How to Find the “Right” Doubles Partner

Here are 10 considerations to finding the “right” fit for you and your game.

  1. Complimentary skills.  It’s good to find a partner who can compensate for your weaknesses and augment your strengths. For example, if your weakness is your court mobility then it would be wise to find a partner with good foot speed to run down lobs, angles, etc. If you have a powerful serve, it would be in your best interest to have a partner who has a strong net game and can attack the return and decisively finish the point with a volley or overhead.
  2. Lefty/righty. There are a number of advantages to left-handed/right-handed partnership. When playing with a lefty (if you’re right-handed) or a righty (if you’re left handed), you can position your forehands (or strength) down the middle on the return of serve (hopefully taking away the middle of the court from your opponents). Positioning your forehands down the middle also encourages your opponents to serve out wide which makes it more difficult for your opponents to poach off the serve. Lefty/righty combinations can also be disruptive with different looks off the serve, varying spins, etc.
  3. Return of Serve compatibility. It’s a plus if you can find a partner who is confident returning serve on your least comfortable return side. Although it’s valid to have a preference, it’s important not to be too adamant or predisposed to return on only one side of the court. A predisposition to only return on one side makes it difficult to make mid-match and next match adjustments. Plus it reduces your pool of potential doubles partners.
  4. Communication. For starters, it’s important to find a partner who can communicate coherently in a language you understand. Your multilingual friend who speaks twenty languages (but unfortunately not English) may be difficult to communicate with on the court (particularly given the time constraints between points and changeovers). Other important communication skills with a partner are his/her ability to administer and receive signals, offer feedback constructively and without judgment and effectively read and respond to your body language and cues.
  5. Offense/defense. Opposites do attract with effective team partnerships. One example is a team consisting of one player who is consistent and can set up the point combined with a partner who is aggressive and can finish the point. So, if you’re aggressive by nature and have first-strike capabilities look to partner with a player who is defensive and can keep the ball in play.
  6. Jerk factor. Playing with a “jerk” can lead to good (and hopefully entertaining) results. Let your “jerk” loose to do his/her thing to drive your opponents crazy with disruptions in play, disputes and other “noodge” type stuff and you may be surprised at the results that follow. The important thing to remember throughout your on-court encounters and ordeals (and your off-court encounters and ordeals that spill over after the conclusions of your matches) is that your partner may be a “jerk” but he is your “jerk”.
  7. Fun factor. Tennis should be fun and you should play with a partner that makes it more fun (not raucous out-of-control fun but fun in the context and process of competition).
  8. Winning formula. I would “stick” with someone you are able to garner success and positive results. But this does not necessarily mean you should “give up” on a partner when you do not initially experience positive results (particularly in the middle of a match which by all accounts is considered “bad form”).
  9. Like Mind… It’s ideal to enter into a partnership with a shared vision and sense of purpose whether it’s a style of play, strategic game plan (e.g. attack on everything) and/or how you support and complement each in your established roles.
  10. Intangibles. Sometimes things just click for no apparent reason. Some of my best results in the juniors were with a left-handed partner who preferred to play the ad court, stay back on the return and have me stay back on the return (none of which would have been my first preference). But it turned out to be fun sitting back on the ball and “crunching” groundstrokes and surprisingly disruptive to our opponents who were conditioned (almost by rote) to come in on everything and not as conditioned to seeing and having to handle pace from groundstrokes hit from the baseline.

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