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Know Your Foe

Last month we shared our general philosophy on doubles tennis.  In case you missed it, you can catch up with it here.

Today we’re going to continue along the same thread, with some basic principles before we can move on to some more specific strategy.

Let go into a little “thought exercise” here.

Whether you’re a seasoned tennis player, or you’re just thinking about starting for the first time, you can do this.

Close your eyes and imagine you’re walking up to the base line (that’s the one in the back, where you serve).

Ok, don’t close your eyes until you finish reading this, otherwise you may be stuck for a while.

Now, imagine you’re at the baseline, with the ball in one hand, and your racquet in the other.  You’re getting ready to smash an amazing serve in the style of Roger Federer or Venus Williams.

You look across the court to find your opponent.  What do you see?  Who’s your opponent?

To your surprise, you don’t see just one opponent, you see three.

(Ok, now you can open your eyes.)

That’s right, when you play tennis, you face three distinct, and challenging, opponents.

Your first opponent stretches across the entire court, and stubbornly refuses to move, even when the ball is heading straight for it.

That’s right, the net is your first opponent.  If you can’t get the ball over the net, you can’t play tennis.

You can study and practice all the best technique in the world, but if you never get the ball past mid-court, you’ll lose every time.  At least you’ll look good doing it.

So, the first thing you should learn is how to get the ball over the net.  Only after that should you focus more on perfecting your technique.

Your next opponent can be even more difficult.  He knows your play as well as you, and often knows exactly what you’re going to do before you do it.

It’s also the person you see every time you shave or put on your makeup.

If you can’t master yourself, how can you expect to master the people on the other side of the net?

In practice, you learn proper technique and how to get the ball over the net.  You develop a game plan.  It all can seem easy when it’s just you and your coach; or you and your friends.  But when you get to the match, will you stick to the game plan?

When emotions and adrenaline come into play, will you still use the right technique?  Or will you throw everything you know out the window as soon as things get tough?

Only after you’ve mastered the net and the person between your ears can you start to think about the third opponent.

The people on the other side of the net want nothing better than to destroy you.  They want to hit that little fuzzy, green ball right down your throat.

Fortunately, since by now you’ve mastered yourself and the net, facing those other people will be a lot easier.

No matter how good they may be, you will be able to confidently square off against them, knowing you will stick to your game plan, and get the ball over the net every time.

The net, yourself, and the people on the other side of the court.  Three opponents you face every time you play tennis.

Master them all, and the sky’s the limit.

We wish you good health,

Columbia Basin Racquet Club

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