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Doubles Vision - The Dating Game

Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins© Getty ImagesStephen Huss (left) has broken up with former partner Ross Hutchings (net).

In his debut post for our new Doubles Vision blog, Wimbledon doubles champion Stephen Huss talks about the sensitive issue of partner swapping.

I often get asked by people, ‘How do you decide whom to play doubles with?’. Well, after the recent US Open I find myself looking for a new partner. My partner Ross Hutchins and I decided to stop playing together as we were struggling to win matches ever since the grass court season. We actually played some good matches and put ourselves in plenty of positions to win but were not able to convert when the time came. So we agreed to part ways and try to build our confidence back with someone else.

Finding a doubles partner is not always easy and has several parallels to dating. Think about it… you are trying to find somebody that you gel with so you can win matches and move up the rankings. This often involves speaking to, emailing or messaging several players and trying it out at a tournament or two. Some players are serial daters, as I have been (unfortunately) for a lot of my doubles career. It is not always easy to find a player that is willing to stick together unless you get immediate success and so you get ‘dumped’ and are back out to find another partner.

I have played nine Australian Opens with nine different partners! This year at the French Open my fellow Doubles Vision blogger James Cerretani (read his blog) agreed to play with one guy; they practised together and then for some reason he decided at the last minute to play with someone else. That’s like taking a girl out for a drink and moving on when you see a hotter one at the bar! Another player has been known to show up some weeks having agreed to play with more than one guy, talk about playing the field! He is such a good guy and just basically says yes to anyone who asks him and probably forgets which week he’s playing with whom.

Some guys are just the opposite; they’re like being married to one another. A relatively new team on tour, Brunstrom/Rojer stick together no matter what, even when they could split and have one guy play a tour event, they prefer to play a Challenger together. Some teams that were married end in a divorce… Knowles/Nestor played for 10 years together very successfully but now they play with different partners. Same deal with the Indians, Bhupathi/Paes who played in all Grand Slam finals in 1999, an amazing performance.

I was at one tournament where Tommy Robredo walked into doubles sign in with 5 minutes to go, had a look at the list and then asked who a certain player was and what he looked like. The ATP tour manager pulled up the guy's picture from the ATP web page, Tommy looked at it and said, ‘Ok I play with him. Sign us in.' So there is another way to find a partner and one that is more frequently used by the singles players who choose to play doubles at the last minute.

My first tour event win in Casablanca only came about because Mark Merklein decided at the last minute not to make the trip from USA to play with Myles Wakefield. Myles chose to play with me in the last half hour before sign in closed and we ended up winning the tournament. In contrast, a couple of months before Wimbledon 2005 I made a list of people who I thought I could be successful with and planned to make my way down the list as the rejections came back. Luckily the guy at the top of my list, Wesley Moodie, agreed to play so I was set up early. We won our two matches in qualifying and then six more to take the title!

Some guys are an ‘on and off’ pairing. Probably my closest friend on tour, Ashley Fisher, and I have played together on and off since 2002 and shown the ability to have great results, like the Miami final this year, but also lose first round in several Challengers.

Playing doubles with different guys is good fun as you get to know more guys and experience different things with different people from all the world but the bottom line is we all want to be hugely successful out here and the best way to do that is to have one solid partner to complement and support. I am pumped to be playing with a good friend Scott Lipsky over the next couple of weeks in Asia to see how that goes and then I will play with Jeff Coetzee in Europe to finish the year. If all goes well I will have stopped ‘dating’ by the end of the year and have a permanent partner for next year. 

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