Last week in doubles, my partner and I were up 4 games to 1 with me serving. Now, we had struggled in an earlier match and I was finally starting to get into the groove. And just that quickly I lost it again. I missed 3 first serves and my partner missed a couple of putaway volleys. After having my serve broken, I was steaming! I didn’t say anything or slam a racquet, but I could tell my face was bright red. I also stopped conversing as much with my partner. I was completely frustrated by the inconsistency in my serve. It was just one of those nights.
After the match, one of our opponents asked me privately if I was mad at my partner because he had missed a few easy shots. I was completely taken back by this statement. I didn’t realize that my partner might have interpreted my moodiness as me being upset with his play, which was not the case. I felt pretty foolish after the match for letting my emotions get the best of me. However, there are lessons to take from every personal failure. So I want to take the time to list out some of the things I’ve picked up over the years that encourage good chemistry between partners when playing doubles. I know this will certainly be useful for me as a refresher on how to behave in future matches!
The first and most important lesson, don’t ever let yourself get visibly upset on the tennis court. This is where I failed last week. Its perfectly normal to be upset with yourself over mistakes that you’ve made. We’re only human, after all. But what we can’t do is let that frustration come out and poison our partner’s game. Don’t scowl. Don’t start yelling. Don’t slam balls or throw racquets. Don’t give your partner the silent treatment. Nothing positive can come from this behavior and it surely cannot help the chemistry between you and your partner.
Remember to communicate with your partner throughout the match. Give them encouragement, whether they are playing good or bad. You never know when you will be the one having an off-day and will need them to pick you up.
Don’t tell your partner that they need to play better. Now, I’m not saying don’t give them advice or tips. Saying things like “try to slow down your swing a little bit” or “stand a little bit further to the right” can be helpful. However, saying “stop screwing up” is not helpful. I doubt your partner is playing poorly on purpose, so making a comment like that is not likely to build a great relationship between the two of you.
Find something to laugh about to ease the tension. Matches can be stressful, especially when they are close or the momentum is swinging to your opponents. But finding a little humor in something can help take some of the pressure out of the game and cause you both to relax.
The lesson I learned last week is that you have to keep your own emotions in check, because you never know how your partner might interpret them. Doubles is as much about team chemistry as it is about skill. If you display a poor attitude, it may be reflected in the play of your partner as well.