May 14, 2022  ·  Barbara Wyatt

I am the luckiest recreational doubles tennis player on the planet.

When I step onto a tennis court with Noel, our opponents’ knees are already knocking because of his ability to deliver a ball one inch over the net, then drop like a cannonball. On another USTA team, I partner with Kathi, a tall slender player who can wind up her forehand or backhand like the baseball great, Dennis Eckersley, and deliver a formidable cross-court. My partner Frank has a wingspan like the Northern Royal Albatross, able to cover nearly the entire net. (Normally, I would say Frank’s span is like the Wandering Albatross with its slightly wider span, but Frank deserves the title, “royal”, with his booming laugh and joy of having a racquet in his hand.) If an opponent pops a return to my partner Sheila, their only option is to run away. Jeff is the partner who flies about the court with the winged sandals of a Greek God. Misa at the net? WHAM. Point over. We win. Lee’s slice? It is a wonder-to-behold from my perspective and a brutal weapon against opponents.  

How did I become so lucky to have these partners and others? These are the traits I look for in a partner:

1. They enjoy the game of tennis. Players’ personalities come out on the court. I observe how they handle the ups and downs in a match. Nothing I love more than accidentally running into my partner as we both charge to a ball. There is a burst of laughter and we agree that more communication is needed. 

2. They use new weapons in a match. They will slam, poach, lob, and throw in a drop shot they practiced in a recent drill or lesson. If that new skill is not quite working, they go back to the game of consistency. They know just what to do when a stroke is not working well at that moment in the match.  

3. They balance me. My tennis game is not perfect, but I have a few strengths. My partners bring their talents, which make us a formidable team. They recognize my weaknesses (there are a few) and gracefully support me.

4. They share observations. We will share quick notes during a match, “she’s a leftie” “his forehand is weaker than his backhand” “lob her, because he’s not running.” Only about the opponents, never about each other.

5. They forgive me. Quickly. After I slam another ball into the net, my partners forgive me without hesitation. We move on to the next point when I will deliver the ball over the net and inside the white lines.

6. They work on their game. Together or separately, we practice shots in drills or at lessons to build our tennis talents. Because we love the game of tennis.

Interested in discovering if you and I would get a kick out of a fun, competitive match as a solid pair? I collect good people.

Published New York Tennis Magazine, May/June 2021.