I hope this isn’t too self indulgent but here we go. I played 8.0 mixed a few years ago. While not a dominant 4.5, I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle – don’t get bumped up, don’t get bumped down. For my first match I was paired with a short 3.5 woman against two pretty good 4.0s. We were beaten soundly. The first set I couldn’t serve and volley like I’m used to doing because every time I approached the net my partner got lobbed. I stayed back to get in groundstroke rallies, surely I can win those exchanges. And I did, until someone ripped one at my partner. And that was when I actually go to hit a ball, which wasn’t often. In the second set I decided I needed to make more of my meager opportunities. My partner was playing to her ability, I needed to do more. Hit a few winners, forced a few errors, but as the need to win the point every time I touched the ball increased, well, I ended up making more errors trying to hit shots I wasn’t as comfortable with.
I didn’t go winless. There are some bad teams out there. But it was clear that my style of doubles didn’t work well in mixed. It was also clear that I wasn’t used to carrying a partner that was a lot lower than me. And the keep-away aspect of mixed drove me nuts. I hesitate to say I wasn’t good enough, but I clearly wasn’t good enough at whatever mixed was. And that was my final take away – whatever mixed was. It wasn’t men’s tennis, it wasn’t women’s tennis. It was closer to a whole different sport.
Spoke to my captain after the match. Yeah, he told me, it took a few seasons for me to get used to it myself. Huh? A few seasons? According to him, you have to be able to change your shot selection, your position on the court, and several hundred other things when you’re playing with a 3.5 woman instead of a 4.5 man. I suppose the same could be said for 7.0 mixed when it’s a 4.0 man and a 3.5 woman. So the short term advice I got was that I needed to play about 75% of the court and be ready to cover everything.
After a couple of wins I thought I had figured something out. The next match my partner thought she should be covering 75% of the court as well. You could say we had great court coverage with both of us trying to play most of the court, but it didn’t really work out that well. After nearly running into each other for a mid-court ball I suggested that it might be best for me to hit that ball next time. She suggested that it was her forehand and (barely) was on her side of the court – and that she had come out to play just like I had. Supposed I can’t fault her for that.
I don’t know what the answer is and, luckily, at this point I don’t care. I STILL HATE MIXED.