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Keep relationships sane and avoid issues on the court

Capitalize on benefits of mixed doubles

Mixed doubles is one of a few sports where males and females can compete directly against each other. But, this unique dynamic can also lead to trouble on the court-especially if the game isn’t first identified as social or competitive. "The only risk in social mixed doubles pops up if one or more of the players think they are playing competitive doubles," says tennis expert Kathy Woods. "Here is where the situation can become testy either between partners or opponents."

In Playing Tennis After 50, Woods explains that social mixed doubles is typically played by four people who want to spend time together socially in a fun physical activity. "The focus is not on the outcome of the match but on the enjoyment from testing overall skills as mixed doubles teams," Woods says. When playing social mixed doubles, find opponents who are looking for the same game, Woods recommends.

In competitive mixed doubles, the gender dynamic becomes more pronounced than in social mixed doubles. Woods advises evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of all four players-particularly because male players tend to claim height, weight, and power advantages. "If the foursome is to be competitive or at least compatible, players should be at similar levels overall even if there are inequalities in one dimension," Woods says.

It’s common for women in mixed doubles teams to feel uncomfortable at the net because of the speed or spin male opponents put on the ball. Woods suggests a few strategies for working around this issue:

  • Females can build confidence and skill gradually outside of matches by practicing against hard-hit balls until they feel comfortable. "In most cases, it is a matter of technique and experience rather than lack of ability," Woods says.
  • Position the female player a few steps farther from the net to gain an extra second of time to receive a hard hit. 
  • Have the male partner play volleys or short balls aggressively to drive the opposing team back. "From behind the baseline, their drives will be less intimidating or they will lob," Woods explains. "If the female partner at the net is constantly bombarded with laser drives, the male partner can help her out by hitting more aggressively himself."

If problems persist in mixed doubles, whether playing on a social or competitive level, Woods advises asking for help from an unbiased third party. "A mature, experienced coach or teaching professional can quickly spot flaws in your team game plan or execution," she explains.

For more information, see Playing Tennis After 50.


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