How to Talk to Your Partner
This is an under-appreciated skill: it is often the difference between winning and losing as this winning/losing margin is often 1-2% of points played. Or, I might also add, the difference between enjoying competitive matches, or NOT! Imagine two types of matches. In the first, you are partnered with someone you don’t know. There is not much chatter between you and you are often caught wondering: how did we end up together? In the second type of match, you are partnered with a regular partner with whom you can make tactical decisions as well as use each other as a source of emotional support. Win or lose, you have fun playing with this partner and approaching the challenges of a tough match together.
- Fun + losing = Fun.
- Fun + Winning = FUN*!
There must be complete freedom between partners in terms of what they can say to one another in the heat of battle. Imagine a match where both partners are getting by, just pushing the ball and waiting for their opponents to miss. This is degenerate tennis! It has been labeled HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE (see Deconstructing Tennis). It can work, but at the end of the day, it is unsatisfying and has no future. By no future, I mean that it will not be a reservoir of confidence which will enable you to defeat a very good team 6 months into the future. And, it sometimes fails.
If you are involved in a match like this, you MUST do 2 things:
1) Get your own gear in order; Set an example for your partner! And tell her what you are doing … this will boost her confidence! Example: for my students, say: “I’m going front door.” This means, if you were looking to break into someone’s house, you would not sneak in through an unlocked basement window. Rather, you would ring the doorbell, and when they answer, announce to them: “I am coming into your house.” You must always “own” what is happening.
2) Tell your partner to get her own gear in order. This is the subject of this piece. If you can’t speak to your partner like this, then you have not yet developed a partnership! A doubles partnership, from the moment that you are in it, is like a marriage. Speak up!
When you PLAY IN A LOWER GEAR, IT IS THE ONLY CHANCE FOR YOUR OPPONENTS TO WIN WHEN YOU ARE THE BETTER TEAM.
WHEN YOU PLAY A BETTER TEAM, YOUR ONLY CHANCE TO WIN IS TO PLAY WITH AN AGGRESSIVE GAME PLAN.
In other words, in terms of HOW you choose to play, you have NO CHOICE! Play your tennis! And you need the ability to ask that your partner plays hers: this is TENNIS!
Winning or losing doesn’t matter! This is a false GOD. It’s HOW you play the game … and HOW you play is so connected to HOW you communicate!