Tennis Fixation reader Terry recently posted this comment: “What do you do when your tennis partner tells you that your serve isn't so good so she won't play net? I have a great serve, and she was just trying to be mean, or she just didn't want to play up at the net.”
Oh, Terry. While I love playing all kinds of tennis, your comment is a perfect example of why I enjoy doubles so much. Peoples' true personalities come out when you partner up with them for a competitive tennis match. And nothing brings out a tennis partner's true personality better than being in a competitive match where he or she is losing.
And it appears that Terry got an up close and personal look at her partner's true personality. And what she saw wasn't pretty. But guess what Terry? If you play doubles for any length of time, it's bound to happen. At some point, you'll be paired with . . . the worst doubles partner ever.
Who Is The Worst Tennis Doubles Partner Ever?
How do I know Terry had the worst doubles partner ever? Because it's happened to me.
And I can promise you that the worst doubles partner is not the one with the least amount of tennis skill. The worst partner is not the one in the poorest physical shape. The worst partner is not the one who is blissfully unaware of strategy, tactics and/or court positioning. The worst partner is not even the one who arrives to a match 15 minutes late, clueless as to why her tardiness is so stressful for everyone else.
No, the worst tennis partner is the one who makes you feel like crap.
The worst tennis partner doesn't care about how the two of you function as a team. The whole partnership dynamic thing has gone out the window with this player. The worst tennis partner is in it for him or herself, not for your team and certainly not for you.
Now, this is my personal opinion. And you may differ with me on this. But I can tell you that I have played with lots and lots of people. And this is the type of partner that I absolutely can't stand and find almost impossible to deal with.
So what do you do when you're playing with the worst partner ever?
How Do You Play With The Worst Partner Ever?
My advice on how to deal with this type of partner is not very pretty. I'm sure many of you won't find it too helpful. But this is one of those “face reality” situations where you just have to make the best of it. So here's how I suggest you deal with this partner:
1. Realize that you may not win this match. With the worst partner ever, there is a very low likelihood of winning the match. And that's because your partner is not working with you. He or she is working against you. Doubles requires lots and lots of constant teamwork. But you can't work together as a team if you can hardly speak to each other in a civil manner. I'm not saying it's a given that you will lose. Just that your chances of winning go way down with this type of partner.
2. Accept that you are not going to change your partner. You often realize you're playing with this type of partner in the middle of the match. And anything you say or do to “help” this player realize the problem he or she is causing may just make matters worse. I think that's because this type of partner is playing their own mind games – either they're beating themselves up over how poorly their own play is going or they're frustrated at the amount of time they believe they're wasting playing with you. It's unlikely that you'll be able to change these mysterious thought patterns, certainly not in the middle of a match.
3. Suck up the criticism and carry on. When you are playing with this type of partner, you have to be pretty tough mentally. Because this partner's remarks will get you to play mind games with yourself instead of concentrating on the match. Just look at Terri's situation. Once her partner told her that her serve wasn't any good, Terri began questioning the quality of her serve, her partner's opinion of her serve, and her partner's unwillingness to play at the net. All of these are unproductive thoughts that distracted Terri from what was happening on the court. And when those kind of thoughts are filling your head, it's difficult to think about what you need to do to win the point. The best thing you can do for yourself is to put this partner's remarks out of your head, commit to playing your game and carry on.
Well, Terri, I know this advice won't prevent you from having to play with the “worst partner ever” again, but I hope it helps you deal with that situation a little better. Just know that this is something that happens to all doubles players at one time or another. And any partner who thinks that belittling your serve (or any other part of your game) is going to make you play better is probably dealing with his or her own self-esteem issues.
By the way, in the post, I HATE My Tennis Partner!, I have six tips for playing with a “mismatched” partner, someone who doesn't play on the same level as you. And I think all of those tips are helpful as long as you're playing with someone with is NOT being an inconsiderate jerk.
Leave me a comment and let me know who's the worst partner you've ever played with and how you dealt with it (or how it blew up in your face).