The Knights’ tennis team is in the midst of a very successful season with a 13-3 record. Their doubles and singles matches have both had triumphant outcomes, with blowouts as large as 9-0. One may figure that it is because doubles and singles matches are fundamentally the same, but the two have vast distinctions.
As the name suggests, doubles matches involve two tennis players competing against another duo. This seemingly minute fact results in players having to change a multitude of their strategies—strategies these players might have been using all of their singles careers. For example, in doubles matches the players have to play at the net—a plan that most people who play singles don’t have to employ.
“[Playing doubles] was hard for me at first freshman year,” junior Cat Crummey said. “I don’t want to be at net, I don’t want to get hit and all this stuff ran through my head, but now I love doubles. It is so much fun having someone else out there with you and being at the net.”
Crummey wasn’t the only player who had this sentiment—freshman Anika Pornpitaksuk expressed similar feelings. “I’m actually really afraid of getting hit, that’s why I didn’t like doubles at first,” Pornpitaksuk said, “I think I’m getting better—it’s not as scary.”
Besides playing at the net, the players must be able to rely on one another. For some people, it is harder to trust anyone other than themselves to get the job done. But when a player is forced to share half of their court, they have to work as a team if they want to win.
“Being able to rely on a teammate is great because sometimes if I know I can’t get to the ball, I’ll say, ‘Mai [Hashimoto], you got it” and she’ll cover me right from behind and come up,” Pornpitaksuk said. Junior Mai Hashimoto and Pornpitaksuk make a great duo and prove how imperative communication is in the sport. “Communication is top of the line,” Pornpitaksuk added. “One time, Mai and I didn’t communicate or say, ‘I got the ball’ and we hit each other with the racket.”
Crummey agreed with Pornpitaksuk. “You have to communicate and you have to be able to know where on the court each person is and know that they’ve got this shot,” Crummey said. Though this skill isn’t easily learned, head coach Jim Chen has his doubles players practice their difficulties outside of games—on the court and in meetings.
Chen isn’t the only one getting the players to communicate, however; these players excel at talking with one another. Doubles matches have an entire mental aspect to them that singles matches can’t touch. A team can win their doubles matches not only by playing well, but also by having one player pump up her partner.
“[Your doubles partner] is always there to talk you up,” Crummey said. Her and senior Amanda Rosati will not let the other get down when playing doubles matches, encouraging the other to “get the next one” instead.
“When you and your partner are pumped up, you start playing well,” Pornpitaksuk said. And that is just something you don’t see in singles matches.