There is no way to be a remotely good singles player without an excellent understanding of neutral game. Neutral game is possibly the most important part and probably the most difficult part (playing against someone else is harder than playing against yourself). If you are playing a support role in doubles, it’s possible to win playing no neutral game whatsoever. Singles is about a dance to jockey for advantageous positioning. You play patient and find your spot, then take your punish as far as it goes. Doubles is about trying to create situations where your opponents have no options whatsoever. Besides wobbling and a few chaingrabs, you can pretty much always do something to escape situations in singles. In doubles, there are countless situations where there is absolutely nothing you can do. If you are playing against a team that isn’t on point about capitalizing on overextensions to create their own “100-0” situation, it’s worth playing risky and aggressive. Most teams are not on point about turning reversals into no win situations. Situational understanding is probably the most important thing in singles, but this is a subject where there is little consensus. Situational understanding is by far and away, unequivocally the most important thing to playing doubles.
In singles, there are objectively and obvious best situations. Doubles has a lot of situations where you have alternative options that are all good, and it’s not clear what to do. Learning these ahead of times. Because you have a partner to back you up, the risk/reward of certain options is completely different from in singles. Because the logic of which options are good in singles doesn’t necessarily make sense in the context of doubles, you really need to figure out things ahead of time. Coordination is paramount, so you and your partner need to be on the same page about which options you favor in which situations. Doubles is much more about improvisation and much more free flow than singles. This may seem to contradict what I just said, but it doesn’t. Singles lets you get away with camping into flowchart punishes if you are good at staying safe and have good execution. Simply because there are innumerable situations with 4 players on the screen compared to 2, doubles forces countless novel situations, which you need to learn to navigate.
I’ve mentioned this in every guide, but time is the most important resource in doubles. Earning time to look at the entire screen in order to assess where to position yourself is a victory in itself. Learn which situations allow you to take advantage of the time you’ve earned, and don’t squander advantages you’ve gained by choosing options that take too much time. Waiting is bad. Doubles favors being proactive far more than singles. If you don’t feel the urgency when you are playing, odds are that you have poor situational awareness. There’s almost always useful things to be done on the screen. How to watch the screen while watching or playing doubles is a skill to be learned. There are focal points that your eyes should be drawn to if you understand what’s going on. Check out some of my doubles content on http://www.youtube.com/elitenorcalgaming to get a better idea of what to look at on the screen during teams.