Mixed doubles will be played at the Olympics for the first time since 1924. Here are some tips for amateurs on how to play mixed doubles from Boris Becker, Martina Hingis and former Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Jamie Murray.
When Jamie Murray has the chance, he hits the ball at the girl. “Saying that, I’ve never been in a match where a guy has intentionally smashed the ball at the girl. Although once, at a tournament in America, I hit a drive-volley and accidentally hit my opponent full on in the chest. She was down for a bit.”
Martina Hingis says that women should not expect the men to hold back. “The men play aggressively towards the women, they don’t hold back. There is no question of them doing that. Maybe a few years ago the men used to hold back when serving to the woman, or when hitting a groundstroke or volley, but they certainly don’t do that anymore. They serve at 100 per cent to the women, they hit all the shots at 100 per cent, so there’s no distinction between hitting a shot at a man or a woman. Men will hit the ball straight at a woman. So women have to be ready.”
Boris Becker said that the issue of whether to hit the woman made him extremely uncomfortable; men. decide before going on the mixed doubles court how much of a gentleman you want to be. “I couldn’t hit the woman when she was at net,” he said. “The woman would always hit the ball hard at me, though. My partner would say, ‘Go on, Boris, hit it, hit the ball at the woman’, but I just couldn’t do it. Was I too much of a gentleman? I don’t know. I was usually the worst player on the court.”
Hingis said that the woman’s main role is to get the ball into play – whether that’s a serve or return or serve – and that the man should then do the rest. “The main strategy for the woman is to get the first serve in or to get the return back, and your partner should do the rest. If you’re fortunate your partner can do that after a second serve, too. I would say that the pressure is on the man – the man is probably key to who wins the match, and the woman has to be steady and good at getting the ball back into court. I used to prefer the hard, straight serve to the kick serve because I didn’t like the high bounce of the kick serve and it was hard to control. With the hard serve, you just block the ball and you have more control.”