Choosing The Right Doubles Partner

Nick Bollettieri and many other coaches say you should choose a tennis doubles partner who plays a DIFFERENT style from your game. I am not sure I totally agree.

Bollettieri wrote, you should “Create a team where the players compliment — not compete against — each other. For example, if one is a big server, choose a partner who is a big returner or an aggressive volleyer.

Many coaches also frequently advise that one should be an aggressive player/returner and the other more of the steady one. But I think that creates frustration on both sides.

If you are the steady partner during a big point, and your partner goes for a big shot and misses, you say, “I wish he just got the ball back in play one more time and let them miss.”

Or if you are the aggressive player during a big point and your partner hits a conservative shot (“when he could have really put that ball away”), you wished he could play more like you.

They say one of the reasons the Bryan brothers are a good doubles team is that one (lefty, Bob) is a better server and the other (righty, Mike) is a better returner. But why does that create a better team than, say, BOTH of them being great servers or great returners?

I believe they are a great (“the greatest”??) doubles team is that they are BOTH very aggressive during the points. They both poach a lot on serves; and they both cross a lot during rallies to cut off the short ball.

While I agree that similar styles create a more one faceted team, they create much less frustration between the partners.

5 thoughts on “Choosing The Right Doubles Partner

  1. Great thinking, George. At heart a doubles team is like any relationship — two people who believe they can each bring out the best in themselves and each other. So many factors across so many teams, ranging from playing style to certain shots to temperament to the occasional righty-lefty thing. Most of all, I’ve got to think that a good doubles team is predicated on trust: each partner believes in the other and likes spending time on the court with the other. I also think that split between the steady dude and the closer is a bit overplayed, an idea that can let each person off the hook: the so-called steady person can be seduced into thinking he has no obligation to terminate the point when the opportunity presents itself; and the so-called closer indulges himself by overplaying service returns, going for too much on certain volleys, etc. There’s a lot more nuance to a team than meets the eye.

    And what you point about the Bryans is spot on. What they do best is conceive of doubles as a movement game — poaches, fake poaches, crossing, moving when they’re not touching the ball; in other words, creating a lot of energy and commotion for their opponents.

  2. I think the best doubles combination is one that, in fact, works best under the circumstances. Sometimes teams with essentially similar styles are very effective; sometimes this is a disaster because the players are too much alike and opposing teams can, thus, exploit the common deficiencies. Sometimes teams with polar opposite players are very effective, but sometimes they are also not well suited to each other because, among other reasons, there are common gaps in their respective abilities that opposing teams can exploit because each player is just too extreme (e.g., the “big” server cannot return for shit; the Agassi-like returner only serves cream puffs; the righty/ lefty team only have strong forehands but neither has a particularly strong, or accurate, backhand; etc.).

    Also, I believe the most essential ingredient in a good doubles team is personality match and what is between each of the players’ ears. This is a complete intangible and cannot really be accounted for unless and until the two players go out and play together to see what happens.

    Finally, one Newk’s related observation. If you REALLY want to assure that you have a well matched doubles team, just ask Emmo to evaluate the players and put together the team. I am constantly amazed at his ability to look at two raw players that I would personally never think might make a good team, but somehow they become very effective as a team when Emmo puts them together. I think it must have something to do with Emmo first learning tennis on an ant hill tennis court that was covered with animal poop. Like an alchemist, he can turn poop into diamonds. (Not meant to be a criticism of any of the Wanker players, all of whom I respect greatly.)

  3. Marty – i hope you don’t mind my shortening your reply. and as a perennial Wanker Pooper, no offense taken.

  4. I’m with Marty on this one. I think it’s TOTALLY a personality issue. A bit like in office environments, where people respond to a certain type of management and others wilt. There are very very few managers that know how to manage all the different types of personalities in an office, so by default they use the style they are best at all the time. So if you know how to talk to your parnter on the court in a way that keeps the stuff in between his ears happy and huming….then the recipe is there for a good doubles team. Thinking out loud here…but does that make any sense to you all?

  5. I’ve found that decision making compatibility is more effective than matching strengths and weaknesses at the 4.0 and 4.5 levels. The ability to know when and how to make adjustments as a team is also important. Most points seem lost when players stray beyond their abilities and beyond what the court positioning has to offer. I consider myself a conservative player, but have had success with both conservative and aggressive players.

    That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the 6-1 6-1 drubbing you and took from Scott Miller last year. We communicated well through the entire ass kicking. 🙂

Comments are closed.