The USTA held a “Tennis Teachers” Conference in conjunction with the U.S. Tennis Open now underway in Flushing, NY. One of the sessions, conducted by Tom Gullikson (photo), was called Teaching & Training for Modern Doubles.

Mr. Gullikson is a former professional player turned coach. As a player he won 16 doubles titles — ten of them partnering with his (now deceased) twin brother, Tim. He has captained the U.S. Davis Cup Team and coached the U.S. Men’s Olympic Tennis Team.

During today’s class, Gullikson said “the most important thing in tennis is knowing how to pick a good partner.” He said, “one of the two players has to be captain” and their “game styles and personalities” should be complimentary — one being agressive, the other laid back; one better at the net, the other with ground strokes etc. He commented on what he called the “myth” that “strength should be played down the middle.” Saying instead that doubles is a “crossward game” and “strength should be on the outside.”

Several times Gullikson mentioned the importance of communication between partners. While commenting on the two professional women players participating in the session, he said, “I like the fact they are talking.” But added, “the only time you say you’re sorry is when you miss (a shot) on purpose.”

I asked Coach Gully about ‘mental’ preparation for playing professional tennis. He said he follows the thinking of “performance” psychologist, Jim Loehr.

Photographs: Stephen Wise