Having a Weak Partner

Playing with Davo and Ross Case
Playing with Davo and Ross Case
How do you cope with playing with a weak doubles partner? We all have been put in that situation at some time … you go on the court for an arranged doubles match and three of you are about equal; but the partner you have been assigned is significantly weaker. What do you do?

If you are playing with really considerate and sensitive opponents, they will see the situation and try to balance play. But in most cases, there is the need (or just the desire) to win the match; and your opponents will continually pound the ball at your weaker opponent.

What should you do? Some thoughts:

Don’t overplay. Too often the instinct is to try to put away every shot, so the ball won’t come back in play. Or to try to cover too much court to “save” your partner. Be aggressive and solid, but don’t over-hit.

Accept the situation. Don’t fret and get over emotional about “How come I got stuck with this guy.” Recognize that you are still playing a game that you love and have a good time.

Practice shots. Accept that you probably won’t win and take this opportunity to practice some of the strokes you have been working on.

Don’t over-coach. If your partner is agreeable, you can make some minor court-positioning suggestions; but don’t think you are going to dramatically improve this guy in 90 minutes on the court.

Remember when you were that person how you felt. And don’t forget, as you get older, YOU will be that guy in the future.

And if you ARE that guy (as I was at Newk’s camp one year, playing #1 doubles with the Big Boys): understand there is a big target on your chest and every possible ball will be coming your way. Just always be ready.

Other thoughts??

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3 thoughts on “Having a Weak Partner

  1. 1- tell your partner to be ready at all times
    2- encouragement even when an easy shot is missed ie hey just hit a tough shot, good idea, great try etc
    3- if you coach don’t give a stroke lesson, only tactics, ie if the net man poaches most of the time just talk about lobbing until they stop.
    4- make sure you have a friend when its over
    make your partner comfortable

    Bill – good stuff! tks. george

  2. George, like you, I too have been “that” guy a few times at Newks when, for whatever reason, I got put into a first doubles match as the weak link with three other 5.0, 5.5 or even 6.0 level players. I recall one year, in the late 1990s, when I was a Dunnie and Fred Stolle had me play with Marty Wolf for the deciding match for the championship after Marty’s regular partner had torn his Achilles earlier that day. Marty had been ranked #1 in the USA and in the world in the 35s. One of our opponents was a former NFL running back and was the fastest guy I have ever seen on a tennis court (including Mike Rennels). He also had a forehand that was so good Fred described it is “Agassi like.” And the other opponent was a teaching pro who was ranked #1 or 2 in the State of Texas. And then there was me.

    Most of the match is a blur, but I do recall getting picked on and pulverized in the first set, which the opponents won rather easily. But I also recall my partner talking positive thoughts to me throughout the match and really doing an excellent job of boosting my ego and making me really believe in myself and my game. And as I started getting more and more confident because of all the good words that my partner was offering me, I miraculously started to play better and better. So much better that, in fact, we actually won the second set and then also closed out the third to win the match.

    I learned a valuable lessons from being in the “weak player” spot during that doubles match. That is, Marty never tried to change my game or offer me any technical advice at all. He must have realized I was not going to hit the ball any better than I was capable of doing. Instead, he knew that where he could make a positive influence was by getting into my head and, for a few hours at least, helping me to pretend that I really did belong on the court with the “big guys.”

    Whenever I have had a weaker partner myself ever since, I have tried to emulate what Marty did for me. If you are a good enough cheerleader and you have a willing partner, you would be amazed at how well this could work. I recommend trying it.

    Marty – good story! thanks. george

  3. Good stuff George. Yes, we have all been there, on both sides. Obviously, fun matches and tournaments should require a different mode of play. In fun play I tend to focus on feeding the weak player and trying to out play the best player. I figure I am not going to learn anything by beating up on the weaker player. But you are right, there are guys out there that have only a “win” mentality.

    walt – tks. george

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