By Amy Bartlett-O’Connell, Executive Director-USTA Atlanta
It’s no secret that Atlanta is known as the “Tennis Capital of the World.” There are more league players in our city than anywhere else. There are many options when it comes to the league or program that you can join, and more often than not, the format will include doubles. It’s always fun and comforting to play with your partner of many seasons. This person knows your game and what to expect. But what about those times when you join a team and are paired with someone unfamiliar? I want to share some quick tips on how to be the best partner you can be when you are playing with someone new.
Communication is critical to new partnerships. Before the match, ask your partner some key questions such as: which side are they most comfortable receiving from? What is their style (will they rush the net, serve and volley, or hang out at the baseline)? What can you expect from their serve? By asking some basic questions you will get an idea of how your partner is wired and what to expect. Communication also is important during the match. Whether it’s between points or on the changeover, keep the communication flowing so that you can continue to learn how best to support your partner. I also encourage you to walk together to retrieve balls or to change sides of the net. Constant communication not only helps you get to know your partner, but also portrays a seasoned team that has played together before.
There’s nothing more awkward or embarrassing than playing with a new partner when they lose their cool. It is important that you speak encouraging words to your partner and stay positive towards yourself when errors are made. Whether the score is in your favor or not, make sure to use words like “we” or “us” instead of “I” or “you.” Using this language can help reinforce the partnership and team effort. Positive self-talk and body language can translate into strong performance. Negative self-talk and body language can deteriorate a doubles team and performance at a spiraling rate!
One fundamental way to start a match with a new partner is to focus on high-percentage shot selection. Staying consistent with crosscourt returns that are deep in the court will give your partner confidence to move forward and become active at the net. If you plan to surprise your opponent by going down the line or hitting a lob, then give your partner a heads up so they can be ready if things don’t go as planned.
You also will be a strong partner if you maintain a high first-serve percentage. By consistently getting the point started by a first serve, you will allow your opponent to feel confident by starting the point on offense. Talking to your partner about your serve and return placement can help them be prepared and position themselves in the best way to help you win.
Until Next Time
Playing with someone new doesn’t have to be intimidating, and if you communicate well, stay positive, and go for high-percentage shots, you will be a desirable partner. Atlanta doubles play is the most active in the world, and I believe it is because of our amazing tennis community and the relationships that are made through tennis. So, the next time a new team is forming, be ready to raise your hand and get in the game!
Hometown (City/State): Powder Springs, GA
How did you get involved in teaching tennis? I began teaching tennis when I was in college. I often taught camps or private lessons when on school breaks or in the summers. I enjoyed it so much, I knew that I could make a career out of it
Diehard fan of what sports team? Atlanta Braves
Best part of your game? Forehand
Dream doubles match would be me and… Coco Gauff
When I’m not teaching tennis, I’m… taking one of my kids to their sporting events
My favorite tennis memory is: Playing college tennis at Georgia Southern University and then getting to coach there for 10 years.
My favorite professional player is: Roger Federer
#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: I enjoy helping others and seeing their self-esteem and confidence grow from the improvement of their tennis game.
What important tennis message do you want to promote? Tennis is a sport for life! You are never too old or too young to learn. The friendships you make and the relationships you build from tennis are unlike any other.