Courteously Strategize with Doubles Partner

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
Just a general topic. I think more advanced players likely settle into routines with how and when it is appropriate to strategize. However, I am relatively new to tennis. I have seen some of the videos that talk about some obvious faux pas like telling your partner what to do during match. My view is I would rather just take the loss even if they are maybe doing something I think the other side is repeatedly exploiting. So for me at least for now I would not talk strategy during a match unless my partner brings it up first.

But even after the match or going into the next match? Any tips about how you talk with someone you never or rarely have played with? Anything you find annoying or examples of the wrong way?

Thanks
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
I feel mentioning strategy is fair game but technique is not.

I might say something like "that guy doesn't have a backhand" or "that guy can't keep three shots in the court, let's maybe give him three deep shots because he always misses the fourth" or "can you serve to his backhand?", "make them beat us with their backhands", "hit down the middle to confuse them" but I only will only use one or two of these.

I find the two biggest obstacles I don't have a verbal work-around for when playing with a stranger is if they stand in no-mans land and keep missing volleys at their feet. That pisses me off but I just accept it. Also, selecting which side to return from --you're either in the McEnroe/Fleming camp or the Bryan Brothers camp --a case can be made for either when playing with a righty or a lefty but a disagreement on serve return position can contaminate the vibe for the whole set.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
Any tips about how you talk with someone you never or rarely have played with? Anything you find annoying or examples of the wrong way?
You have a partner, and the partnership is to try and win, so I am open to what they think and where they see I might need to step up. Obviously it is easier to do with people you have spent time with and kinda know their MO for talk, but even with new partners I am pretty vocal. If it is with someone new I always start with them before the match and let them know I will be looking for where they see opportunities to exploit the opponents. Usually I bring up anything I might have seen in warm-up as an ice breaker too. SO if one guy is struggling a bit on one wing or isn't putting much into shots, I just say we need to watch for how it goes in play. I try to ask them what they might have seen. I find that lets them know talk is open and expected.

The harder situation is with a first time or just a few time partner if they are struggling. I am usually just supportive and try to find verbal queues to have them consider ways to work back into better play. So if they are blasting the ROS long I might just say something like, "those are close, but maybe dial it back and work up to that to find your range." Or "chip a few in to mix it up to start and let's build up some points to give space to slap a few." Those kinda queues. I expect the same from them too.

Things that I will immediately nip is someone ignoring their issues while telling me what I need to do. I am also very vocal about that.

Communication skills are ALWAYS in the works for me.
 

nyta2

Professional
i typically try to frame my feedback or suggestions in terms of (a) my weaknesses (b) opponents weaknesses
eg.
if my partner is a basher and missing, i say, "our opponents can't make 2 balls in a row, or has a terrible OH, maybe make them hit more balls or lob?"
if my partner doesn't like to poach, i say, "my serve sucks and they're really eating it up, it would help if you step in middle and give them something else to worry about, because my serve isn't..."

but in the end, i need to either be with a partner that is open to discussion/feedback,... and/or generally someone i practice with often.
there are alot of nuances in dubs, that require alot practice/coordinating/reading about, that you will not be able to explain a few short comments (presuming they even trust what you're talking about).

but if it comes down to specific technique/flaws/etc... i steer away unless they ask
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
Is it a real partner, or just a temporary partner, who might even be a stranger?

With a real partner, you should both feel free to talk a lot. Look at videos of championship doubles.

But if it's a social event where you rotate partners after a set, or even a couple of games. Say only positive things. In those situations the point is not to win.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
Is it a real partner, or just a temporary partner, who might even be a stranger?

With a real partner, you should both feel free to talk a lot. Look at videos of championship doubles.

But if it's a social event where you rotate partners after a set, or even a couple of games. Say only positive things. In those situations the point is not to win.

Good point about context. I couldn't care less who wins unless the game is going to be rated. But I play some social games and sometimes even then my partner really wants to win. So one time I did have a bit of a strategy session before a match and it worked very well. Thinking of plans and then trying to execute it on the court did add to the enjoyment of the game for me. It worked really well against our social opponents who had beat us last match and then we beat them handily. But they also improved and upped their game next time by adapting.

So yeah I know context matters but the advice I am getting here is really helpful in understanding what some touchy topics might be and what is considered normal to talk about in the adult amateur sessions in various contexts.

Thanks for all the comments.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
If it's social dubs then just do what you do best and let them do what they do best and not worry about making them do something they don't like doing. My general rule is if we are losing at dubs, look at ways that I can play better and not try to force stuff on someone that may not care or may not be competent.

If it's a tournament or league, then i know my partner and we can more freely discuss our strategies and plans as we know each other's skill set.

