The partners to be could be familiar, or never have played together previously. No matter.
Inevitably the question comes up: “Do you have a preference as to which side you’d like to play?”
The typical answer: “Oh it doesn’t matter, I don’t care.” Doesn’t matter? You don’t care? What!
It does matter, a great deal. But before we even get into that, there’s the matter of the so-called “forehand side” and “backhand side” reference. Not exactly on the mark, but still used after all these years, much like announcing the score “forty-five” versus the correct “forty-fifteen.”
Referring to the right side of the court as the forehand side, and the left side as the backhand side is — first and foremost — a slap in the face to all our left-handed friends who, if you’ve noticed, usually have a knack for playing this game of tennis pretty well.
Right-handed players positioned in the left side “ad-court” (let the correct referencing begin) are afforded an excellent opportunity to “cheat” on their court defending position out on the wing, behind the alley even, to mostly hit their favored forehand all day long. Any incoming probes that do find the backhand are now routinely a mere one-to-two steps away. And opponent forays up the middle, especially when you’re teamed with a stationary net man, become running forehands into the court that can be handled easily and even struck a bit late with little downside.
Thus, at least in a right-handed world, this side of the court is, in reality, the forehand side where the partner with the more lethal forehand should reside.
Playing the “deuce-court” is an entirely different, and more challenging, proposition. Cheating to the center of the court on this side, also to create as many forehand chances as possible and protect one’s backhand, has its shortcomings — namely that just about any opponent with a little experience can hit a sharp angle, with their serve or groundstroke, going away from the court that could prove difficult to reach and control when positioned toward the court’s center.
So, with court position now having to be played “straight-up,” the deuce-court player has to handle the very poachable “inside-out” backhand, of which they will see many from an able team across the net.
Hence, yes, it’s actually the backhand side, and where the partner with the more reliable backhand should play.
Postscript. Hitting shots on the run going into-the-court from the wing are far more controled than those struck on the run going off-the-court, even with the forehand. The former are also far less poachable since club players can be late and unable hit cross court when stretched wide out of court, especially with their backhands, feeding up delicious meatballs to salivating opponents at the net.
So doubles, in large part, and in many ways more so than in singles, features methodically manipulating court position from shot to shot to your advantage, resulting in opponents being maneuvered out of position.
Who does it to whom first, best, win.
Jak Beardsworth (USPTA) is based at the Crowne Plaza-Lake Placid Resort. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 941-626-0097, or through his website: jakbeardsworthtennis.com.