We’ve previously spoken in depth about how vital mental strength is in order to improve a tennis players overall game. The most successful players will balance the amount of time spent working on the mental side of their game against hours spent improving their fitness and technique. In a singles match, mental and physical capabilities are equally important. Whereas in a doubles match, there is often even more importance on the mental battle as you not only have to figure out your opponent but you also have to figure out how to best work with your partner.
Below are some of our favorite mental strategies to help you and your doubles partner increase your chance of victory.
Focus on the same goal
While it may seem obvious, remaining focused at all times throughout a tennis match is a fundamental skill all players need to develop. It is vital in doubles that you and your partner are both focused on the same goal, victory - or at least doing everything you can to give yourself the best chance of being victorious.
One of the best ways to do this is to ensure that you both get ‘in the zone’ as soon as possible and remain focused throughout the match. Getting to the court earlier to warm up your body (and mind) thoroughly is crucial for success. Letting your mind wander means you can easily drop those few critical points which in turn can impact your chance of winning the match.
Focusing on each point as you play them is one of the most effective ways to ensure that both yourself and your partner are fully focused on the task at hand. Any conversation should be around the upcoming point (the present), and you should try to avoid talking about past and future events as they cannot be controlled at that moment.
Execute your game plan
We have recently covered the importance of developing a mental game plan in detail. The importance of a mental game plan is often underestimated by a lot of tennis players but it is vital for those looking to get to the top of the game, especially in doubles.
You and your partner need to work out what your strengths are as a team and find the best ways to maximize these strengths throughout the match. Additionally, by setting out how you plan on approaching the match beforehand you can be confident that both yourself and your partner are on the same page. It is equally important to assess your game plan with your partner throughout the match as you may notice weakness in your opponent or certain parts of your plan might not be as successful as you first thought.
Practice makes perfect
Mental toughness isn’t something that can be learned overnight. Like most other skills in tennis, it requires a great deal of practice and experience. You need to play in high-pressure scenarios on a regular basis to gain a true understanding of how you and your partner react to the pressure.
Players who are putting themselves in pressure situations on a regular basis will become mentally stronger as they learn through the experience. The best way to understand how you need to respond to being 0-40 down is to have been in that scenario many times before - and having the confidence that you can turn things around. Whether it’s through competition or in training, the added pressure is one of the best ways to improve the mental strength of a player. Playing with no-Ad scoring or even running scenarios starting at certain scores can help.
Work as a team
It should go without saying that teamwork is absolutely vital in doubles. If you and your partner can’t work together, you will find it almost impossible to be successful at any level. This means that not only do you need to know your responsibilities throughout the match, but you also need to communicate and work together to improve each other's mental strength.
It can be easy to blame your partner for a loss or dropped points, however, these are the precise moments where you need to step up with renewed intensity and focus as a unit. If you and your partner are constantly scolding each other over a mistake, then your partnership will breakdown very quickly and you will see limited success. To get the best out of your relationship, you need help to bring the best out of your teammate with positive reinforcement that solidifies the relationship with your partner.
Communication is key
Communication is essential for any doubles partnership who want to compete. While there is a lot of importance placed on the physical attributes of players, if their communication skills aren’t strong the performance will suffer. Tennis is a fast moving game and matches are often won or lost by the smallest margins. In these scenarios communication or a lack of communication, can be the difference. In fact, a less-capable team, with better communication and teamwork will beat a stronger dysfunctional team every time.
We have previously covered how to improve communication in doubles partnerships in detail on our blog.