With two of the players on my team winning the state doubles title I thought it would be a perfect time to write about the importance of doubles in the career of a singles player.
Certainly doubles will help players with the technical aspects of development like transitioning to the net, volleys, and returns. However, that is not what this post is going to be about. You see if you have watched enough players develop there is a pattern that plays out quite often. Players have a tendency to have a breakthrough in doubles right before they breakthrough in singles. I have seen it happen with males, females, players on my team and those on opposing teams. I’d like to spend the rest of the post digging a little deeper into why the doubles breakthrough springboards into a singles breakthrough.
First, the hardest part about beating the top singles players at any level is by far getting on the court with them. The best players (especially in junior tennis) train together, hang out together and just have this presence about them that allows them to defeat an opponent (at least mentally) before the match even begins. Ever fear playing the number one seed or a player your perceive to be much better than you? If so you know the lesser player’s mentality associated with those kinds of situations.
Doubles gives players a chance to step on the court with better players and if you spend enough time on the court with one of these better players you begin to realize that you actually can hit with them, you can return their serve, and their level of play is not that far out of reach. The 1990 U.S. Open when Pete Sampras defeated Ivan Lendl comes to mind. How could a 19 year-old Sampras perform so well to pull off a win going up against a legend of the game? Well the answer is easy, Sampras and Lendl regularly practiced together so when Pete got on the court he knew he could have competitive points. It still took incredible clutch play to pull off the upset that Sampras did in the pressure but the practice on the court with Lendl certainly helped. This same effect of getting comfortable on the court with better players happens in doubles and can even become magnified if you and your partner pull off a win over the top players.
Second, being on the singles court is a lonely place. It is just you out there and dealing with the pressure can be extremely difficult. Doubles allows the burden of pressure to be shared between two players. Over time doubles players start to become comfortable dealing with the pressure and that can transfer over into their singles play. If you care and if you dare pressure will always be there. There is no better way to learn how to have clutch play in pressure situations than to actually be in those situations, doubles provides practice at that.
Finally, there is no better way to learn how to win than to actually win. Holding a few doubles trophies, having a big victory over high ranked singles players, and doing so often builds confidence. That confidence starts out small but it builds very quickly and can be a tremendous factor in spring boarding a singles career.