Tennis doubles offers different dynamic
By Scott Akanewich
Tennis is an individual sport.
However, within that framework exists a unique juxtaposition in which players must rely on one another as opposed to only themselves in the heat of competition.
Cut the court in two with only half as much ground to cover and some thrive, while others fail. Some of the best singles players don’t do as well when paired up with someone.
So, what is it?
“Doubles is more about strategy and positioning than just hitting the ball over the net,” said Liberty Hill head Coach Philip Dodd. “A good doubles team also communicates every point to set up the point prior to beginning it. Just like a basketball coach can take a timeout and set up a specific play, in tennis doubles players can do that every point and we’re currently working on exactly that. We beat several good singles players in doubles because we have strategy and we work on it constantly.”
According to Dodd, the game plan changes drastically with a pair of players on the court.
“Singles and doubles strategy is totally different,” said Dodd. “But, both are just as important in team tennis because we play 12 singles matches and seven doubles matches. In singles, we wait for a short ball and attack and in doubles we attack every ball and try to get to the net first and hit down on the ball with either a volley or an overhead.”
Having the uncanny ability to know what your partner is going to do ahead of time and being able to react accordingly is the most critical component in conquering the competition – but it’s not something that happens overnight, said Dodd.
“Chemistry is years of playing together, but we don’t have that luxury, so we do it in a matter of months,” he said. “Hopefully, our players care more about their teammates than themselves. We still have a few individuals, but we stress team every minute of every workout and match. You’re only as good as your teammates, so it makes sense to help them improve and win as a team.”
Last season, Tyler Franklin – then a junior – was paired with senior Henry Madison, but with graduation comes the challenge of playing with someone new, which isn’t always easy.
“Last season, Henry and I knew each other like the back of our hand,” said Franklin, who is now teamed with sophomore Ethan Wukasch. “But, now me and Ethan still have a lot to learn from each other.”
Franklin said he prefers being with a player similar to himself in playing style.
“If it’s someone who plays like I do, I’m more likely to know what they’re going to do next because I know what I would do,” he said.
Another element is added when your playing partner is of the opposite gender, said Franklin, who played mixed doubles last season with another outgoing senior, Sophie Sherman.
“With a girl, you have to assume the ball’s going to be hit to her every time,” he said. “But, we were really good for each other as far as giving one another advice on the court.”
But, sometimes even when the chemistry is there, wires can be crossed, said senior Ava Enstrom.
“One time, I was playing with Lauren Crow and I was running back and forth hitting shots and ran right past Lauren, looked her dead in the eye and just said ‘I got it.’ It’s one of the funnier stories, but we won the point,” said Enstrom.
Speaking of being constantly on the move, Enstrom said she enjoys covering more ground while playing singles, but also embraces having a partner.
“In singles, I feel like I run a lot more, which I like,” she said. “With doubles, you have to know where to hit the ball.”
For her, having the right partner makes all the difference or she would just as soon not have one, she said.
“Some people aren’t that great and I don’t like having to rely on others,” said Enstrom. “But, me and Lauren get along really well. I think I’m a fun person who people like to play with because I’m always talking and saying something funny. Besides, I love to win.”
Lastly, when you remove the individual aspect from the game, now you can’t afford to only worry about yourself, said Franklin.
“When I’m playing doubles, I have to think about my partner,” he said. “So, I try to keep it positive.”