Sometimes mixed doubles feels more like mixed troubles. Weaker players may feel bullied by opponents or pushed aside by a partner. Stronger players may feel frustrated at being kept out of the play and then like bullies when they encroach.
Watch this point in the 2013 Open Mixed Doubles finals where the stronger player poaches for the winning shot.
After my wife and I squeaked out a rare victory in a tournament match last year, the woman we had played against chided me for ‘not letting my wife play’. I apologized and then politely pointed out my wife hit well over half our shots. It was the half that I took on my Paula’s side of the court that frustrated our opponents. Ironically, Paula had wanted me to take even more of the shots. That was nearly two years ago; now she is much more comfortable covering her half the court. But this story illustrates one of the frustrations players experience in doubles where one partner is much stronger than the other.
I have also been the weaker partner and know the feeling of being the target of opponents and the source of frustration for a stronger partner. Too often in these situations I resort to ultra cautious play confined on one fourth of the court. This behavior seems to excite the opponents’ feeding frenzy. My friend Brian tells me to relish this opportunity, be THE MAN, and take charge of the game.
Here are five things to consider when playing with a much stronger or weaker partner.
- Discuss beforehand how balls will be taken in the center. Communicate ‘me’ or ‘you’ throughout each point.
- Weaker players: cover your alley and stand back a bit from the kitchen line so your partner can cross in front to hit a winner. Returning balls to your opponents’ center-line often brings your partner into the play.
- Stronger players: letting your partner cover more of the court will build confidence. Recognize that your partner is very aware of your attitude toward their play. Be happy! Hey, you probably cannot win alone!
- Never let balls sail un-hit down the center. It is better to be aggressive and clash paddles than be overly polite.
- Unless you are in a tournament, please don’t pick on the weaker player! You may win the match and lose a friend.