One of the many problems of aging athletes is the simple inability to move as quickly as they did in their physical prime. Many tennis players respond to the ravages of time by trying to play more doubles. But the challenge of switching to doubles is the difficulty of organizing four players of remotely equal abilities at just the time when a court is available.
Diogenes believes that the ultimate solution to this problem is a new format that is easier for old bodies to play. Called One-on-One Doubles®, also known as Ghost Doubles, the game’s rules were developed and trademarked by former Harvard Women’s Coach Ed Krass, who is also a USTA High Performance Coach, and the Director of College Tennis Exposure Camps.
1-0n-1 Doubles Tennis is the first alternative, competitive format to singles and doubles since the inception of the game in the 1870s. 1-0n-1 Doubles Tennis is a half-court, serve-and-volley singles competition played on a doubles court. 1-on-1 Doubles Tennis can be played in both tournament and league format.
The half-court, serve-and-volley singles game played on the doubles court is strictly a cross court competition with new game dimensions. There is a divisible line drawn through the middle of the court from the center service line to the middle of the baseline. On clay, one can use a regular court liner to make this divisible line through the middle (informally players can just scrape a line with the edge of their shoe). On hard courts, one can use chalk or white athletic/trainers’ tape to mark off the middle line (or informally, just pretend the line is there). All points are played cross court with the alley included. All players must serve and volley on both first and second serves. Half-volleys are permitted. The returner can stay back or come into the net.
In singles a player must defend a space 27 feet wide by 39 feet deep; a total area of 1053 square feet. In one on one doubles, a player defends a space of 18 feet by 39 feet; a total area of 702 SF, 1/3 less than in singles. This means that 3 steps gets to any ball instead of the four it often takes in singles.
Speed and power advantages of younger players are blunted, allowing older players to compete more evenly with youngsters. The angles are better too. It is harder to hit winners through the court so placement is more critical than pace.
The 1-0n-1 format forces players to hit to a specific target, and to focus on how to “not miss”. One is always required to hit a cross court shot over the lower part of the net, which is what most players should do on about 90% of ground strokes but probably only do 60% of the time. Hitting up the line, or straight through the court requires crossing your ball over the higher part of the net and bringing it down in a shorter distance than hitting cross court. As a result, even on the ATP tour, where all the competitors have exquisite skills, about 80% of ground stroke errors occur when a player chooses to change direction and NOT hit cross court.
The 1-0n-1 game provides a competitive format of play combining both singles and doubles skills all within one game. It places a premium on hand and racquet skills that can be improved at any age. Because winners are very hard to hit, the rallies tend to be longer, yielding play that is higher intensity with lower impact on older bodies. Many players who want to play on consecutive days (weekends) are more easily able to do so without pain. Did I mention that One-0n-One Doubles is also great fun? The points are quick and more varied than in singles, with both players often ending at the net with smiles on their faces.