I have been wanting to play more singles for a while now, complaining (whining) that all I ever do is play doubles. But singles is not very popular in my tennis circle. My club doesn't even have a singles ladder. And I am not really motivated to play “fun” matches that I arrange myself, even in doubles. If I play, I want it to count.
So, I signed up for an intraclub singles tournament this past weekend. FYI – my first match in this singles tournament was my second singles match ever. So I wasn't expecting much. But – good news! – I made it into the semi-finals and lost to the player who ultimately won the tournament. In my strange tennis world where I can make almost anything sound better than it actually is, it's as if I was a finalist (since I lost to the champ)!
So, here's what I learned from playing my first singles tournament and here's why I think you and I should be playing more singles:
1. Singles is WAY more of a work-out than doubles. It's obvious that singles is going to burn a lot more calories than doubles. Because there's no doubt that when you're the only one on your side of the net serving, returning and getting balls back in play, you're doing a lot more work. In the post Let's Get Real – How Many Calories Can I Burn Playing Tennis?, I estimated the calorie-burn difference to be about 150 calories an hour, with doubles burning about 300 calories per hour vs. singles burning about 450 per hour. That alone is reason enough to be playing more singles.
2. Singles is WAY more of a mental game. Actually, singles is completely, mentally exhausting. At least if you want to win. Because you're out on the court all alone. There's no partner to encourage you, re-focus you and help you shake off your mistakes. You've definitely got to have more mental fortitude for singles than you do for doubles.
3. Singles requires you to have a game plan. Maybe this seems more true to me in singles because there's only one opponent out there to concentrate on and there's only one person to get the ball back in play – me. All by myself, I have to figure out my opponent's weaknesses while, at the same time, trying to play my strengths. For example, in my first tournament match, my opponent was younger but much heavier and had a killer slice forehand that always came up short. So, early on, she would hit a short shot to me and then lob me or just pass me. After a few games of this, I beat her by avoiding her forehand, hitting to her weaker backhand and, when I could, forcing her to run back and forth because she was kind of out of shape and got tired easily. I won 6-2, 6-2 and was struck by the fact that I not only came up with a plan, but that it worked!
4. Singles players are just different from doubles players. The ladies I played against were not just nice after our matches, they wanted to chat about the match – what they were thinking, what they thought of my game, what they were trying to do with their game, how much more they liked singles than doubles. Maybe this is because singles players don't have doubles partners to talk to about this stuff. Anyway, I found this a pleasant change from the usual post-match discussion with doubles opponents (which is often nice but certainly doesn't involve talk of strategy or how great MY game was).
5. A singles win is more satisfying than a doubles win. When you win in doubles, maybe its because you and your partner were the better team. Or maybe its because your partner was really great and was able to carry you. Or maybe its because both of your opponents were just weak. Or maybe one of them was really weak and you picked on her the whole time. Its hard to know sometimes just why you won in doubles. But in singles, there's no doubt – you, and you alone, were the better player. And that all by itself is a good reason to play singles.