Partner Problems?

Here are ten ways to rectify your relationship and make you a hero with your partner.

  1. Be an intimidating presence at the net. Cover as much ground as you can. Drift to center on all shots hit down the middle. Close and drift to the middle of the court following well-placed shots hit by your partner or you. Be decisive and close in on the diagonal. Drop back quickly and kick up to decisively take the overhead. The result is that the court area requiring coverage by your partner narrows and becomes much more manageable, particularly when your partner is serving. And if you play your volleys right, you may become the subject of lore.
    Roam the net freely she did
    Unabated by no foe known to man
    In harmonious symmetry, balance and cheer
    Fears not nothing for there is nothing left to fear
  2. Get your first serve in. Good things happen for your partner when you get your first serve in play. Your partner can drift and roam more freely at the net when you get your first serve in. Your opponents are generally more cautious and hesitant in returning first versus second serves. Other important factors with your serve are depth (unless you are hitting an angled serve to the singles sideline), hitting down the middle T to provide your partner with a greater opportunity to successfully poach the return and finally, mixing the location, spin and pace of your serve to disrupt the rhythm of your opponents and make it easier for your partner to cover the net.
  3. Get your serve return in play. It is important to get into the point and make your opponents play shots. Getting the return in play preferably away from the net person gives your partner and you opportunities to succeed. The alternative high risk, go-for-broke approach does not work as well in doubles. It makes it tough to get a rhythm and flow in the match plus your partner will get “ticked”.
  4. Get to the net with your partner. Particularly if your partner is already at the net in a volley position, do everything you can to close into the net. Serve and come in. Return and come in. Approach the net on short balls. Lob and come in. Tennis is a percentage game and your percentages are greatly enhanced if you are both at the net versus slugging it out from the baseline or worse yet if you are back and your partner is up in a staggered doubles position.
  5. Give your partner credit and acknowledgement for good shots. I will give you a little test. Here are two scenarios. Which scenario should you choose to create a better working bond with your partner?
    Scenario #1
    Your partner hits a great shot. You then close into the net and drift to the center of court in anticipation of a weak reply by your opponents. You get the shot you are looking for and pounce on it for a clear and decisive winner. Without as much as a glance to your partner, you raise both your hands in the air and exult to your friends watching from the sidelines.
    Scenario #2
    Your partner hits a great shot. You then close into the net and drift to the center of court in anticipation of a weak reply by your opponents. You get the shot you are looking for and pounce on it for a clear and decisive winner. Immediately upon hitting the final shot, you look to your partner and acknowledge and congratulate him/her for the set-up.
  6. Support your partner when he/she makes mistakes. Although techniques such as dropping of the racquet, rolling of the eyes and verbal chastisement may in some cases, motivate your partner to better performance, the more typical response to such techniques is to motivate your partner to take a whack at your leg with her racquet. The message you want to convey to your partner is that it is okay to make mistakes (particularly in crossing and closing patterns) and that you are in it together to the end as a team regardless of the score or the circumstances of a particular point.
  7. Follow-through on your promises. As an example, if you signal to your partner (prior to when he/she is to hit the serve) that you plan to poach and pick off the cross-court return, make sure you go with conviction and get the ball. It is not fun for your partner if you go half-heartedly and let the ball get by you (“whoops”). Players don’t like partners who are indecisive, hesitant and non-committal. If you say you are going to go, then do your best to disguise your intent, but when the time is right make that explosive start and move on the diagonal to pounce on the return. And if the return is hit down-the-line…
  8. Be the enforcer when your partner takes one for the team. It is your responsibility to take retaliatory action if your partner gets “popped” by a ball by your opponents particularly if your opponents are unremorseful or worse yet, happy about the result. Don’t be rash or impulsive. Hold your fire until you see the whites of their eyes (and I’ve seen the whites of their eyes and they “ain’t” pretty). Wait patiently for the right opportunity and then “bam” take your shot. Your partner will love you forever.
  9. Reward your partner with physical therapy sessions to help heal his injuries sustained in the fight that ensued after your retaliatory shot. If you both escape injury, reward your partner with a semi-private doubles lesson with your understanding and accommodating tennis professional who will find a time in his schedule despite your previous student faux pas such as hitting him with errant shots, no shows and purposeless practice sessions.
  10. Make it fun. Of course, this leads to the question as to what defines fun on the tennis court. Can you be competitive, even rock-hard competitive on the tennis court and still have fun? Having fun does not necessarily mean you have to “yuck it up” although it is invigorating to laugh on the court. Having fun on the tennis court can and should be a meaningful experience. Fun is the process of playing and competing. Fun is when you are actively engaged in a dynamic relationship with your partner in a physical and mental goal or pursuit (where the outcome is very much in doubt) to win each and every point. Fun is sharing the assignment of hitting the ball back over the net in the process of constructing a point. If you want to make it fun and exhilarating for your partner, be enthused and energetic and work as hard as you can on the court. What could be more fun than that?

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