Have you ever found that perfect partner that you seem to play so well with? Why is that? What makes him or her so perfect for your game?
Since platform tennis is usually played as doubles, a good relationship between you and your partner on the court becomes a major component for success. I think there are two areas that need more focus while you’re playing: What is your strategy as a team? and What is your partner’s strengths?
We’ll talk strategy first. It is important that when you are playing high-level paddle that you actually have a strategy. The best players in the country are absolutely the best at figuring out their what are their opponent’s weaknesses. It’s amazing actually. The best of the best can pick out weaknesses early in the warm-up.
If your opponents can volley well, it’s going to be a long day as you lob often and push them off the net and take away their best asset. If they hit great overheads with a lot of spin, keep the ball low making them hit volleys instead, which will make it more of a high-paced match. If they have a forehand like Nadal, give up the net and make them play where they can’t hit as many drives.
Here’s where the importance of your relationship with your partner comes into play. Many times I have been playing with a partner who absolutely will not change his game to counter what our opponent is doing.
The best example in terms of strategy that I can think of worked against me and my partner, but it was extremely effective nonetheless. My partner had an incredible forehand that not many people could volley, especially when returning serve. He and I had won each match during a tournament relatively easily until we met a team of two nationally ranked players in the semi-finals. We had won the first set during which my partner continued to crush their serves. At the beginning of the second set, the other team would serve and stay back at their baseline, forcing us to move to net. I’m not sure how many games we won after that, but it wasn’t many.
Their strategy and ability to adjust was THE difference in that match. By staying back, they took away our biggest weapon. You need to assess what is working for you. What are your weaknesses? What is working for them? And what are their weaknesses? Then, most importantly, you must make the appropriate changes.
If you are to work as a TEAM, you have to adjust together. Many times players will go on the court as individuals thinking, “I’ll just play my game.” Paddle is not that type of sport. It’s all about teamwork. You MUST play together in order to be effective.
If your partner has a great forehand, make sure he plays the backhand side. Then it is your responsibility to setup that forehand. Push your lobs down the line to your opponent’s backhand, forcing him to hit an awkward overhead down the middle. Then let your partner rip one back at them. If it doesn’t work, and they hit a good overhead, be patient and try again. Play to your strengths as a team. Strategize and pick on their weaknesses.
Finally, since we are talking about partners, be supportive. As a mental conditioning coach, I will tell you that it NEVER helps to jump all over your partner verbally. Once I played with a guy in a match against two nationally ranked players (of which I am not!) and missed a volley. My partner responded by exclaiming, “Come on! You have to get that!” – as if I wasn’t trying… After a set of dealing with comments like that, I told him, “I’m playing against those two over there (as I pointed to our opponents). Don’t make me play against you too.
The author, Chris Buck, after 11 years on the American Stock Exchange, trading and brokering equity dirivatives, left “The Floor” and earned his Masters in Exercise and Sport Psychology. He is a provisionally Certified Consultant and member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). To learn more about Coach Buck visit getitdoneconsulting.net.