Two months before the spring season, Vineet Naran doesn’t know who his doubles partner will be.
When January comes around and the men’s tennis team begins competition again, the senior still might not know.
Naran’s doubles partner last season was Hicham Belkssir, who graduated last spring. Together, Naran and Belkssir posted a 12-8 record.
Naran has played 75 doubles matches during his Temple career, with eight different partners and anticipates playing with a ninth this spring.
“I’ve played a little bit with the other senior, Filip Stipcic,” Naran said. “But we’re getting some new players in January, so I think we’ll wait until then to see how everyone fits together.”
Naran and Stipcic have only played two matches together in their careers. The duo won both. Stipcic is the only remaining rostered player with whom Naran has played doubles.
“When you’re playing with someone you really know well, it’s usually better,” Naran said. “There’s a bunch of examples of when I’m playing with someone I know well, I know where he’s going to go with his shots and I can move accordingly on the court. Doubles is a team sport.”
Choosing doubles partners is just one of the many decisions coach Steve Mauro is used to making at this point in his career.
College tennis matches are made up of six singles and three doubles matches. Teams receive one point for every singles win, and one point for winning two out of three doubles matches. The first team to four points wins the match. This means that there are 12 starting roles to fill.
Entering his 12th season as coach, Mauro tries to find pairs that will work well together and give the team its best chance at winning.
Mauro said he has to find someone to play at the baseline to complement Naran’s aggressive play at the net.
“When I pick doubles teams, it’s also about personalities,” Mauro said. “I try and find guys who will push one another. It has a combination of personalities and playing style, so I’m still really not sure what it’s going to be for January.”
Mauro said he’s waiting until January because he might not know what kind of players he has until then.
Last year, sophomore Florian Mayer joined the team just for the spring season.
“In tennis, your season doesn’t start until January and even a lot of the coaches I know around the country are bringing in new players [in January],” Mauro said. “So it’s pretty common in college tennis.”
It also helps to wait because some players are inexperienced when it comes to playing doubles.
The doubles format isn’t popular among young tennis players in the United States, Mauro said. Recruits usually come to Temple after playing only in individual tournaments like the Owls competed in this fall.
“A lot of American kids especially don’t play a lot of doubles, it isn’t offered at a lot of tournaments so it’s basically singles play,” Mauro said. “It takes usually a couple of years for players to get used to playing doubles at this level, so we try to do a lot of drills to get guys used it.”
Dan Wilson can be reached at email@example.com.