Have you ever played a match with a doubles partner that you've never met before? Someone that you are introduced to as you walk out onto court? How do you play with someone like that? Especially when you're coming up against opponents who clearly have a lot of experience partnering up. In this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, I”ll give you three great tips to apply in this situation, tips you can use to make sure you have the best partnership possible. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
Playing Tennis with a Brand New Partner
This week's episode is all about playing with a new partner. And I mean a really new partner. I recently got a question from a Tennis Quick Tips listener asking me for some tips on playing with a partner that you meet for the very first time when you're actually going out on court to play a match.
I myself have been in this situation a lot and I knew I would be able to answer this question. So here's the email that I got from Stephanie:
Thanks Kim for a wonderful job. My husband who also plays USTA doubles made a comment today that I'll share with you. He said: “it's weird when I just walk into the match and meet my partner for the first time, when the opponents know each other or are partners”. I told him what I learned after years of being frustrated by the same thing. I now tell myself, that although we are playing doubles, I'm not going to worry about what my partner does or doesn't do. I'm going to fill in the blanks, play my heart out and not be brought down by a partner who's mismatched or can't hold serve for 4 games or whatever. Do you agree? Do you have tips in a situation like this when you meet your partner for the first time, and you feel that the opponents have an advantage? How do you think? Again, looking forward to more tips in 2016.
This is a great question and I'm so happy to hear that this is something that happens to other people. Honestly, for a long time, I thought I was one of the few people who played with as many different partners as I often did.
My Own Experience – I Play with Many New Partners!
Right now in fact, I've just joined two new tennis teams. I completely have gone in a new direction with who I play with because my husband and I joined a new club. So I am playing now with people that, either I hardly know them, or I have had this season that I have met for the first time when we walk out on the tennis court together. And I can certainly relate to your husband's sense of frustration when you're that team, new partners who are just meeting for the very first time, and you come up against a team who has clearly been at it together for awhile. Either they're permanent partners who play together all of the time or they play together enough that they know a little bit more about what each other is doing on the court than you and your partner do.
And I think Stephanie's attitude is really the right one to take. You really do have to play your heart out, not spend a lot of time worrying about what your partner can or can't do that you wish they would do differently. But just get out there and play your game and enjoy the fact that you're playing tennis at all.
To get more specific, I do have three tips that I always put to use when I get in that situation where I'm playing with a new partner. They're very simple tips. This isn't going to make or break your partnership. But I find this is the kind of thing that makes it easier for me to play with a new partner and a lot more enjoyable.
So here are my three best tips for how to play with a new tennis partner.
1. Have a Good Attitude
This goes to what Stephanie said in her email. When you're playing with somebody new, I think the best thing that you can do is have a good time out on the court. Try to enjoy yourself and do not get caught up in the winning or the losing. I hate to say that because I like to win just as much as anyone else. But the reality is, when you are playing with someone that you've never even met before and you're facing two partners who've clearly partnered up quite a bit and have a lot of experience together, an entire set can go by before you and your new partner can even figure out how to play well together. In fact, you may never figure that out in the whole match. But, by the time you do, if you're up against experienced partners who play together a lot things can be not going too well for you. This isn't always the case but it can be and you can't let that get you down. So my number one thing I would tell you is – have a good attitude and a good mindset when you know you're going into this situation.
2. Discuss Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Talk to your new partner, right at the beginning, before you even get on court if possible, but definitely during the warm-up, about your playing style, court positioning that you tend to like, and try to find out the same things about them. This kind of conversation is easy to have when you're talking about who is going to play the ad court side and who is going to play the deuce court side. Or who's going to play backhand and who's going to play forehand. If your partner has a clear preference and that's the side you like, I think you have to be willing to work with them. Decide – are we going to let one person try it out for the first set and then switch if we need to. But always let them know what you do well, where your efforts are best put to use and try to accommodate their information on this same thing too.
A good example of this for me is I try to always tell my new partners that I like to play up at the net. I like to be aggressive and go for the poach. I find myself doing a much better job if I am up at the net playing that way. And so, if I have a partner who likes to stay back, I just want them to be sure they know that that's what I'm going to be doing up there. A lot of ladies don't like this and, often, they'll tell me that. And I'll let them know that if, at some time during the match, if it's not working and you think I should move back, be sure and say something to me, because otherwise I'll keep playing that aggressive game up at the net. And I do try to pay attention to what's going on on court and if that style of play is going disastrously wrong, I will try to change my game. But the fact is, from the get-go, that's how I'm going to try and play because that's how I feel best. That's the style of play that works best for me.
3. Let Your New Partner Know About Your “Quirks”
The third thing I like to do when I'm playing with a new partner is to let them know anything that might be quirky about me. To warm them in advance. And specifically what I'm talking about here is, for me, I like to talk. I like to talk a lot. I like to communicate with my partner. And, a lot of times when I'm talking, and a lot of times the things that I'm saying out loud are things I am saying to myself or to get some feedback from my partner. To see if we're on the same page. And I will tell you, some people don't like that. I have had partners tell me, “Hey, you got to quit talking so much. It's hard for me to focus when you're talking to me between every point.” And I'm good with that. And so I like to let people know up front how much I like to talk. And I tell them to let me know if it's bothering them. Because I do know, occasionally I'll have a partner who doesn't like all the talking. Mostly they don't care. And I do actually get partners who are just as chatty if not more than I am. And that's good for me. But that's one of the quirky things about me that I like to make sure my new partners know.
So if you have something like that, be sure and let your new partner know.
So those are the three tips I would give you. Again:
- Have a good mindset.
- Discuss your and your new partner's strengths and weaknesses.
- Let your partner know about your quirks.
I hope that helps. Stephanie – I hope that gives you some extra information to pass on to your husband. I have always thought it would be nice to have a permanent partner, someone that you play with consistently and you do know how they play and you can work together. But I can tell you that I have met a lot more people playing tennis with new partners all of the time than I ever would have had I had just one partner. And I'm very comfortable now with walking on court, meeting someone for the first time, and within five minutes, starting my warm-up with them as we get ready to start a match. So I think it's a positive thing to be able to play that type of tennis and you need to feel good about it when you get those opportunities.
Let me know if you have any tips for playing with a new partner by leaving a comment in the comment box below. And if you have questions or suggestions about what you'd like to hear on Tennis Quick Tips, leave your comment below.
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