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Cindysphinx 12-21-2006 01:36 PM

Permanent Partners for Doubles
 
Background: Winter league is 3 doubles matches per team outing. My new team consists of 14 players. Four of these players have played together a lot and can be considered partners. The other 10 have never partnered with each other in a match before, and some have never met.

My question is what to do with these 10 in terms of pairing people up. I have seen all of them play, of course, and I have some idea of their strengths and weaknesses. My intitial plan was to try different pairings over the course of the season, hoping I'd be able to find a reasonable partner for everyone. A player who plays six matches in the season might do so with three or four different partners.

Or perhaps I could just decide that certain people should play together from the outset for the season, period. But that seems weird at this early stage of our team, as there might be great pairings that I'll never learn about absent some experimentation.

How much weaker is our team if we keep swapping around partners? Does it make a huge difference in our ability to win? Captains, how did you decide who should partner with whom? Is there some other approach I'm not considering?

JRstriker12 12-21-2006 01:50 PM

I am not a captain, but I have played mainly doubles for two tennis teams. I have to say a good partnership is the key to winning in doubles. I played on one team where I had a new partner every game and it didn't work very well. We never got into a rythm. The other team I played, I found a partner that worked well, we lost a few of our first matches, but we began to get on a roll towards the end of the season because we played together. We'd pick-apart teams that just showed up that day because we knew how to play together, our tendences, and how best to position ourselves.

I'd be hesitant to break up a an already established doubles pair if they perform pretty well.

My advice would be to keep the doubles pairs that perform pretty well and consider breaking up the doubles pairs that don't. Combine the new players and the weaker pre-existing doubles based on your knowlege of thier games, strengths, and weakness. Give the players the options to switch if the pairing doesn't work out or stick with thier partner for a if it works out.

Ace 12-21-2006 03:55 PM

Let them play together and mix it up in practices and matches this first year. Eventually, people will decide for you who they prefer to play with and you will see what works well.
You said you hope to come in somewhere in the middle of the league this year, so just mix it up and have fun in the beginning. After a month or so, you should have more info on which to make your decision. Ask your players how they liked the pairings each match. And of course, take it with a grain of salt, some people always blame thier shortcomings on "bad partners". These people usually lose no matter who they play with.

rasajadad 12-22-2006 04:35 AM

Cindy,
I hope your team appreciates you for all the work you are putting in trying to make the team a nice experience for them! Any time you put together a team in Western Mass, let me know.

Cindysphinx 12-22-2006 05:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rasajadad (Post 1128930)
Cindy,
I hope your team appreciates you for all the work you are putting in trying to make the team a nice experience for them! Any time you put together a team in Western Mass, let me know.

Hey, thanks!

Coming off of a different team with a spring 2006 season of team record of 0-11 and a personal record of 0-4 in doubles and 0-1 in singles will cause you to try to find a way to win.

You know, everyone says not to worry about winning and just have fun. That abysmal spring season made me think that winning and having fun are related. The team was 9-46. That's losing 616 games! I'm sorry, but no matter how much you like your teammates, losing like that isn't especially fun.

I'm glad this board is here, though. I've only been playing for 2 years, so there's lots I don't know. It's nice to be able to consult with people who know what they're talking about.

cak 12-22-2006 06:39 AM

Do these ladies play social matches? You might try asking them to try out new partners in social matches and get back to you on who they click with. I think this is one of the harder aspects of captaining. It would be so much easier if they came to you as doubles teams. But there are always players that everyone is sure they could win with. And then players that no one wants to play with. And partners that are never both available at the same time. A club around here has huge rosters, and on their best teams they play the best lineup available for each match, but, they have assigned partners, and if your partner is not available you don't get to play. They are extremely successful at making playoffs.

jamn73 12-22-2006 07:08 AM

you need to be somewhat flexible, due to injuries and scheduling conflicts. maybe try them with two partners.

sureshs 12-22-2006 09:35 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cindysphinx (Post 1128942)
You know, everyone says not to worry about winning and just have fun. That abysmal spring season made me think that winning and having fun are related. The team was 9-46. That's losing 616 games! I'm sorry, but no matter how much you like your teammates, losing like that isn't especially fun.

Winning is fun, but losing is not a bad thing at all if the purpose is to get out there and get some exercise and meet people to be in good physical and mental health.

Winning requires increasing the level of the players. They need to practise a lot, maybe take lessons, play singles and not doubles only, etc. Just tinkering with who is whose partner and getting them to communicate really is not taking the game to the next level.

The above may sound redundant (practise makes perfect) but not so. I played in a WTT team last winter (now there are no teams at my level any more) and know lots of people at the club who play 4.0 mixed leagues. Some of them have screwed up fundamentals - one 4.0 woman hits the backhand by turning over her wrist and using the same side of the head as the forehand. By figuring out who to partner with, what strategies to use, and so on, such players have been very successful winning matches over a period of years. But the way their game has stagnated is pathetic to watch.

TriCitiesTennis 12-22-2006 10:00 AM

Cindy-

While I firmly believe that finding a partner (both mixed and same sex) and sticking with that partner until death do you part is the way to go.....

