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Hardscrabble Scramble
January 2001 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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What You Need In A Partner

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Mike Whittington

Well, it is a new year now and the time to think about your upcoming tournament schedule. Those plans might involve a new partner for the year. What are some of the things you look for when trying to find that perfect doubles mate? Most players simply try to find someone that is comfortable playing the opposite side. While this might solve a few problems and give you peace of mind by allowing you to play your strength, there are a few more things to think about when searching for a partner.

Everyone has been in the situation before when it just didn't click with their partner. No matter how many strategies, game plans, lessons, etc. it just wasn't going to happen. There are times when different playing styles and/or personalities just don't compliment each other on the court. If you are seeing no success or improvement then it might be time to recognize it and move on. I think the most important issue with a doubles team is for the players to get along both on and off the court. There will be tough times when one or both players just aren't playing well. Having an understanding partner that will help you through these times can save a doubles relationship. An example would be if you were struggling with a service return. You need a partner that can pick you up mentally and hopefully get some returns in play until you get your timing back. A partner that sees you struggle and then lets their own game down as a result, is not a good compliment for you! It is important to pump each other up during the bad times and being able to give and receive constructive criticism is critical.

Have you thought about playing styles? Sometimes players with an aggressive style and personality match well with more relaxed players. If you are a hard hitter that goes for broke on every shot and you have a partner with the same style, when you are off you are way off! If you've ever seen two big hitters play as a team that lacks consistency you know what I'm talking about. When they are on they are awesome but when one is off they are both off and couldn't beat anyone. You might be the more controlled player and you need an aggressive partner to pump you up and to get you to go for more shots. In a nutshell, style and personality matter.

Of course, which side of the court you play counts and there are several theories on which player should play which side. My basic rule is to play on the side on which you return well. As a lefty, I was I always told I should be playing the ad court. During college I experimented with playing the deuce court and got together with a player that complimented my game very well. Try playing both sides with various players and see what happens.

As a final note, give every possible partner a chance and hope they do the same for you. I was very reluctant to play with my college partner when we first started together. It meant I would have to change sides of the court for starters, which I wasn't open to at the time. In addition, my new partner played very low as a singles player and I assumed he would be a weaker doubles players. Man, was I surprised! Once we got together as a team he basically carried me! He was really a much better doubles player than singles player but had I not given him the chance we would have never formed the partnership. It was ironic how I felt like I was giving 'him' a chance to play with 'me' when it turned out that he was definitely the stronger doubles player and 'I' was the lucky one to be able to play with him.

Finding the right doubles partner can be a long process that should start well in advance of any major tournaments. I would suggest playing as many matches as possible with as many potential partners as possible to get true feel for them. This will also give others a chance to evaluate you and let you know your strengths and weaknesses as a potential partner.

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This column is copyrighted by Mike Whittington, all rights reserved.

At the time at which he wrote this column, Mike Whittington was a USPTA pro in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he served as director of tennis at the Hardscrabble Country Club.


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