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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 20th, 2004, 07:46 PM Thread Starter
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Difficult Doubles Partners

I'm starting this thread because I was watching Martina Navratilova and Lisa Raymond play and lose their match against the Japanese team last night, and after studying point after point very closely- concentrating on the Nav/Raymond teamwork- it seemed to me that they just didn't gel or communicate or play in tandem, whatever- there seemed to be so many points where one or both of them were not moving in sync and a ball was hit straight down the middle of the court and one or both of them thought the other was going to cover it. Is Martina Navratilova so quick and electric in her split decisions at the net that it renders her a difficult partner to play with- leaving her partner guessing at where to cover to compliment the virtuoso partner? Is Raymond so much better at the digging out the really difficult low volleys than the sitters at chest height, that she often overhits easy balls or flat-out doesn't go for them? I'm interested, because to a much lesser extent- I tend to suffer the same predicaments with doubles partners- I am the first to admit I am a very difficult person to play with- largely because I'm as hard on myself as I am on anyone, and some people find it disconcerting and too intense or harsh. What can I learn from last night's match to make me a better doubles partner? What did you see?

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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 20th, 2004, 08:07 PM
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As a pure baseline player I found it hard to adjust to doubles, but in team cups you have to play both, singles and doubles and meanwhile I find it a good practise for my serve because I focus very much to get the first serve in and have a better forward motion after serving (naturally) in doubles, which helps, too.

Me, I prefer to play with a partner who is weaker in singles than me cause that takes pressure of me, I feel more comfortable then. I never criticize my doubles-partner and to me, that's a golden rule. But I'm also not that communicative during a doubles match and hard on myself as well - not everybody can cope with that either.

So I wouldn't consider it difficult when you're hard on yourself, but you write you're hard on anyone, how does that look like in a match, Alfa?

BTW I didn't watch a point from that Olympic match, so here's just a quick post on my personal views on doubles.
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 20th, 2004, 08:12 PM
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Oooh, some tennis therapy before heading out for a "demi"!

I didn't get to see the match (just as well, but I've donned my Venus weeds today all the same) so can't comment on that particular encounter. Martina had great success with many partners from Evert, through Stove, King and Shriver, even Kuznetsova, and that's not counting the one-off wins with Nagelsen, Temesvari, Mandlikova, Gigi et al., so i don't think it's a case of her being "difficult" per se. Lisa too has a fine doubles record, so for me this one goes into their seeming inability to complement each other. It seems to me that they are too similar (the risk-takers) and would do better with partners who hit harder, are steadier (younger/with more stamina) and capable of setting them up at the net.

As (probably) the only person on here to have played doubles with you (a 6-0 win, wasn't it ) I've seen, what a capable and competitive doubles partner you are, even in a "friendly" context (i.e. we both fancied the opposition!). Technically, your game is complete, which means that your partner has less of a set rôle and that could lead to uncertainty and confusion. Mentally, you seemed secure in your game and a lucid tacticianbut apart from that I don't know what to say because I never saw you tested in any way. What do your (tennis) partners say to you with respect to your game/attitude and how do you approach tennis partnerships in terms of communication (amount and nature)?

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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 20th, 2004, 08:39 PM
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Great topic Alfa!! I have been so perplexed by Martina's choices of doubles partners since 92. I think when she did what she did to Pam in 89, Pam may have placed a curse on Martina because she never played with a complimentary partner more than once after that except maybe for Gigi.

It used to be so easy for Martina that she could play with anyone. But at some point that stopped being true. She would probably defend Lisa, but I suppose she had no choice but to play with her because of the Olympics. They haven't made a very good team and even if they played 5 more years they wouldn't develop into one.

Martina can't carry partners as she use to could and that's what it would take to make a partnerships with the less than great Raymond as her partner.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 20th, 2004, 09:22 PM
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Martina is a great doubles player.I would have liked to have seen her play doubles with Lindsay Davenport. I think they may have made a good team. During this Olympics I was watching the diving competition. For the first time I saw synchronized diving That to me is how doubles is. You're use to singles or doing it by yourself, but then to have to work in unison with someone else. Well, not everyone can do it. There are top singles players who never really got into doubles all that much and there are other players who weren't great singles players and yet did great in doubles. Case in point: take a look at Maureen Connolly and Gigi Fernandez. Connolly was an outstanding singles players who was winning all the singles titles left and right but she didn't repeat that success in doubles. Gigi Fernandez on the other hand was a so so singles player and because she tended to be a bit emotional she found doubles to be right up her alley. Matter of fact I think in the end even Natasha may have preferred doubles because for some it's nice having someone else on the court.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 20th, 2004, 11:29 PM
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Alfa: I too saw the dubs match last night and also thought they were a bit out-of-sync...their teamwork was fairly subpar. IMO there were a series of reasons why they lost the match, a few off the top of my head include: Martina & Lisa return of serve was inconsistent, at times poor, hence, because Lisa had a fairly dismil serving day and was broken numerous times (tho credit to the Japenese for returning brilliantly) they always had a tough time breaking back. But all credit to their opponents fighting spirit/positive energy, IMO they both played wonderfully and deserved to win.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 21st, 2004, 03:55 AM
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Some teams just don't have chemistry. I think had it not been an Olympic year that Martina and Lisa would've split a few months back. It has been apparent since early this year that they weren't working out. I think Lisa's play hasn't been as strong the last couple of years and Martina is not the dominant player she was.