I will say that when I captain a ladies team (I'm a non-playing male captain)
at the 3.0 level, I usually went with this strategy and it seemed to pay off.

I-Formation, consistent hitter in the back, better net player in the front. If you have a 3.0 lady who can lob like no tomorrow, place her with a net player who is aggressive and watch the points flow easily.

I think once you establish your teams (pairs) that you do not change them until BOTH players have requested a change. My #1 men's combo doubles team went at each other like cats and dogs on the court at times, but they were simply the best compliment to each others game that we had. Therefore, they stayed together and went 8-1 on the season.

The hardest part about being a captain is making the decisions of who to play.

I would suggest that if you have a ladies 3.0 team that you do the following:

SINGLES PLAYERS:

1. Define your singles players
2. Have a round robin with your singles players to determine your singles seeding (1-.....)
3. Assuming that you only have two singles players, you are in great shape.
4. If you have 2 or more, then you must determine if you make it to a state level, are you going to play a 3rd singles players?
5. If the answer is no, then I strongly suggest stating this up front and letting your #3 singles player know that they may best be fitted for another team.
6. If your answer is yes, then you need to work a rotation. I would work it to where in an 8 match season you play your #1 6 times, your #2 5 times and your #3 5 times.

In doubles, simply repeat this strategy.

Let's face it Cindy, I can tell you take your team tennis as seriously as I do in my area.

When the nuts come down to time to get crushed to go into the pie, you are the one who has to make the decisions. It's hard to tell friends that they are not going to play at the state level. That's why after the first time I went to state I changed my team policy to the "You got to beat someone to play".

You may lose a friend or two, but I think you will gain the respect of those players who are working hard to improve while on your team.

tarheels2323 12-22-2006 05:57 PM

Get everyone to play with as many people as you can. Some teams just click, and they'll know it right away. My partner and I for doubles districts my senior year played together for one or two practices and ended up making it to the semis. Some people just play well together; strenghs compliment strengths and cover weaknesses.

slewisoh 12-22-2006 07:49 PM

Be prepared for some surprises! I can't tell you the number of times a partner and I "should have been really good together." I think some captains make the mistake of taking their best two players and playing them court 1, assuming they will handle anything that comes their way. WRONG!

Your so-called best players will often have very similar skill sets. I played court 1 with a lot of very talented players but we lost a lot of matches. We all had big serves, big returns, aggressive net games...In short, when we were on we were awesome, but when we were off we absolutely stunk.

I have been most successful pairing with some of the senior ladies who simply are more consistent and use strategy better than I do. One lady in particular is great for me. I know she plays super seniors and she is not terribly mobile. However, she never double faults, 80% of her returns are well placed, she never gives the opponents a high ball...and she is surprisingly adept at the net. If it's within reach, she will put it away. She jokes that at her age she has to be efficient.

The funny thing is the 30-40 year olds we face make the mistake of targeting her when they should be going after me. :D

We typically play court 2 together. I say go for teams that complement one another.

I wanted to add that you should discourage players from only playing one side as this sometimes limits your pairing options. And while I don't like the idea of playing with a different partner each match, I think players need to find 2-3 players they feel comfortable playing with. People get injured, work or kids limit availability-things happen.

momwendy 12-22-2006 09:00 PM

I've played in 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 USTA leagues. Our team usually plays two levels at once -- say 3.5 & 4.0. We put out our strongest pairings at our rating level USTA leagues, and then tinker with partnerships when we play up. We also use Interclub (off-season) matches to practice partnerships as well.

As mentioned before, complimenting strengths is a sure bet -- strong baseliner with strong net, or consistent player with power player.

Also -- I'm from a smaller club. For us it's essential to have 2 or 3 partners we can play with. And also a minimum of 4 singles players for each squad. With mom duties, match conflicts, illness, injuries, vacations, kids' commitments, husband business trips -- it's essential to have back-ups.

With a 10 match season -- we've found a 15 member roster is about as low as you can go -- and that's with a captain who is willing to scramble up players last-minute. Again, most of our players are 40+ years old with families /or jobs.

momwendy 12-22-2006 09:16 PM

Okay -- I need to be more specific. Our main USTA adult leagues in NorCal are April start with 3 doubles and 2 singles for each match.

Our teams have been extremely successful for a small (6 court) club. We all spend a lot of time practicing -- and that includes a lot of different partnerships -- in social and competitive situations. Some players even make time for some tournaments -- good mental conditioning.

Also -- a plain fact of partnerships is practice restraints. The best partners are those who are able to find the time to practice together, and who are on the same page as far as dedication.

cak 12-23-2006 07:02 AM

momwendy makes a really good point. Doubles teams that have time to practice together help a ton. We've dabbled with doubles teams that the only time they meet is during matches, and that doesn't work as well as people who play together a lot. So you may end up dividing the team by those that play socially weekday mornings during school, and those that play in the evening or on weekends to get around work, and have doubles partners be chosen from those they played with socially.

On the other hand, one year when my normal partner took the season off because she was pregnant I was paired with a lady who I never could practice with due to schedules. We went undefeated in league. We just meshed well. So it's not impossible to find good matches if there are some people that can't get into practice matches.


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