I recently played a HORRIBLE doubles match – my partner and I got creamed. Our opponents were very, very good players. But the real problem for me was my partner. Or at least that was the way I saw it and once I saw it that way, I couldn't let go. I tried to tell myself that getting mad at my partner wasn't helping anything but, after the match, I actually went to my captain to complain. Me! The queen of “support your partner” and “be a team player.”
Anyway, I knew I had addressed this problem here sometime in the past so I dug up this “Retro Tennis Fixation” post, from August 2009, called I HATE My Partner! to try and remind myself what to do next time this happens.
First off, I don't HATE any of my partners. There are many, many of them and they are all lovely people with whom I enjoy playing tennis. I wouldn't play if I wasn't having fun, right?
And you probably don't hate your tennis partner either. But, sometimes, on occasion, maybe every once in awhile, you end up with a partner you're not completely compatible with. I call this the “mismatched partner.”
Maybe your mismatched partner is someone new you've never played with before. Or never even met before! Maybe your mismatched partner is someone you've been invited to play with for fun. Or maybe your mismatched partner is someone you were assigned to play with by your team captain for a league match. However it happens, we’re all familiar with how difficult it can be to have to play with one of these mismatched partners.
Here are a few tips to make sure you not only get along with your mismatched partner, but that you enjoy playing and maybe win your match!
- Control your emotions. The worst thing you can do when you're unhappy with your partner is let her know it. It won't help her play any better and it probably won't make you feel any better. So get a grip on yourself and decide that, between the two of you, YOU are going to be the strong and positive leader.
- Be positive. It doesn't help anyone if you're negative. It makes you feel bad and it makes your partner feel even worse. If you have some helpful criticism, give it in an upbeat way. For example, if your partner won't come up to the net, telling her “I think we can really hurt them if we're both up at the net” is a lot more productive than “Why can't you just get up to the net??!!”
- Help your partner focus on tennis. Its hard to play with someone who isn't concentrating on your match. Instead of letting them ramble on about the chances of their son getting into a really good college, help them concentrate on your match by talking about what's happening on the court. Just letting them know what you're thinking about and planning, i.e., “I'm trying to serve up the middle to set you up for the poach”, may be enough to get them focused on tennis.
- Communicate. Talking throughout the match can only help. Let your partner know what you're thinking. And if you're worried that this will bother your partner (maybe they'll think you're being hypercritical or don't know what you're talking about or are just talking too much) do what I do and claim you're mostly talking to yourself. Here's my standard disclaimer: “Don't let all of my talking get to you. I'm mostly talking to myself anyway.”
- Don't throw in the towel. Giving up is the best way to lose your match. And once you've let your partner know you've given up, she will probably give up too. So don't quit because you never know what might happen. The match you think you may lose can turn out to be the incredible comeback story you're telling your tennis pals about later!
- Work on your own game. When all else fails, when you've finally decided the match is unwinnable because you just can't play well with this person, think about playing well for yourself. Play your game and find something you can work on – be more aggressive, hit your spin second serve, poach more, come in more, lob more. Use the match as an opportunity to improve your own game so you can walk away feeling good about tennis.
The mismatched partner – you have a hard time playing with them, but you can't back out. And you shouldn't! Because, I think this is a common tennis saying – tennis with a mismatched partner is always better than no tennis at all.
If you want to make sure YOU'RE not the mismatched partner, click on the following post and get my tips on How To Be A Great Tennis Partner!