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Two teams competing against in eachother in doubles tennis.

The 4 Key Distinctions Between Singles & Doubles Tennis

07/06/2015, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Would you rather work with a teammate or play solo?

Moving in and out of different game situations in any sport is difficult. So, since your friendly neighbourhood blogger has extensive experience with hockey (and since he’s counting on the fact you do as well), let’s use hockey as a point of comparison. 

In hockey you can face the following in-game situations: 5on5 play, powerplays, penalty kills and even penalty shots during the regular flow of play. 

Competing in singles play vs. doubles in tennis involves the same types of adjustment - conversely, there are similarities we can draw. 

  • The same gear is used
  • The basic rules are the same
  • The pre-game routine ought to remain intact

However, once you step on the court, being alone or having a teammate by your side makes all the difference in the world. Thinking of getting into the other side of tennis? Here’s four elements you need to understand first. 

1. Singles is More of a Physical Grind

1on1 competition is a physically tougher situation as opposed to doubles play. There’s more court to cover (twice as much, in fact, as doubles play), meaning there’s more reliance on strength and stamina. After multiple singles matches in a week you’ll begin to discover muscles you never knew you had. 

And mistakes? Well, making a mistake will cost you in singles play. The goal in singles tennis is to overpower your opponent. When mistakes creep into your match it’s difficult to overcome them on your own. 

2. Mental Seclusion: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The Good: here’s no greater feeling in sports than beating an opponent and knowing you don’t have to spread the praise around.

The Bad: Most tennis players have had experience with team sports at one point or another in their lives. Well, committing to singles tennis means you’re committing to yourself. There’s no teammates and no coaches. If you screw up, there’s no one else to blame.

The Ugly: Singles tennis beats people down. Losing to people you know and have to see on a regular basis can push tennis players over the edge, forcing them to quit or worse: complain to their spouses. 

3. Doubling Up On Strategy

While singles tennis is more about physical endurance and prowess, victorious doubles teams rely on strategy to beat their opponents. Since there are double the people, it’s more important to attack mentally rather than simply hitting the ball over the net aimlessly. 

Errors win matches in doubles play - the game action is all relative and depends on the mistakes made by each side. Faulting on serves or allowing the opponent extra rally time results in momentum, and momentum can decide matches. Doubles makes use of cruel strategies such as lobbing balls into tough-to-retrieve areas against immobile opponents. In short, the best doubles players use their mobility to their advantage while exposing the cracks in the other team. 

4. Oh Yeah … Fun.

What situation sounds like more fun for you? Recreational tennis players just want to have fun, right? Well, it depends on your goals for the game. 

  • Are you trying to meet new people?
  • Do you believe in the basic principals of teamwork and cooperation?
  • Are you looking for a companion with whom you can share glorious victory?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then doubles tennis is for you.

Singles tennis can be fun. Doubles tennis can be fun. It’s remarkable how much your built-in competitive system will play a part in your enjoyment of the game, regardless of the situation. 

So take a good look at yourself in the mirror and don’t let anyone down. 

Especially yourself. 



photo credit: Paes & Stepanek v Peya & Soares via photopin (license)

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