free
Wrist Pointed Up

Tennis: Hand Signals Improve Partner Communication in Doubles

Nancy & Randy Ring

Hand signals have always been an excellent method for conveying information during sports competitions. For example, in baseball, hand signals are used to convey strategy between the pitcher and catcher. And beach volleyball players use hand signals to communicate the next serve location.

The same method of communication can be used between doubles tennis partners. These signals can be used before each serve to communicate the location of the serve.

Reasons for Use of Hand Signals
There are several advantages to using hand signals in doubles tennis.

  • The server becomes committed to a serve location prior to serving the ball.
  • The partner of the server will know where the ball will be hit, and can plan a strategy to fake, poach or stay.
  • It increases the feeling of teamwork between the partners...and it's fun!

Hand Signal Examples
Here are two examples of signals systems, using the three main service locations: the alley, the body and the center of the court. The signals can be delivered at a pre-determined time before the next serve. For example, just as the server turns and approaches the service line:

Location of the Free Hand

  1. Touch the ball to the head: Serve to the alley
  2. Touch the ball to the stomach: Serve to the body
  3. Touch the ball to the leg: Serve to the center line

Position of the free hand

  1. Wrist pointed up: Serve to the alley
  2. Wrist neutral: Serve to the body
  3. Wrist pointed down: Serve to the center line

Other ideas might include number of bounces of the ball, eye blinks, nose twitches, etc.

Helpful Hint
Players who determine their own hand signals often feel a greater sense of ownership with the system and become more enthusiastic about using it. Nancy and Randy Ring

Reference: Adapted from Ken Dehart, Tennis Tip #7, Ken DeHart, April 2006.

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