Howard: What’s the best method of finding or changing a doubles partner?
Ever had to find a doubles partner to play in an event or league match? It’s like asking someone out on a date, a bit scary and uncomfortable.
If you’re the better player they’ll probably say yes. If they see you as a player of equal ability and they don’t have someone better to play with and you’re not a mass murderer or have a personality disorder...you’ll probably get a yes answer. If you’re the weaker player and you’re doing the asking, it’ll all depend on if you catch them at a weak moment, or they think you can help them out in some other avenue of life - so in this situation a definite “maybe.
Don’t you just love it when you ask someone to play and they say, “I’ll have to get back with you.” What that really means is that there’s someone out there they’d probably rather play with - but every now and then it does mean they don’t know what their schedule is like and they do have to check.
You’re lucky if you’ve had some previous match play with the person you’d like to be your partner and felt fairly comfortable with their game and their personality type.
You have an idea how they play, how they react when ahead or behind. The type of strategy they go with…. serve and approach, serve and stay back, good net play (or not), communication, aggressive, passive, hard-medium or soft hitter. All the things that give you a decent reading on this temporary tennis marriage.
Now if you’ve only watched them play, there will be a bit more in trepidation, and after they say yes - it’s discussion time.
Which side do you like to play, deuce or ad? Do you try to come to the net or stay back after serving - returning? Do you like to give signals, poach a bit? If we’re out-gunned would you be okay with both playing from the baseline on returns?
Five minutes of questions like these back and forth is worth its weight in gold.
Every now and then you run into the partner from HELL.
They know it all and at every turn tell you what they want you to do. Correct you on every mistake. Want to make all the decisions. Give you a disgusted look when you make a mistake and blame you somehow whey they do. If they make a bad call they expect you to go along with it and god-forbid you lose because it’ll be all because you were their partner.
You might suggest before you say yes to playing with someone (if there’s enough time) that it might be a good idea to play a couple practice matches before jumping into the fire. Hey, you don’t get married on the first date (very often) - right?
Now what if you’ve had a partner for a while and you’d like to give someone else a try?
That can be a very touchy situation. Let’s call it a trial separation - which might lead to a divorce or a renewed relationship.
As most long-time tennis players have learned, the honeymoon in tennis doubles can be very short lived.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.