Chemistry is something that people can't count on. Sometimes what looks like a great team just doesn't work out that way. I thought Novotna/Zvereva would be great, but they struggled (even before the collision/injury).

On a personal note, I love being the underdog team. It takes off the pressure. One of my favorite partners was a guy who had horrible ground strokes and couldn't play singles. Yet he was a great athlete with super hands at the net. I'm a natural baseliner with a big serve and we worked together perfectly, often beating teams that on paper would beat us every time. Nancy Richey said that she and Durr couldn't play together because they were too similar. In classic doubles that's usually the case. (I coin the term classic doubles because so many of today's players are so one-dimensional that they all play alike to a certain extent.)

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 12:09 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy T
What do your (tennis) partners say to you with respect to your game/attitude and how do you approach tennis partnerships in terms of communication (amount and nature)?
As you know, Andy, I tend to center myself on court and while the odd expletive is allowed to be bourne in the heat of competition, I'm usually berating myself in a positive manner, encouraging myself to push harder and stay with the ball above all else. Many of the men I play with on a regular basis aren't nearly as single-minded in their aggressive attack of the ball at the net (i.e. when you hit a lob from a difficult position and get it over your opponents' to the point where they have to run back to the baseline to retrieve it- it is natural for me to close into the net- whereas many people I play with are standing there watching the lob), and in many situations they see me going for difficult volleys and making them, and I think they often times feel pressured into attempting the same thing, and end up reaching for balls they shouldn't and many times actually losing the point because they get a racquet on the ball and produce a weak shot in front of me instead of letting me volley. It was tough for me to watch two great volleyers like Martina and Lisa let so many balls go past them without either player trying for the ball. It felt so unnatural to see two risk-takers not even taking the risks- or in other words, not in flight, or even close to flying.

Robert1- I'm never verbally hard on my partner, however, many people have told me that I'm difficult to play with because I am so intense, and as you know, it is very possible to say alot without ever saying a word- all with facial expression and silence. The three people I play doubles best with (interestingly, one is a woman who is an NTRP 5.0 rated player who plays men's doubles just as well as women's) have widely disparate styles of play-

*Rob is a guy who is a card-carrying dyed-in-the-wool baseliner with a killer forehand and great footwork. He sets me up with that Courier-esque forehand that he can hit from pretty much anywhere in the back court. It doesn't matter if the opponents are two of the three people at the net in any given point- I know he'll rip a screamer that will be a challenge for even the best hands on the other side to handle, and we almost never "clack" racquets when we're both at the net- we feed off each other's strengths.

*Karen is a girl who plays the classic style of aggressive serve-and-volley tennis- hard flat serves, hard flat groundstrokes, and gets down to shoelace volleys like they were candy- enjoys being pushed to play that way. She attacks the ball as hard as I do- and I have no idea why we play so well together, but we have taken apart many better teams, and I can say the best doubles match I ever played to this date, was a losing effort with Karen: a 5-7, 6-7(4) loss to a team which had one guy serving 120mph bombs that counted for aces against both of us at key moments- otherwise we would have beaten another better team through aggressive teamwork.

*Steve is an all-court player, and I sometimes have trouble with him, because he is a good volleyer- close to as good as me at the net- only with different strengths- doesn't put the ball away on the first volley enough (IMO) however, he has a great serve, is fitter than me, and has a much more mechanically sound forehand from the back court. We just made our way to another doubles final a few weeks ago, and lost to 2 college kids in a third set tie-breaker. It's hard for me to communicate with him- we're either brilliant, or really bad because (IMO) we don't think or move the same way- one of us usually ends up either winning or losing the point- we don't beat opponents through consistent teamwork- it's a series of flashes.

What can I do to play better with Steve is the real question I'm asking here? I want to play better with him, because out of the three- Rob and Karen are pretty well-defined when I'm on court, and there are no surprises or problems- Steve has the potential to be my best partner, but I'm at a loss as to how to communicate with him or work better as a team.

Andy- you're right, this is therapy!

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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 12:54 PM
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[email protected] you Alfa-it may be a good thing we wern't able to hit on Saturday. I'm intense too, cursing in Korean --with a "merde!" and "shiesse!" thrown in for good measure.

