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When To NOT Talk To Your Doubles Partner – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 174

By Kselz @TennisFixation

I have talked a lot in this podcast about talking on court - when you can do it, what you can say, what you can't say, and even what you should say. I've talked about what you should talk about with your partner and what you should and shouldn't say to your opponent. But I have never really talked about what you should NOT say to your partner. In this episode, I'll answer a listener question and make some recommendations on what you should NOT say to your doubles partner and how exactly to handle the moment when that communication comes up. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player in this post or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link:

You know I love to answer listener questions in this podcast. Because your questions are not just good. They're insightful. They're from real life. They present real dilemmas faced by real players on the tennis court, players just like you and me.

When Should We NOT Talk to Our Doubles Partner?

So I recently received a question from Susan and she asked this:

Is there a time when you shouldn't talk with your partner during a point? In other words when they are just about to hit the ball and you yell, GET IT! Or if they are already running for a ball and your partner yells, RUN! Players who are a little ADD may unintentionally take their mind and eye off the ball in that split second and miss or not hit the ball as well as if no one distracted them[.]

This is a really good question Susan. Because I think this happens a lot in our doubles matches and it can, as you point out, have an impact on the players involved, both the player doing the speaking or yelling and the player who is being spoken to.

Talking to Your Doubles Partner Can Be a Hindrance

So let's start where I always love to start, with the rules of tennis and the Code. And, as usual, I'm going to talk about what happens in an unofficiated match, because if any on-court talking happens in an officiated match, well the on-court official can deal with that.

You already know that talking on court can be considered a hindrance. I most recently discussed that in Episode 167 of Tennis Quick Tips which is called Is My Opponent Creating A Hindrance By Talking? and I'll have a link to that in the show notes for this episode which you can find at The bottom line is that talking CAN be a hindrance if you're not careful.

And we can look to the Code to figure out exactly when we can talk and when we shouldn't. Again, this has been discussed in other Tennis Quick Tips episodes, especially that Episode 167. But, quickly, Paragraph 34 of the Code tells us:

  • Singles players should not talk during points.
  • Talking between doubles partners when the ball is moving toward them is allowed.
  • Doubles players should not talk when the ball is moving toward their opponent's court.
  • Any talking that interferes with an opponent's ability to play a ball is a hindrance.

So, to sum it up, you should NOT be talking to your partner when the ball is moving toward your opponent's court or when your talking would hinder your opponent. And if the ball is moving towards your opponent's court, that means you or your partner have already hit the ball and your opponent has not. Obviously, talking when the ball is moving toward your opponent, as they are preparing to hit the ball, could hinder them. That's a time when you should NOT be talking to your partner.

Can Talking Cause Your Tennis Partner to Lose Focus?

But Susan's question is asking something a little different. She is asking about times when you shouldn't talk to your doubles partner because it could potentially hinder your partner! She is concerned that some of these things that we may say to our partners, like "Get it!" or "Go, go, go!" may actually cause our partners to become confused or unfocused and result in them mishitting the ball.

And, just to be clear, I believe the kind of talking Susan is asking about is not the kind where one partner yells "Out!" right before the other partner hits the ball. That kind of talk is a line call and, while it raises its own issues, is not what Susan is asking about.

Susan's question is focusing on the type of talk that is communicating to your partner what you're doing and what you're thinking they should do. When your partner yells, "Run!", I think they're making it clear that they're expecting you to get the ball. They're not going for it. When they yell, "Go, go!," again, they are communicating that you need to go get the ball. They're not going to do it.

How to Deal with the Tennis Partner Who Talks Too Much

Is such talk appropriate? Is it helpful? Can it be distracting? Well, my answer is - it just depends. I think every doubles partner we play with is different and it is up to us to figure out just what is the best thing we can do or say to support and help our partner play his or her best tennis.

Personally, I am the type of player who actually does better when my partner yells "Go, go!" or "Run!" at me. For me, that tells me that, not only does my partner expect me to get the ball, but they actually think I CAN get the ball. I personally like that type of encouragement and defining of the on-court duties. I like knowing that not only is it my ball, but my partner is not going for it. They expect me to go for it.

But that is not for everyone. As Susan point out, on-court talking, especially while someone is preparing to hit the ball, can be a distraction. It can mess someone up by causing a mis-hit. And when that happens, it can linger in your mind and cause maybe just the tiniest rift between partners. If you feel like your partner said something that caused you to mis-hit the ball and maybe lose the point, it's going to bother you. Definitely, not what you want to happen in the middle of your match.

How do you deal with this then? I think it's important to talk to your partner before the match even starts, especially if it's a new partner that you've never played with before. Let them know how you feel about on-court talking. Especially if you don't like it. I personally try to do this before all of my matches, even if I'm playing with someone I've previously played with. I say something like, "Hey, I may talk a lot on court so let me know if that's a problem for you." That usually results in my partner either saying, "No problem" or "Yeah, that may bother me." And if they say that, that on-court talking may bother them, then I work really hard to keep it in check and limit my talk time to between points and not so much during points. Unless, of course, I'm making a line call.

So Susan, I think the way you handle the situation you're asking about really depends on your partner. If you are the one who is bothered by those types of "Go, go!" comments, then let your partner know that in a nice way. Say something like, "Hey, I'm getting distracted by some of the talk during points." I'm sure your partner wants to know that because they want you to play your best. And, just know, I speak from experience. As I said, I am a talky player. I have had partners tell me, during a match, to zip it because my on-court talk is distracting them. And I personally have no issues with a partner who says that to me. I would rather them speak up then play poor tennis because I'm too chatty.

That's my answer to Susan's question and I hope it helps all of us play better doubles by making sure we're communicating with our partner in a way that supports them and helps them to also play great tennis!

Thanks for listening to this week's episode and check out the show notes for links to lots and lots of episodes talking about talking in tennis. You can find those show notes over at


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© Kim Selzman 2019-2020 All Rights Reserved

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