Sir Isaac Newton on Tennis

While playing a league doubles match last week, I realized that Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion could help doubles players understand their roles during a point.

The situation is that you are the “off returner.” In other words, your partner is returning serve and you are standing about on the service line waiting for something to happen. The Law that applies here I feel is “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

The server serves the ball to your partner and stays back, while your partner’s return gets past the net man to the server near the baseline. The “action” is that he did NOT come in; so you do.

You should crowd the net, thus giving the opponent on the baseline a much smaller window to try to get by you to your partner (who should also be trying to come to the net). If you are aggressive, you could probably pick off the groundstroke and put away the volley.

If they do get the ball past you and charge to the net, your “equal and opposite reaction” is to back away from the net. And if during any point, both of your opponents are crowding the net, you should try to work your way back to join your partner on the baseline – or hold your ground at the service line; but not inside it, where you could eat the ball.

Thank you Sir Isaac.