In the end, the number one rule of double's is take care of your own house before you take care of someone else's. If you are getting a high first serve percentage in, getting most of your returns back (and all of your second serves returns back), covering the open areas of court and making the opponents return game uncomfortable, then you should feel you now have the right to talk a little strategy. If not, work on those things first.
 

socallefty

Legend
New partners are always tricky to deal with. First I try to read my partner’s personality even before the match starts during the warmup to see if they are the thinking type with an open mind who is amenable to changing strategy/tactics, a low-% ball basher who likely doesn’t think of tactics/able to adapt or a closed personality who it is difficult to communicate with. If they look like the first type, I think the level matters too.

- If they are much better than me in doubles once we start the match, I am going to just do my part and not talk too much unless they approach me on changes in strategy.
- If they are much worse than me and this is apparent after a couple of games, I might start saying a few things we could potentially do to exploit opponent’s weaknesses. But, I would do it only if I get the impression that they play a lot of doubles and are knowledgeable somewhat on doubles tactics and what the high-% play is in most situations. If they look like a doubles newbie, I would not ask them to change much as they are probably stressed out playing doubles anyway with a stronger partner especially if we are playing strong players. I would focus more on getting them relaxed.
- If they are around the same level as me, I would talk more of less depending on their personality and how open the communication is going. If they are the type who talks a lot to their partner, then it is easy to discuss tactics. Otherwise, there is not much you can do with the quiet type.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
If it's social dubs then just do what you do best and let them do what they do best and not worry about making them do something they don't like doing. My general rule is if we are losing at dubs, look at ways that I can play better and not try to force stuff on someone that may not care or may not be competent.

If it's a tournament or league, then i know my partner and we can more freely discuss our strategies and plans as we know each other's skill set.

In the end, the number one rule of double's is take care of your own house before you take care of someone else's. If you are getting a high first serve percentage in, getting most of your returns back (and all of your second serves returns back), covering the open areas of court and making the opponents return game uncomfortable, then you should feel you now have the right to talk a little strategy. If not, work on those things first.
The Jordan Peterson stuff, applied to tennis.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
You have to know something about your partner's personality. Some say hardly 3 words beyond "out" and "nice game"; some like to explain why their 3 racquets all have different strings and tensions. In the early going, I'd lean more towards

"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought of as a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

As the match progresses, you should get some read on how they communicate and you can reciprocate [unless you're the one who says nothing].

For example, I have yet to play with a partner who didn't like praise after they hit a good shot. OTOH, some partners absolutely do not want me encouraging them after a miss.

This is why some people just can't handle doubles.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
For example, I have yet to play with a partner who didn't like praise after they hit a good shot. OTOH, some partners absolutely do not want me encouraging them after a miss.
I try to only encourage the miss if it was the right decision both tactically and skill wise. If it was a shot outside their comfort zone or a bad tactical decision, they get the silent treatment. But if it was the right shot at the right time but a brain fart execution failure, I'll say something like "Tough luck, good idea though."

Of course if it was a stupid shot that ended up well, my praise is a bit muted, "we got a bit lucky there, nice shot."
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
I feel mentioning strategy is fair game but technique is not.
So if they are blasting the ROS long I might just say something like, "those are close, but maybe dial it back and work up to that to find your range." Or "chip a few in to mix it up to start and let's build up some points to give space to slap a few." Those kinda queues. I expect the same from them too.
After over 10 years I have tried several approaches.

I kinda see heninfan's point (above) and what ChaelAZ says tends to more p!ss off partners than not. That's exactly what many people don't like: others telling them what or how to play. In my experience.

But then this area is a crapshoot anyway. There are people whom I can ask to go to the net, do this, do that, a whole lot of things, to help out the team and they listen and then I also have run into some people who snapped back at me for saying as little as "stand closer, this guy's serve is very weak".

In the end, you do you. Live and learn. Pick your battle (or enjoyment).
 

Morch Us

Professional
This of course mostly does not work....
telling your partner what to do during match
Your doubles partner is not "dump". But the main issue in place when discussing strategy is "ego". Then the "view point".
What always works is introducing strategy as a "question" essentially as you seeking help from your partner on what you have to do. But then again, some players may not want to "think" (in their terms distract) too much and just want to play. But then you will get the hint immediately without hurting their "ego".

As an example... if you want your partner to serve more to the T (and you honestly believe that works better for the team), you could ask him, to help you figure out your net position, and you could say, you feel more confident to take volley at the middle, and so that brings up the topic of where the serve should be. So essentially you are seeking help and hand holding from your partner, and your partner would be happy to serve to the T to help you.

The bad way to introduce the same strategy is by saying... "we lose too many points when you serve wide.... so serve to the T". You can be successful doing that only if you know your partner so well, and he trust your insticts so well. Never on a pick up match were it is unlikely that you both have played together for long.

My view is I would rather just take the loss even if they are maybe doing something I think the other side is repeatedly exploiting.
I feel mentioning strategy is fair game but technique is not.
 
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