Thursday, October 26, 2017

Secret to a winning lineup

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor


The Men's 3.0 40+ Team captained by Michael Kramer
reaches the final four at the USTA National Championships
in Fort Lauderdale, FL.


With our summer Men's 3.0 40+ Team & Men's 6.0 55+ Team from Towpath Tennis competing in Nationals this year, we once again applaud their effort for making it among the best of the best in the country. This is the 4th consecutive year Towpath has had teams qualify for the National Championships and we couldn't be prouder. It takes quite a lot of motivation and work to get to the national stage, so it's interesting to take a step back and look at how these teams were able to make it each year. Having strong players is obvious enough, however it's not all about having a few ringers on your team. In fact, you may have the strongest team in the league, but you won't get anywhere if you don't know where to place your teammates. In the past we posted an article on How to create a winning tennis team (check it out). While we still stick to these fundamentals in creating a solid team, we did miss something that is kind of important in making a winning tennis team--that is creating a winning lineup!  So where do you start?

  1. Roster Likable Teammates - Hate to admit it, but one sour pickle can spoil a team's fun and success. They don't ALL have to like each other, but your team should genuinely get along not only to avoid a toxic atmosphere amongst the group, but also to make players interchangeable in the lineup so that they become indispensable when its time to pull out the big guns.  
  2. Singles Anyone? - If you have a full roster with no singles players, then you might have a problem. However, you'll be surprised at who is actually good at singles when they don't even know it. If you have solid singles players then hurray, good for you! But, if you're like many struggling captains who are trying to fill the spot then first look for willing participants, second look for a hacker/backboard player, and third look for somebody with solid ground strokes. Sometimes players might be intimidated to see a young, hard hitter on the opposing side of the court, but truth is younger, harder hitters tend to make more errors and are generally impatient. If you don't think you can find a singles player that will knock their opponent out, then look for someone that will tire their opponent out. Trust me, it works!
    The Men's 55 & Over 6.0 Men will compete this weekend at 
    the USTA National Championship in Orlando, FL.
  3. CHEMISTRY - For doubles, I'm a true believer that on court chemistry among partners is everything to a team's success. Chemistry is not just about being nice and encouraging to each other, it's about moving well together, speaking the same language (I get you), having the same goal and making each other laugh. Sometimes what looks good on paper may not translate well on court so that's why it's important to practice and switch teams around until you find one that absolutely gels. 
  4. The Lineup - Typically, you want to place your strongest doubles team at 1st doubles and then place the rest subsequently after. Makes sense right? Well, if you're able to fine tune your team enough to predict the result (this team has been undefeated, this team has a strong serve/net game, this team can run anything down), then you will have a better idea of where to place your players. 
    1. Second Court - The reason I bring 2nd court up first is that many of the most successful lineups include playing your most solid and valuable singles/doubles team in 2nd position--they're dependable for a win 9/10 matches (in theory). 
    2. First Court - The most 'intimidating/fearless/powerful' singles/doubles team play well on 1st court for several obvious reasons. They might not always get the win, but they'll have a higher probability to come out on top or at least put up a damn good fight.
    3. Third Court - Let me make something clear, being placed on third doesn't necessarily mean it's the 'forgotten/toss up' court. It's just as crucial to get this right since many a time it's the 3rd court team pulling off a win for the match. The difference is you're allowed a bit more freedom when deciding who to play on 3rd. Third court is a great position to play a stronger/weaker player combo, experiment a potential partnership if you're not able to in a practice, or play those backboard/hackers that will make your opponents want to scream in frustration. 
  5. To Stack or Not To Stack? - Here's the deal, I'm not a fan. I understand if you may want to play around with teams in different positions, or even if you place a team with a lower rating in a higher position because you truly feel they are the stronger partnership. BUT, if you play your 1st singles/doubles team that has remained at 1st singles/doubles all season long, only to now play 3rd court against a particular team, then you're not playing a fair game, which isn't great sportsmanship. Play a fair game, and you will be rewarded. 
There you have it! This will certainly not give you overnight success, but with continual practice and a little luck you'll find that your team will be the one to be reckoned with.

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