Getting in a Groove with a New Partner

Each of my tennis leagues presents its own unique challenges. In my just-ended Saturday league, we endured the get-our-butts-kicked-every-week challenge. In spring league, we need to adapt to outdoor conditions. For my fall/winter DBH league, there’s the administrative hassles of being captain.

My summer USTA league presents two challenges for me. The first is playing at night. As a ridiculously early riser–Hello, 4 a.m.!–starting a match at 8 p.m. seems crazy. Unfortunately, no one has asked my opinion about the schedule.

The other challenge is getting partnered with people I haven’t played with before. This seems to happen more in USTA than in my other leagues, probably because the evening hours attract a different subset of players than I normally see.

In a round robin, getting paired with someone new is part of the fun. You exchange names, get surprised by each other’s shotmaking, and try to scape together some games. Beyond asking my partner what side he likes to play, strategizing doesn’t factor into things.

But in a match that counts, you need to figure out quickly how to get in sync with a new partner. Asking “do you like forehand or backhand” doesn’t get you very far.

So in anticipation of playing with someone new this season, I did a little brainstrorming about what else I ought to be asking.

What are your strengths?

  • If you love to poach…I’ll try to serve up the T.
  • If you’re fast…I’ll let you run down the lob instead of trying to hit a backhand overhead.
  • If you have a good serve up the T…I’ll cheat to the middle to pick off the return.
  • If you have a killer overhead…I’ll try to set you up by hitting offensive lobs.

What are your weaknesses?

  • If your backhand volley is weak…I’ll be ready to cover more of the middle.
  • If you don’t trust your overhead…I’ll be prepared to run down more of the lobs.
  • If you can’t run well…I’ll need to be the wheels.
  • If you’re only comfortable at the baseline…I’ll try to poach more.

What are your favorite tactical plays?

  • If you like to lob…I’ll position myself for an overhead.
  • If you like to test the net man during the first few games…I’ll be ready for the net man’s volley.
  • If you chip your forehand return…I’ll close the net to put the server’s popped-up ball away.
  • If you like to play Australian or modified-I…I want to agree on signals before we take the court.


What am I forgetting? What do you like your partners to know about your game?


Photo by mirsasha, licensed through Creative Commons

3 thoughts on “Getting in a Groove with a New Partner

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  1. Sounds like you’ve got it well covered. Will you be switching partners often or get paired for a while? 8PM is definitely a late start. I would love it! 🙂

  2. In the past I’ve been paired with someone new quite a bit–lots of new faces, plus vacations and other commitments make regular pairings tougher. But last year our club started our own USTA team, so I’m familiar with most of the players now. So maybe less this year.

    But I do like playing with new people. I think it helps keep your game fresh.

  3. There is always something to be learned from a new partner. And you pay such close attention and really take tennis to an in-depth study. I’m learning a lot from your blog.

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