By Amy Pazahanick, Owner/CEO Agape Tennis Academy
People often ask, “What is the best way to play doubles tennis?” Well, the best strategy for doubles is to have keen awareness in each moment. Many players also wonder, “What is the best formation in doubles — one player at the baseline and one player at the net, both players at the net, or both players at the baseline?” There is a different solution for every “problem” — the problem being your opponents, which, of course, varies match to match and frequently, set by set or even game by game. The solution to this is being able to recognize your opponents’ patterns or tendencies and your patterns against them … quickly! Quickly being the optimal word.
Keen awareness will give you the answer every time. Whether you can successfully execute your strategy once you are aware of what is going on is a different story altogether. If you are unable to execute, then that means you need to work on your physical skills, or if you are certain you have the physical skills and aren’t executing in a match, then you know you need to work on your mental skills. Again, awareness is key because it will provide you with all the answers you seek.
Have you ever played a match and had no idea — or felt like you had no idea — what happened, like it was seemingly all one, big blur? Maybe it was the margaritas the night before, but most likely you just need to slow down and gain more awareness in each moment as you are competing. Having good awareness does not mean you wait until a match is over to reflect on it. Keen awareness requires constant, immediate, and frequent adjustments. The team that does this the best is giving themselves the best chance of victory. This will give you a massive mental edge if you can begin doing this more consciously in your matches. And as you might have deduced by now, this works for juniors, adults, singles, or doubles, any sport … and while we are at it, life.
Ways to increase mental awareness in competition:
- Stay focused but slow down, especially if the match is “getting away” from you; take your time between points. (If you are winning, then by all means keep the flow going.)
- Breathe — yes, breathe. Breathing as you hit every ball will keep you relaxed and help you get a natural rhythm. There is a reason the professional players grunt.
- Pay attention to any tension in your body. Check in with your body before you serve and return serve. Shake out any tension and let your muscles relax.
- If you are playing doubles, ask your partner (or gently fill in your partner) on what you see. The key to hearing each other is delivery and tone, but you can help each other see what the other one might not.
- Literally watch the ball hit your strings. This will keep you in much better alignment and give you greater focus. Almost everyone moves their eyes ahead of point of contact too soon. Leave your eyes at point of contact for one second after the ball has left your strings.
As the great Arthur Ashe once said, the ideal state is to be physically loose and mentally tight. This article is simply a more detailed way of saying the same thing. Good luck and best wishes in all your matches!
Hometown (City/State): Atlanta
How did you get involved in teaching tennis? Tennis has been a big part of my life almost since birth. I grew up playing competitive junior tournaments and eventually played Division 1 collegiate tennis at Coastal Carolina University. I earned a degree in Sports Management and then started my own tennis academy in 2012. I am now managing and providing tennis and pickleball programming at four locations in metro Atlanta with a team/staff of about 40 people.
Best part of your game? Mental
Dream doubles match would be me and… Patrick Rafter.
When I’m not teaching tennis, I’m… playing pickleball, golf, traveling, hiking, reading, or hanging out on the beltline in Atlanta.
My favorite tennis memory is: Winning the deciding match to clinch the win for my college team to go to the NCAA Championships with all my teammates, my coach, and my parents watching.
My favorite professional player is: Simona Halep
#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: To help other people feel good and be a positive outlet for them.
What important tennis message do you want to promote? Tennis is such a wonderful tool to learn so many great life lessons, from confidence building to understanding your own physiology and mental states. Tennis is simply a vehicle through which one can grow, learn, or simply enjoy life.