April 21, 2009

"What Are They Talking About?"

Does it drive you crazy to see your doubles opponents strategizing between points? It drives me crazy. Even if I'm 99% sure that they're talking about where to go for lunch after the match, I'm not 100% sure so I can't help but wonder. Are they changing tactics? Have they spotted some weakness? Is one player telling the other to go down the line because I've let one too many of those shots go by?

If my opponents start talking to each other, I can think of all kinds of things they MIGHT be talking about. It doesn't matter whether I'm right or not - just thinking about it is enough to unnerve me. And if I'm thinking about them, I'm probably not thinking about my partner and what we should be doing to win the next point or the game or the match.

So how do you deal with these chatty, strategizing opponents? The answer is - you don't. Because they're only doing what's right. When playing doubles, YOU should be a chatty, strategizing opponent. You should be communicating with your partner after virtually every point. That's what the pros do. In fact, Venus Williams says its "clueless" not to be talking that often. So that's what you should do too.

Even if you're not a brilliant tennis tactician, there are plenty of things you can be talking about to your partner between points. Here's a list of just a few:
  • Tell your partner about anything you observed in the warm-up about your opponents.
  • Decide which of your opponents is weaker and how you are going to pick on her.
  • When its your turn to serve, let your partner know what kind of serve you're trying for - up the middle or out wide? hard and flat? soft and short?
  • Let your partner know where you're going to aim your return.
  • Suggest different serves and returns for your partner to try.
  • Let your partner know if you're going to poach.
  • Point out the set-ups that have caused your opponents to poach.
  • Talk about court positioning and whether you need to try something different.

This is a really short list of some really pertinent exchanges you and your partner should be having. Of course, there are lots of really un-pertinent exchanges you can have. For example, you can talk about where you bought the cute little skirt you're wearing (Wal-Mart, Junior's Department, only $10). Or you can comment on the great match the two of you played LAST week. Or you might even discuss where you're going for lunch. And, as you know, if you're facing someone like me, that may be all it takes to cause trouble on the other side of the net.

© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved


Sheila said...

Your observations for any casual tennis player are spot-on! The only thing I can add to this is that I like to be the first to start talking between points because otherwise it looks like my partner and I are just speculating on what THEY are talking about.

Kim said...

This just happened to me yesterday and my partner and I kept wondering - "What can they possibly be talking about?!" We never figured it out and won anyway.

Tennis Partners said...

Yeah, at some point they just need to shut it and play. At the beginning of the match and at key points, you might need to share strategy, but when a good doubles team gets into the flow, there doesn't seem to be much to say. :-)