by Doug Browne
It is comforting to have so much confidence in your partner that you don’t feel the necessity to look back at your teammate as she strikes the ball. But, when you’re competing at the 2.5, 3.0 or 3.5 levels, it might be more prudent to sneak a peek and view what your doubles partner is doing. When doubles partners move, rotate and switch together; turning your head as your teammate hits their stroke enables the team to move quickly to the next ball.
While it’s admirable to have so much trust in your partner you can keep your eyes forward and assume your partner is hitting the correct shot but it could be dangerous. How? Your partner attempts a lob but it lands short and now the opponent has an easy overhead smash. Or, if the player is trying a down the line alley shot and the ball moves crosscourt instead? Doubles is a reactionary game and it should not be much of a strain to quickly turn one way or another in a span of a second or two. Clearly among tennis coaches, there is a good debate on this subject; tennis professionals feel adamant that players must keep their eyes forward so they can react more quickly. In a perfect world, high-level tennis players almost always hit the ball where they intend, and there is no need to worry that your partner could ever hit an errant shot. But, as a rule, 2.5, 3.0 & 3.5 tennis players often lack experience and they must contend with a few different factors on every point: Is their groundstroke or volley fundamentally solid? Has this one particular 3.0 team played enough pressure matches to understand complex doubles strategy? In our local transient community, it is not uncommon to play with new partners and it would be unreasonable to completely trust your new partner. Have you ever found yourself with this doubles dilemma – the other three players are hitting all of the balls when – boom! – the ball is now headed your way? When you feel inactive as the ball is not moving in your direction, it is vital to look back at your partner in order to feel engaged and ready to go. If the player stands in her one little area, does not look back, it may be virtually impossible to be ready when the ball moves in your area of the court.
Doubles partners be aware! Rapidly turning your body to view your partner’s stroke will enable better reflexes during a heated exchange. Give it a try and let me know if this improves your game.
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.