6 February

Perfect partners

Tennis is one of the few sports that men and women can play together - is that why we say "love all"? With tongue in cheek, and Valentine's Day just around the corner, we look at some of the pitfalls of joining your partner on court

The pro game is awash with supposed love matches, but for every Steffi Graff and Andre Agassi, there is a Martina Hingis and Radek Stepanek - a partnership that perhaps wasn't quite made in heaven. Nevertheless, there is something especially appealing about two people whose passion for tennis is matched by a passion for each other. What could go wrong . . .

Courting couples

Wow I didn't know you played tennis... let's have a hit

It's great when you discover you have similar interests, like the moment you realise you both like artichoke on your pizza. Tennis can bring you closer together but unlike eating pizza, one of you is likely to be better than the other . . .

  • Don't show off. This is a friendly hit, not a match. Decline the temptation to demonstrate your weapons. So while you maybe able to pass your partner at the net every time or drive him or her off court with your inside-out forehand - it's just better if you don't
  • Don't coach. You are probably not a coach anyway, but even if you are it is suprising what a passion-killer having your serve re-built can be
  • Don't compare your partner's shots to the man/woman on the next court. You know who your eyes should be on and tennis comparisons are odious
  • Don't over do it. Honestly, an hour on court is plenty long enough to tell how well you get along together when placed on opposite sides of a net. Any longer and one of the you is likely to end the session seriously mentally and physically depleted
  • Do have your next move planned . . . A coffee in the cafe or a walk round the duck pond will help put your hit in context. If it went well, you can have a tête-à-tête about tennis. But if it left one of you wondering if you are as sympatico as you thought, it's a chance to explore other areas of life. "Oh look, a magpie."

Competing partners

If you are an item and you both play tennis, the chances are that at some point you will face each other on opposite sides of the court for a competitive encounter. It may even be in a Local Tennis League match . . .

Looks like we have been drawn to play in the same group

  • Don't panic... OK, one of you is going to lose, but approach the match as a joint enterprise and you can both be winners
  • Do schedule your match early... you have a huge advantage in sharing diaries. Make the match-up work for you - win or lose, play the match before the midpoint and you are on your way to bonus points and free tennis balls
  • Do share notes... Pass on tips on the playing style of your other opponents - all is fair in love and tennis
  • Don't sulk/gloat. Decide before the match begins how you are going to react whether you win or lose. Think hugs

Doubles partners

This is the classic challenge for tennis couples. But being effective on court need not be nearly as hard as deciding which side of the bed is yours.

Mine... no it's yours! 

  • Don't imagine you have an inevitable bond of communication that will make your tennis gel. It doesn't work like that. You may be able to finish each other's sentences, but that doesn't mean you know who takes the volley
  • Do communicate positively. Make a conscious decision to congratulate your partner on a good shot and commiserate on a miss - a touching of fingers may be all that's needed
  • Do decide in advance who is going to "make the play" and stick to your decisions. Usually it will be the stronger player
  • Know when to stay shtum. Being supportive in tennis is not the same as being supportive in life. If your partner cries "What am I doing" when they miss a volley, don't assume they want an anwser
  • Do remember your relationship is more important than your tennis. If you find you are not speaking to each other after you have lost a match, you have got the tennis/life balance wrong!
  • Do finish a match with kiss. Some would say more kissing would improve all tennis, but as a playing couple you have no excuse not to

     Pic Missouri History MuseumLove all!