How to Win at Doubles -- Against All Odds

I recently attended the SCTA Community Development Workshop in Indian Wells, California, where I gave a presentation on web-based social networks.

The event was a blast and a great way to reconnect with tennis buddies I hadn't seen in awhile.

The night before the workshop, the organizer put on a small tennis tournament for two levels of play: 4.0- and 4.0+. I signed up for the 4.0- segment, got a great female partner (Mookda West from Balboa Tennis Club in San Diego), and we won it.

After the tournament, I overheard two women who both played in the 4.0+ division say they wanted to hit some more. Being my regular confident self--right after winning the 4.0- division--I asked if they wanted a friendly mixed doubles match.

They agreed and I asked Jason Jameson, a professional tennis coach and program manager for the USTA, if he wanted to join as the male on the opposite team. Jason is the nicest guy and I guess he, too, can't say no to a friendly game of tennis.

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I first met Jason holding a Recreational Coaches Workshop in the San Diego-area many years ago. He has since moved up the ladder of success and works for the USTA now, managing their National Schools Program. In that capacity he travels all over the country to lecture on school initiatives. He's also an excellent doubles player, as I soon learned.

We walked on the court and started to warm up. I quickly realized I had made a BIG mistake.

Each of the ladies seemed to be two levels above mine. They hit so hard during warm up I had my hands full just to return the balls back over the net. I began to wish I was back in my hotel room, tucked in safely and reading my book ("Wimbledon" written in 1947 by the person who ran the club and the tournament in the 1920s and 30s).

Jason, on the other hand, had no problems returning any shots. He seemed to be having a jolly good time.

The two women realized my situation and that I was way out of my league. They approached us and proposed to play one set--women against men. The way they looked at each other I knew right away this would be a quick match. 

When Jason took me aside for a little pre-match pow-wow, I was surprised to hear him tell me how we would win this match. Here's how he provided me with a set of instructions before I had the chance to hit my first ball:

1. "I know you like net play and volleys. I'll stay back and you'll play your game at the net. You need to jump on EVERY ball coming over the net close enough for you to get your racket on."

2. "When I hit the ball and you see me hitting it, you're not doing your job. Your job is to watch our opponents, and especially the net player. NEVER watch me."

3. "These are two hard hitting ex-college players. They love speed. We'll take that away from them, slow it down, and make them run and get our angled shots. This will neutralize some of their power."

4. "We'll talk about strategy before every point."

I started to serve and lost my service game right away. Not good. My serve was too slow and just not dangerous enough for them. But Jason was still watching them and working on the strategy.

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