Playing Like a 500 lb. Gorilla

gorilla golfWe have all played with and against them, the tennis players who have a huge first serve and a big forehand … and nothing else. Will they ever learn?

The 500 lb. Gorilla

There is the golf joke about the guy who discovers a huge gorilla in the jungles using a stick to hit round rocks 450 yards. He captures him and brings him onto a golf course where he takes a golf club and drives the ball 450 yards onto the green right near the pin.

They walk to the green and he hands the gorilla a putter to tap in his eagle putt. As you can guess, he drives it 450 yards away.

American Gorillas

I watched the American doubles team of Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey do well and advance to the semis of the US Open where they played and lost to Jamie Murray (brother of) and John Peers.

But all they did well was pound their serves and stand at the baseline and crush forehands. When it came to any other stroke, they were at a distinct disadvantage.sam q

Querrey also did well in mixed, teaming with Bethanie Matek-Sands to make it the finals vs. Martina Hingis and Leander Paes; but Sam still played his same 500 lb. gorilla game… and they lost.

(It is interesting to note one key to Martina Hingis’ recent success: find a good Indian partner! She also teamed with Sonia Mirza to win the ladies US Open doubles title).

My point? To succeed in tennis you have to develop “the short game” … backhands, second serves, volleys, etc.

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Playing Like a 500 lb. Gorilla

  1. While I’m sure that an Indian partner didn’t hurt Hingis, there is a common denominator in her wins. Hingis has always been one of the more cerebral players in the game, who had an uncanny ability to beat players with intelligence. The perfect game for doubles.

    Pam, no doubt about it! see you in two weeks! george

  2. Spot on George! I have taught my players for years that the only similarities between doubles and singles are the rackets and the balls. Doubles is a much more thoughtful game with angles,volleys and spins.
    When I see modern players playing one up and one back I just cringe. The Bryan’s are the best modern doubles team in the past 15 years and both are successful in mixed because of basic doubles fundamentals.
    Remember the great Aussie teams of the 50’s and 60’s?

    Ron – not only do i remember them, i TALK to them each October!! thanks, george

  3. The following are, I believe, truisms of doubles:

    Doubles is a game of positioning, movement, space and opportunity. It is a game that favors coordination as a team, and that does not favor teams trying to win based on individual skills alone. It is a game where the whole nearly always is greater than the sum of the parts.

    Played properly, high quality doubles is a lot like Pete Carril’s old Princeton basketball players used to be in every NCAA tournament — a well coordinated, completely selfless group of (otherwise Division 1A) players who cohered as a team and would take it to and frustrate the hell out of national powerhouses like UCLA and Georgetown year after year even though, on paper, there was no way that should have been happening.

    Doubles is a game where the tried and true (translation: old fashioned) tactics still work, such as: (1) both players should always endeavor to move in unison, as if tethered together with a string or a bungee cord; (2) both players should try to get to the net (or to move back) simultaneously and to avoid the one up/ one back formation as much as possible; (3) when at net, and assuming they have a decent ability to cover unexpected lobs, both players should try to get as close to the net as possible, both to create angles and also to allow volleys to be hit down at the opponents’ feet to draw errors; (4) very often “up the middle really does solves the riddle;” (5) merely blocking back a serve and just getting the return in in any way possible pays huge dividends (usually cross court, but with the occasional up the line, lob over the net man, or crush it right at the net man returns as good surprise options); and (6) the ability to lob, half volley, volley and hit a decent overhead are far more important skills to have in typical doubles than the ability to crush a serve or to pound a forehand.

    Once any decent tennis player adjusts to or becomes accustomed to handling extreme pace and power, it can be neutralized far more easily on a doubles court than in a singles match.

    The annals of tennis history are literally teeming with stories of two young, hotshot, power players joining up to form an ad hoc doubles team and then getting their a$$es handed to them by a couple of wily old doubles veterans who don’t have anywhere near the power or foot speed but who have played together as a team for probably longer than either of the opponents’ age and literally know every trick in the book. I know, as a young guy, I used to regularly get my butt spanked and handed back to me by old guy teams like that. It got very frustrating. But wow that I am a wily old guy myself, I take great pride in doing the same to young guy hotshot teams that I may come up against.

    And I bet everybody reading this blog does the same.

    Marty – your truisms are all true! thanks, george

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