How do deal with questionable calls by (of all people) your doubles partner

There are a number of viable and not so viable strategies do deal with a partner who is making what you believe are more than his/her share of questionable calls. Here are ten options (some better than others) and (some to be taken seriously and some not to be taken seriously).

  1. The first response is to give your partner the benefit of the doubt particularly if your partner is emphatic with his/her calls. To extend this benefit to a few errant calls or more correctly stated what you perceive to be a few errant calls is reasonable and healthy for your relationship with your partner. If you perceive a pattern, like every close call, every call that would be difficult to challenge by your opponents (i.e. baseline calls) or worse yet, on consequential game points, then a more challenging response may be required by you.
  2. The next logical step is a conference with your partner during the changeover. A short (not to exceed 90 second) discussion can go a long way to clear the air and to resolve any conflicts. Perhaps your partner is having difficulty seeing the lines but is nervous about being indecisive (particularly with the added pressure of playing with someone of your playing stature and reputation).
  3. At some point, you may need to overrule a specific call (particularly if you have a better and clearer sight line). It would make sense for the well-being of the relationship with your partner to follow any overrule with an acknowledgement and apology to your partner. A phrase such as “I’m sorry and although I really thought the ball was going to be out I saw it hit the line” could help to soften your decision and “save face” for your partner.
  4. If you are playing in a team or tournament match, you could ask for help or more appropriately encourage your opponents to ask for help. Help could be a tournament official or tennis professional to stand by the net post or sit in the umpire’s chair and act as arbiter in the event of subsequent questionable calls.
  5. Reminiscent of the V-8 commercials, a good “thunk” on the head could jolt some sense into your partner. A “tap” on the head could provide your partner with better clarity and vision.
  6. At the risk of having your tires slashed in the parking lot, you could openly confront your partner and overrule each and every questionable call not worrying about the consequences or the sensitivities of your partner.
  7. Another option is to “put blinders on” and obsequiously agree with all your partner’s questionable calls. If your moral compass is “a little tweaked” and you like to have fun at other peoples expense, a fun “pile-it-on” response is to politely taunt your opponents by acknowledging but doing nothing about their concern. Phrases like “sorry fellows”, “hard luck” and “so close but just missed” can a go a long way to unravel your opponents psyche. Of course the result may still be slashed tires.
  8. You could confer with your local psychologist (who coincidently happens to be courtside during your match) for advice on conflict resolution and an explanation on the role of ego in sports.
  9. Since you are now “thinking outside the box”, another option is to collude with your opponents (particularly if they have brought some great “munchies” for after the match). An example of a (not so nice) collusion would be a short lob hit to the strike zone of your opponents with the understanding that they are going to go after your partner with their overhead. Another less divisive example of collusion is to “dump” your next shot into the net following a particularly egregious call by your partner.
  10. Of course by now you are at risk of losing all sanity and need to regain perspective on what is important and what is not. In the big scheme of things, a few questionable calls are not going to tip the balance one way or another and probably not even impact the outcome of the match. The best thing to do in the moment of the match is to do the right thing – be fair and honest with yourself, your partner and your opponents in the most humanely considerate manner possible. After the match, you can exercise your freedom of choice and choose to play again with the same partner (if things work out) and choose not to play with the same partner (if things don’t work out). Above everything else, learn from your experience and have fun in the process.

Steve Gallagher

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