Mixed doubles tennis is the most popular form of the sport at many clubs. Each team consists of one male and one female identifying player, and the format allows for fiercely competitive tennis or a pleasant social game, according to the preference of the participants.
At the highest level, mixed doubles players can earn significant prize money and prestigious Grand Slam titles, although the format is rarely seen in professional events outside of the Grand Slams. For example, Margaret Court is legendary for her all-time record of 64 Grand Slam titles, but this total was significantly boosted by the 21 she earned in mixed doubles.
In general, tennis mixed doubles rules are the same as for regular doubles. Serving rules are the same, as each player (both male or female) serves until a game is won or lost. Each player will serve to both players in the opposing team, and vice versa. Scoring rules are generally the same, with a 10-point tiebreaker as the deciding set.
How Does Mixed Doubles Work In Tennis?
The first thing to be aware of is that in almost every aspect, mixed doubles works in exactly the same way as men’s or women’s doubles.
The rules are virtually identical, and if four strong players are on court the game will work very similarly to any other game of doubles.
In many cases, however, the male players will be bigger and physically stronger than the females, which can result in the males choosing to take the bulk of the overheads and using their more powerful shots to focus the attack on the opposing female. Nonetheless, the latter can be counter-productive against a female who is a strong volleyer and enjoys rallying at pace.
Tennis Mixed Doubles Serving Rules
Mixed doubles serving rules are identical to those for any other form of doubles. Each team takes it in turns to serve for a game. The player serving stays the same until that game is completed, and, next time that team is due to serve, their partner must serve throughout the game.
This means that during a set, due to the requirement to change ends after the first game of each set and every subsequent two, each player only serves from one end of the court, unless there is a tie-break during which serve rotates more quickly.
Other than where the conditions are very different at either end, in which case players may choose to continue serving at the same end throughout the match (aside from tie-breaks), the stronger server will normally serve first in each set and any championship tie-break. In mixed doubles, this is more likely to be the male, but this is certainly not exclusively the case.
Professional Mixed Doubles Tennis Rules
Where mixed doubles is played professionally, this is likely to be at a Grand Slam event. The organizers of these generally recognize the pleasure that both live and television audiences get from watching players of all genders competing with one another.
On the other hand, they do not wish to delay the other events, which some consider more prestigious, unduly as a result of unexpectedly long mixed doubles matches, so they generally adopt a shorter scoring format.
Whilst the mixed tennis doubles scoring formats change quite frequently, you might expect to see ‘no-ad’ scoring and a best-of-three set structure with the third set replaced by a ‘Championship’ tie-break to 10 points.
No-ad scoring means that if a game reaches deuce, the next point decides it. In this case, there is a special rule for mixed doubles, whereby the server must serve to the player of the same gender on the opposing team for the deciding point. Wimbledon is an exception to these rules, as they still play a full best-of-three set format.
Tennis Mixed Doubles Etiquette
At professional level, a male player with very powerful shots may hesitate to hit an aggressive smash straight at his female opponent, but in truth the players are playing for significant sums of money against fellow professionals, so it is very much a case of no quarter asked and none given.
At the club level, the mixed doubles etiquette depends very much on the standard of the players. At higher levels, the game will be played out like any other doubles game. In social tennis, there will be more elderly and weaker players involved, and it is not normally considered good etiquette to hit the ball directly at these players at high speed when they are close to the net.
This applies to players of either gender, as it is certainly not unheard of for elderly male players to partner strong females. Nonetheless, if a player is not strong, or lacks good reactions, the best solution is to gently advise them that they might be more comfortable at the back of the court rather than making themselves a target by standing at the net unnecessarily.
In essence, the etiquette is simply to minimize the risk of injury, but players do need to position themselves sensibly. Some players with big serves do not like to serve flat out to weaker players, but, as long as they are not aiming at the body, this is purely a matter of personal preference as there is no risk of injury.
Tennis Mixed Doubles Scoring
This is basically the same as for any other form of doubles, with sets won by the first team to reach six games if they have a two-game lead, or by the team winning a tie-break if the score reaches six games all. Mixed doubles is normally played over the best of three sets, although as explained earlier, no-ad scoring and a championship tie-break third set are often applied at professional level.
Mixed doubles can be a great game to play, requiring different tactics to other forms of tennis. If you have not experienced it, give it a try.