Roan-you picked the perfect doubles partner for Martina IMO. At her age Martina needs someone with power-which LD has tons of. The only negative would be spped-but in doubles that's not crucial. Davenport seems intent on gunning for one more major rather than doubles-but it would be a good partnership.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 01:00 PM
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Hmmmm so playing doubles with Alfa is like being poor Gaby playing dubs with Steffi! A bad shot prompts an anguished facial expression! I think it was Anne White that talked about Gaby missing shots and Steffi either saying and looking as if to say, "Oh no not again!"
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 01:14 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HanaFanGA
Hmmmm so playing doubles with Alfa is like being poor Gaby playing dubs with Steffi! A bad shot prompts an anguished facial expression! I think it was Anne White that talked about Gaby missing shots and Steffi either saying and looking as if to say, "Oh no not again!"
Yes, I am that intense- but equally, if not more so with myself than as with my partner. I need a partner as intense as I am or it affects my game. There are many great players out there who are capable of carrying a partner or going out there and talking between every point or supporting each other- I'm not one of those people, but if you're with me on the intensity scale, there's really nothing to talk about either. Weird but true. I guess it's difficult for me to relate to someone needing that much moral support on a tennis court.

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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 01:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alfajeffster
*Steve is an all-court player, and I sometimes have trouble with him, because he is a good volleyer- close to as good as me at the net- only with different strengths- doesn't put the ball away on the first volley enough (IMO) however, he has a great serve, is fitter than me, and has a much more mechanically sound forehand from the back court.
I don't get the cause-effect link in this sentence. Is it,
"I have trouble with him because..."
or an all-court player (whom incidentally I have trouble with) because...

is it
trouble because he is as good a volleyer...?
trouble because he doesn't put the first volley away often enough?

"We just made our way to another doubles final a few weeks ago, and lost to 2 college kids in a third set tie-breaker. It's hard for me to communicate with him- we're either brilliant, or really bad because (IMO) we don't think or move the same way- one of us usually ends up either winning or losing the point- we don't beat opponents through consistent teamwork- it's a series of flashes."


What can I do to play better with Steve is the real question I'm asking here? Not thinking or moving in the same way is not necessarily problematic if you understand one another (it may cause more pbs for your adversaries!), is it?

A couple of questions:
Presumably, you guys have tried to discuss how you think and move on a doubles court to each other, no? What happened? It isn't clear if the communication problem is a matter of non-communication or non-understanding.

Part of doubles teamwork is knowing how to set your partner up in attack and covering your partner's weaknesses in defence, right? Consequently, players tend to adapt their strategies/games slightly (sometimes instinctively/ subconsciously) depending on how we perceive our partner's strengths and weaknesses. Comparing/watching how you two play differently with others as opposed to with each other should indicate what is going on in that respect, which could be fruitful.

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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 02:00 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy T
I don't get the cause-effect link in this sentence. Is it,
"I have trouble with him because..."
or an all-court player (whom incidentally I have trouble with) because...

is it
trouble because he is as good a volleyer...?
trouble because he doesn't put the first volley away often enough?
It is because he is a good volleyer and quicker than I am, and we tend to be going after the same ball alot, and to a certain extent, he can and often times is a ball hog- crossing over in front of me and hitting (or missing) a volley that I would have had a better play on. Many times these points go to the opponent because (IMO) Steve is a very good singles player, who plays doubles from inside his singles head, if that makes sense. In any given situation, there is no WE, there is what Steve is doing, meant to do, or did. If he gets his racquet on the ball and makes a good interception, but doesn't put the ball away, it leaves both of us at or near the middle of the court and exposed. He has an ego the size of Texas (with some merit- he's good) but trying to discuss things with him is proving futile in the short term for me. I helped him with his serve a couple of years ago, and told him how to serve to me and other returners like me in order for him to get more cheap points, and it took him at least 6 months to actually listen and try out what I suggested, but when he did- he started beating me in singles regularly.

I guess the frustration level is there for me wanting to be a great doubles team NOW!!!

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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 02:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alfajeffster
Yes, I am that intense- but equally, if not more so with myself than as with my partner. I need a partner as intense as I am or it affects my game. There are many great players out there who are capable of carrying a partner or going out there and talking between every point or supporting each other- I'm not one of those people, but if you're with me on the intensity scale, there's really nothing to talk about either. Weird but true. I guess it's difficult for me to relate to someone needing that much moral support on a tennis court.

Rollo- we have to hit before the summer is over! By the way- you're a southpaw aren't you?

I don't doubt you. I wouldn't believe that you'd expect more of your partner than you would yourself. I guess I liked doubles more because it relaxed me which is when I usually play my best. I know to stay concentrated and when to be serious but I enjoy having a partner that will laugh WITH me when I make a bonehead mistake. Of course, this may explain why I don't own one SINGLE tennis trophy!!
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 02:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HanaFanGA

I know to stay concentrated
Gaby, is that you?

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