Developing Chemistry with Your Doubles Partner

When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s bad, it’s awful. How do you explain the obvious chemistry of some doubles teams and the apparent lack in other pairings? We’ve all seen teams that seem promising on paper but don’t click once they’re on court together. Just like any successful partnership, there needs to be glue to hold the team together.

Here are some of the most important variables to consider for yourself and your partner:

Shared Vision: Do your goals match? Many players overlook this fundamental question. Partnering with someone because she has a big serve or solid groundstrokes is not enough to sustain a successful partnership.

Complementary Strengths: Some of the best doubles teams in tennis history have been the result of yin/yang chemistry: Look for a partner who complements your strengths. Some time-tested winning combinations include: Righty/Lefty, Patient/Aggressive, Net player/Baseliner, Good starter/Strong finisher, and Fiery/Calm.

Energy: Pay attention to how you “feel” out there. Does this person energize you or drain your energy? It is fun to play together?

Openness: Can you talk freely about your game styles and tactics? Can you speak as well as listen to each other? Is your partner open to improvement and new ideas?

Personal responsibility: Does your partner take responsibility for herself and her game, or do you hear her blaming circumstance and past partners? There’s nothing worse than being a blamer.

The Importance of Touch

Top doubles teams at every level actually look like a team.  How do they do it?  Well, recent research shows us that “reaching out and touching someone” goes along way in creating great team chemistry.

The fist bump, the high five, a quick hug or even the Bryan Brothers famous chest bump – are all-powerful forms of non-verbal communication used by high performing teams.

Scientist at UC Berkeley analyzed physical interactions among every team in the NBA. Michael Kraus led a research team that observed and coded every high five, hug and bump in a single game played by each NBA team.  They found “players who made contact with teammates most consistently and longest tended to rate highest on measures of performance, and the teams with those players seemed to get the most out of their talent”.

How can you apply these findings on the doubles court?  Make sure you connect with your partner after every point.  Physically connecting after every point may seem arduous at first, so at the very least, make supportive eye contact with your doubles partner as much as possible.

Make “reaching out and touching someone” a part of your on-court doubles strategy and be sure you and your partner are communicating the variables outlined above. With commitment to practice, you’ll begin to feel the love!