Finding the right partner isn’t always easy, but when everything comes together the results can be groundbreaking.
By Darren Lunny
Successful business partnerships require thorough research, excellent communication and complementary skill sets.
Forging a successful partnership on the doubles tennis court is no different. Two players - driven by a simple desire to win - join forces in pursuit of that one goal. On paper, finding the right partner might seem like a relatively straightforward thing to do. But tennis isn’t played on paper. And just like in business, the pros searching for their perfect partner are as meticulous in their research as they are in the execution of their game.
“I always looked for someone with similar goals and determinations,” reflects multiple Grand Slam champion Todd Woodbridge.
“In the case of Mark Woodforde and me, it was about winning Grand Slams. ”
Of course, it is one thing to examine the qualities of a potential partner, but quite another to make that connection on the tennis court.
With the right research and preparation, Woodbridge believes that a good partnership can be successful from the off.
“I think that if it is well planned and sought after, that connection is almost immediate. If you’ve done your due diligence you know that it will work. That was the case with both of my key partnerships – Mark Woodforde and Jonas Bjorkman. ”
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“With Mark, I was youthful and exuberant and full of fire. Mark was more ‘even’ and so could pull the team down and maintain it, while I could get the team fired up and motivated when we needed to be.
“So there was a combination of that in our personalities. And then there was the combination of the perfect left / right service combination – strategically we could cover different parts of our games.
“There was another element to choosing a different partner [Jonas Bjorkman] later in my career. I felt that I wanted someone with a bigger serve to help create some diversity – my serve being middle-of-the-road in terms of speed. I wanted a dynamic player who was a vibrant personality with a great will and determination to win.”
Woodbridge’s results speak for themselves. In a glittering career that spanned 18 years and included 23 Grand Slam titles (doubles and mixed), 83 ATP titles and an Olympic Gold medal, Woodbridge not only knows what can be achieved when the right partnership clicks, he also knows how it feels.
“It’s magic. It’s a well-oiled machine and it’s one of the most satisfying things that I’ve experienced – when you play a match that is almost perfection. You make a great return and if the partner times it right, they make a great intercept. It’s like clockwork. That comes from your perfection at the return and their timing at the net – and it works vice versa.
“In any great combination, you don’t find one player that is greedy. Both players are willing to set it up and let each other take the glory because at the end of the day, you take that glory together.”