Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to choose sides in doubles

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Shop Manager

As a righty/lefty duo, the Bryan brothers decide to receive 
with forehands down the middle. Joe Shlabotnik
Have you ever wondered how sides are chosen between professional doubles teams like the Bryan brothers? More often than we care to admit, many of us choose sides based off of our partner's uncaring preference. There's actually a bit more strategy involved than just hoping your partner doesn't want the same side as you. So the next time your partner asks what side you'd like to receive on, take into account these following tips:
  • Righty/Lefty combo
The majority of these types of doubles teams play with forehands down the middle with good reason. Playing the lefty on the deuce court is an ideal move because the name of the game is playing low, deep and down the middle. However, playing with forehands on the outside (lefty on the ad court) is another ideal strategy, because receivers can return cross-court, which is easier shot-making potential. With this configuration, you'll be poaching often with your backhand and you'll also need to decide who will take the overhead down the middle. 
  • Inside-out/Cross-court return
Here's a simple solution, do you prefer hitting inside-out backhands and cross-court forehands or vice versa? You'll be seeing a high percentage of these shots so take advantage of what you feel most confident hitting. Another point to think about is playing the stronger backhander on the deuce court. The more experienced the server, the greater the chance you'll see more serves aimed down the 'T'. So if you're right-handed you need to be ready to hit plenty of inside-out backhands, which is not an easy shot to master. 
  • Stronger returner takes the lead
To note, the stronger returner might not necessarily be the stronger player. With that said, the partner who is most confident in their return should get to decide what side they want to play based on their reliability. Furthermore, it is strongly encouraged that they play the ad court as well since they may handle the pressure better on those game-deciding points.

There's no fine line on which exactly is the right strategy when choosing sides in doubles, but there's nothing more irritating than hearing your partner say, "I only play the deuce court." Keep an open mind and actively discuss with your partner before each match what side you both should play based off of your skill-set, confidence and opponents for that particular day. You and your partner will eventually get into a groove you both like, but if you're still butting heads on deciding what side to play, then that might be a sign that the partnership is not meant to be.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pressure of being the best

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Shop Manager 
Flickr: Christopher Levy

With the BNP ParibasOpen in Indian Wells, CA drawing to a close, we take a look back at the draw and wonder why so many of the tour's top seeds were dropping like flies. Players such as Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova & Li Na had unexpected losses where we can't help but question if the pressure of always winning is taking its toll. The more we win, the more stress we add to our game. We must win because we're the stronger player. We must win because we beat this opponent in the past. We must win because it's expected of us. The pressure alone can cause such mental anguish that the match is already lost. So what can you do to relieve yourself from that self-destructive path?

It's easy to be overwhelmed by negative thoughts when things aren't going your way. The best way to remedy this is to focus on your physical actions. Make a point to move your feet, watch the ball, and breath out as you swing. Turn you attention to the next point, not the final outcome.

Talk positively to yourself. Too many times we've seen players shout out in frustration, whack their foot with their racquet, or simply remain silent in defeat. Tell yourself 'good job' or 'come on' after winning a point. And for those points you don't win, give yourself a break--you'll get the next one.

Give yourself something to look forward to after the match. What gets you into your 'happy' zone? Seeing your kids? A new episode of your favorite TV show? A win or lose milkshake? However big or small, remind yourself of the things that will help make it OK at the end of the day.

Lastly, don't put all your eggs in one basket. In other words, find another hobby to invest your self-esteem in. Tennis is supposed to be fun!

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