Steadfast collegiate tennis players revel in the team component that defines the college game, and there is no better avenue for this selfless and collaborative team spirit than dual-match doubles play.
“The doubles point exemplifies the very core of what it is to play team tennis in college,” explained senior co-captain and doubles specialist Chris Camillone. “Even if there is one really good doubles team, you can’t really risk that at the expense of the other two spots because you need all three to be competitive when you play for that one point.”
Three doubles matches are played, and a team needs to win two to secure the lone doubles point. Doubles lineups must be balanced and strong across all three courts for the best chance at team success.
Head coach Michael Center’s demonstrated value of the importance of developing strong doubles players and pairs throughout his 12-plus seasons at Texas has already left its mark on the program. Center’s current roster boasts an impressive collective 358-177 (.669) career doubles record (through mid-April), and two All-Big 12 doubles players in Camillone and junior David Holiner. Additionally, Center has coached eight of the 11 Big 12 Doubles Champions in program history. This year, Center has played 28 different doubles combinations overall, and 19 during the spring dual-match season – the most combinations during his tenure.
“You want to find two guys that will complement each other in terms of style and athleticism,” said Center.
In addition to pairing players based on their physical attributes and style of play, the coaching combination of Center and associate head coach Ricardo Rubio must have a pulse on the different personalities and relationships on their team.
“Knowing the personalities is a big key to the pairings. It’s up to the partner to always encourage the other guy. If one guy is always doing the encouraging and not getting any feedback, the communication can break down and be detrimental to doubles,” explained Center.
The heightened level of energy that characterizes doubles play is also attractive to many of the players, including senior co-captain and doubles veteran Ben Chen.
“You like to look across the courts and see everybody getting fired up and playing hard,” said Chen. “It’s very fast-paced. What Coach says is true – whoever is ready to take the doubles point and go after each point and has the most energy is an indicator of who is going to win that match.”
As the tennis team heads into the second half of conference play, with Big 12 and NCAA tournament play looming in the near future, Center will continue to tweak his doubles lineups to put the team in the best position for competitive doubles play.
“You just have to have an intuition and see it; see their tendencies and see what’s going on,” explained Center. “We’re continuing to work on that, we’ll continue to put some different combinations out there and keep working on it until it sticks.”
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