Working with a partner on the tennis court can be challenging. How the game is played is not just dependent on you. There’s another tennis player on the court with you, and they will impact how the game is played. You won’t have 100% control over what happens. There are some things you can do to make the most of your experience for you and your doubles partner.
An obvious thing you can do is to practice together as much as possible. Another less obvious thing is to talk about what you each need. As an individual you can work on learning to control what is in your power to control – let go of what’s not in your control, focus on your game, have your own internal expectations, and let go of the feeling of letting your partner down. All these things will allow you to play your best match.
This is probably common sense and will in and of itself make a huge difference in how you and your partner play together. Think about it from the perspective of other relationships – the more time you spend with someone the more you get to know them. The same holds true for an athlete spending time on court with a doubles partner. Sometimes you may even find out your partner is not the partner for you. Either way you will learn important information from spending time practicing together.
Communicating With Each Other
Communication is the cornerstone of any good relationship. Stop making assumptions about how your partner wants to be communicated with and have a conversation about how to best communicate with each other. Sure it might be scary, but it is the best way to ensure optimal communication on the court. Practice good communication during practice. When partners are on court during a match there’s no time to develop or repair the relationship or communication. Practice does make perfect.
Here are some good questions to ask your partner –
- When do you need support and what kind of support do you need?
- How do we communicate when things are going well? How about when things aren’t going well
- What kind of reminders do you need during a match?
- How do you deal with mistakes?
- How do we communicate tactics?
- How do we keep motivation high?
Control What You Can and Let Go of the Rest
In a match there are always things we cannot control, and it’s best to know what those are. We tend to get really caught up in things we can’t control. This makes us angry or frustrated because we can’t fix it. The more you accept that, the better you’ll feel and play.
Let go of how your partner is playing. You can help support them, but if they are playing poorly or spiraling out of control there’s not much you can do to help. It does NOT help to chew them out for not playing their best. I’ve developed this cool exercise for clients, and most love it because it’s helpful. When you get to the court (for practice or a match), point out the things that are not in your control. You won’t be able to hit them all but I guarantee you will hit the major ones – court condition, sun, wind, your opponent, and/or your partner’s performance and attitude. When you can point them out, it takes the heat off. Once you list them out in your mind, let them go!
Have a few of your own internal expectations that are not tied to winning. We all want to win. That’s a given, but what’s going to help you get the win? Think about, “If I work on this or this, I can walk away feeling good whether I win or lose.”
You only have control over what you do. Focus on your game. Learn to stay present and move away from over analyzing and holding onto mistakes. Let go of the fear of letting your partner down.
It’s important to get out of your head (easier said than done). The more present you are the better opportunity you have to perform your best. As I always say, if you are in your head, you are no longer playing the game. Allow your muscle memory to do what you’ve trained it to do – play!