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TEAM PLAY CRUCIAL WHEN DOUBLING UP

Playing doubles in tennis is all about teamwork.

It is imperative that the partners on each team know who should play the deuce or ad court; the proper alignment can spell the difference between victory and defeat.

How should you and your partner decide on which side you are going to play?

If both players are right-handed, then I have always felt that the better player should play on the ad side of the court. This is where the most pressure usually takes place as there are many 40-30 and 30-40 games. There is even more pressure when the score reaches deuce and there are long ad-in and ad-out games. Usually, the better player of the two right-handed partners is calmer during the big points, and is less likely to choke.

In some instances both right-handed players may be extremely close in their physical talents and perhaps in their psychological makeup. If this is the case, then I feel the player who is the better volleyer should be positioned on the ad side, because it is easier to end the point with a forehand volley, and to put overheads away.

The player who has the stronger forehand should be on the deuce court and the player with the more consistent and powerful backhand should be on the ad court. This is especially helpful when returning serve as each partner's strength is geared to taking wide serves.

In regard to righty-lefty teams, I have always been a strong advocate of the right-hander playing the deuce court and the left-hander playing the ad court. With the left-hander in the ad court I have found that this puts a great amount of pressure on the server. Since most serves are hit wide to a right-handed player in the ad court, the server has to readjust his serve mentally and physically to keep the ball down the middle on the lefty's backhand.

With the left-hander returning in the ad court you have to be especially wary when approaching the net, as a lefty's topspin forehand return usually has a wide angle on it and the ball dips sharply as you approach the net.

To ensure that there is no confusion on shots that are hit down the middle to a righty (deuce court) and lefty (ad court) combination, it is imperative that a decision is made before the match as to who will take those shots, both at the net and at the baseline.

Conversely, some players would rather have the lefty in the deuce court and righty on the ad court to have their forehand volley strength down the middle. Unfortunately, this leaves the backhand sides of both players susceptible to wide shots when the opposing team wants to hit to that area. Therefore, I feel that the lefty in the ad court and the righty in the deuce court is the better combination, due to the aforementioned reasons.

Once you have decided which side you and your partner will be playing on, stick to that decision. When you switch sides after a set you have to realize that you're changing your whole game. This includes your mental approach to the game, your shot selection and, perhaps most importantly, the angles in which you will be returning the ball, especially on the return of serve.

If you have lost the first set, then my advice is to keep playing on the same sides and to play more consistently. On a few occasions I have switched sides with my partner after losing the first set. Unfortunately, I have found that my partner and I lost the second set by the same score, or have even won fewer games than we did in the first set.

Suffice to say, decide on which side is best for you and your partner and play the entire match in that formation. After the match if you and your partner feel that changing sides may make you a better team, be sure to practice for awhile in that manner before you enter any future tournaments.

Regardless of which side you and your partner choose, some of the following tips should also be helpful once the match starts:

1. Remain supportive and encouraging to each other at all times.

2. Compliment each other whenever possible.

3. Both partners should be enthusiastic and energetic at all times.

4. If you lose a point, forget about it and get ready for the next point.

5. Win or lose, exhibit good sportsmanship at all times.

e-mail: thegreatgar@cs.com

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