A New Way to Find a Doubles Partner

doubles partner

I received the following via email from David Feldman, a Tennis Parent in the New England section. With David’s permission, I have also shared it with the folks behind the Match!Tennis App. Please have a look then let us know what you think about it in the Comments below. Thanks! Lisa

As I watch my son attempt to find a satisfying doubles partner for the upcoming 16L1 National Championships and the subsequent 16L1 National Doubles Tournament, it’s clear that this process is very trying for the players. As I’m sure you’ll agree, everybody wants the best partner they can get, many players aren’t sure who that is, and the discovery process is logistically and emotionally challenging for all involved.

I have a proposal: math! In particular, the economists and game theorists have long since studied this problem, and there’s a way to make everybody as happy as possible. It’s called the Stable Roommates Algorithm. Just substitute “doubles partner” for “roommate” and it’s a perfect fit for the doubles partner process. I suggest that USTA implement this algorithm on the TennisLink page for relevant tournaments.

Here’s how it would work:

1) Players admitted to an event would rank the partners they’d be willing to play with. A simple list, ordered from first preference to last preference, of the players accepted into the event. The list would be private; i.e. not shared with other players.

2) Just prior to the event, the Stable Roommates Algorithm would be run by the computer against all of the lists, and it would create doubles pairings. Those players would play with each other.

The best part is that this system would still allow any two players sure they wish to play with each other to do so: Any two players who put each other first on their respective lists are guaranteed to get matched to each other. In this way, this new system includes the current “mutual USTA #” method within it, making the transition comfortable.

Even better, it’d take pressure off of tournament directors to play the role of in-between, and free players (and parents) from the often agonizing parade of requests and rejections. I’m a computer science major and a tennis parent, I’d be happy to discuss this in more detail with USTA National or TennisLink. Best of all, this technique would be applicable to all doubles events across all divisions of USTA play.

Another Week on the Alternate List

Another week, another local Southern Level 3 tourney, another alternate list.  But, this time there’s a possible out – DOUBLES!

Even though my son registered for both the B16 and B18 singles for this weekend’s tournament, and even though he’s on the alternate list for both, he still has an opportunity – we hope! – to play doubles.  This tournament is one of a handful that is offering both singles and doubles to the kids, and, even if you don’t get into the singles draw, there’s a very good chance that you could get into the doubles.

There’s a hierarchy for being chosen to play in the doubles draw, though, as follows:

1. Teams with both players entered in the singles

2. Teams with one player entered in singles and one alternate

3. Teams with one player entered in singles and one player not registered for singles

4. Teams with both players not registered for singles

Since my son is currently on the alternate list, his best hope for getting into the doubles is to choose a partner currently in the singles draw (#2 on the list above).  With only 32 players in each age group and several of them already partnered up for the dubs, it becomes a numbers game.

The tournament director specifically stated on the website that it’s up to the players to find their own partners – the tournament staff will NOT randomly partner players.  So, now comes the fun part.  My son is contacting the guys he knows in the singles, one by one, to try to find a partner.  Assuming he’s successful and gets to play, then showing up as an on-site alternate for the singles becomes a no-brainer.  Wish him luck!

Wayne Bryan vs. USTA

For those of you trying to follow the extensive back-and-forth between Wayne Bryan, father of doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan, and Patrick McEnroe, Head of Player Development for the USTA, I have included links below to all of the communications I have seen to date.  If you know of additional letters and/or emails and/or articles, please post a link to them in the Comments box below.

I would like to point out that there have been some extremely well-though-out comments made to many of the original posts, so please do take the time to read through them as well.

If you are the parent or coach of an American junior tennis player, I think it is imperative that you educate yourself on what’s happening with our governing body and the criticisms which are now being launched against it.  Agree or disagree – that’s up to you.  But, please take the time to get informed!

Original email from Wayne Bryan to a USTA Exec

Tim Mayotte’s reply

Colette Lewis’ response

Wayne Bryan’s reply to Colette Lewis

Patrick McEnroe’s response

Wayne Bryan’s reply to Patrick McEnroe

Brian Parrott’s comments on the matter

Wayne Bryan’s letter to his sons

Exchange between Wayne Bryan & an unnamed high-performance coach

Doubles, Doubles, Toils, & Troubles

When I was a kid playing junior tennis, everyone I knew had a set doubles partner.  You practiced together, you played tournaments together, and, at the end of the year, you had a doubles ranking together.

One of the highlights of my junior tennis “career” was winning the state high school doubles championships as an 8th grader.  My partner and I had played together the entire season and had helped our team get to State.  In the doubles competition, we had beaten girls much older than us to take home the big prize.  I still have that trophy sitting on a shelf above my desk.  I’m still very proud of that accomplishment.

Today, it seems that doubles has become the ignored step-child of junior tennis, the afterthought.  USTA awards only 15% of the ranking points for doubles wins and only counts 3 doubles tournament results in a player’s overall ranking.  It’s a shame!

When my son plays in a tournament that also happens to offer doubles, he usually tries to find a partner so he can play.  Oftentimes, the two boys will play together for the first time in their first-round match.  They won’t have practiced together.  They won’t have taken much time to strategize or figure out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  They pretty much just wing it.  Sometimes it works out great.  Other times, not so much.  In a recent tourney, my son and his partner won the doubles, and they were so excited.  But, just to emphasize how low on the totem pole doubles truly is, their prize was a plastic “medal” on a ribbon NOT the nice trophy that the singles winners received.  Really???

Developing doubles skills not only makes you a better singles player by giving you opportunities to try shots you don’t normally get to try- volleys, smashes, half volleys, lobs, angles, etc. – but it also prepares you for high school and college play.  If you’ve ever gone to a college tennis match, oftentimes the doubles can be the tipping point for a win or a loss.  The doubles players are highly-valued at both the high school and college level.  Why not in the juniors???

I had the opportunity to “talk” to Dan Kiernan, coach of the winning doubles team at the 2012 Australian Open Junior event who also happens to be a pretty accomplished doubles player himself.  Dan’s opinion is that “tennis is a daunting sport and being on the court on your own one against one, losing on your own, winning on your own, are all difficult emotions to deal with. In general people are well ‘people’ people! If makes sense! And sharing is a nice emotion and in turn this will keep players in the game or attract them to stay in the game for longer.”

Dan goes on to confess that he knew that he wasn’t cut out to be a top singles player the day he won his first singles professional tournament.  He says, “I felt empty that evening- no one to share with, everyone had moved onto the next tournament,” so even the winning alone can be a problem.  Plus, doubles gives pros an opportunity to make money from the game.  Some very average tennis players (relatively!) have made great livings from doubles and stayed in the game at the pro level for longer.

Since the Powers That Be are constantly touting tennis as a Game For Life, they need to take a look around the community tennis courts and see how many Lifers are playing singles vs. doubles.  As we get older, doubles becomes a more feasible game for us to play.  How great for those who grew up learning that game and the strategies involved!

I understand that it’s tough for tournament directors to include doubles due to time constraints during the school year.  But, during school vacation times, it would be great to see more doubles competition available to our kids.

So, I hereby issue a challenge to the USTA and other tennis federations:  Reinstate doubles as an equal partner for junior tennis.  Reinstate year-end doubles rankings.  Make doubles wins count the same as singles.  Encourage our juniors to develop their doubles skills AS JUNIORS so they have those skills throughout their lives.