Anyone who's been playing doubles tennis for a while will tell you that becoming a good doubles player doesn't just happen. In fact, even if you're a very capable singles player, you could still struggle on the doubles court, because being a good doubles tennis player requires an entirely different skill set due to the team-oriented nature of the game.
So how can you tell whether or not you'd excel as a doubles player? Below are some of the common traits of successful doubles players to help you gauge your potential strengths or weaknesses on the doubles court.
1. Good doubles players communicate.
Many points are lost in doubles tennis due to poor communication. The best doubles pairs communicate with each other before, during and after each point in order to eliminate confusion, and to clarify their intentions on the court. Throughout the entire match, there should be a near-constant exchange of information between you and your partner in order to ensure that each player always knows what the other one is doing, and what they intend to do.
2. Good doubles players are unselfish.
Many sub-par doubles players suffer from the fatal flaw of being too self-centered on the doubles court. In doubles tennis, there's no room for ego or flashiness; you have to be highly efficient, which means that you won't always be able to make the big power shot down the line, especially if there are higher-percentage shots available that would make more sense for a given situation. The best doubles players focus on how they can set their partner up for success, instead of trying to be flashy or always attempting ego shots.
3. Good doubles players never sell their partner out.
There's no room for blaming or finger-pointing in doubles tennis. You're a team, so that means you share the blame for each and every point that goes sour. When you win, be willing to give your partner the credit, even if they didn't do a whole lot to "deserve" it. The whole point is to develop a strong sense of unity with your partner, and this can be achieved by demonstrating loyalty in both good times and bad.
4. Good doubles players focus on placement over power.
On the doubles court, well-placed shots are far more valuable than power shots. Be willing to take some of the pace off your shot in order to improve your accuracy, touch, and control. Sometimes it's the clever slice towards your opponent's feet, or the lob over the opposing net player's head that can win the point, even though neither shot falls under the "power" category.
5. Good doubles players move with their partner.
If you look at any successful doubles team during match play, you'll notice that they consistently move together as a unit, whether forwards, backwards, or side-to-side. A good doubles player will maintain the mindset that they are "tethered" to their partner, so that their combined coverage of the court will force opponents into trying higher-risk shots that are less likely to be successful.
As you can see, good doubles tennis is an exercise in teamwork, patience, and self-discipline. Should you decide to enter into a doubles tennis partnership, keep the above points in mind to help you approach your doubles game with the right mindset.