Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez won two gold medals together, in 1992 and 1996. (Getty Images)

In doubles, understanding each other’s temperaments and respecting differences can produce successful combinations. Here are five types of polar-opposite pairings that can win together.


The leader and the follower

Two leaders is a recipe for disaster; only one player can lead at a time. When I played with Martina Navratilova, I deferred the lead to her. As I got older, it put me in an uncomfortable position: I was a natural leader, both strategically and emotionally. If you have a strong personality, take that quality seriously. Followers don’t control the emotional flow of the match like leaders do, and are happy to bring stability.

Gigi Fernandez and Martina Navratilova won one major together in 1990. (Getty Images)


The emotional and the stable

On that note, if you are an emotional player, you would be well served to find a more stable partner. Too much—or too little—emotion in tennis is a dangerous combination. I cherished Mary Joe Fernandez’s calmness during the Olympics because of the stability she provided to keep our team balanced.


The baseliner and the volleyer

Just like with the former team of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis, one player will be the setter, and the other player the finisher. It’s a lethal combo.

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza teamed up to win three Grand Slams in 2015 and 2016. (Getty Images)


The forehand and the backhand

Each player will have their preferred shot on the outside part of the court: the better forehand in the deuce court; the better backhand in the ad. It won’t be easy for your opponents to pick on weaknesses. 


The righty and the left

Mike and Bob Bryan have been the most dominant men's doubles team in history. (Getty Images)

This is the absolute ideal combination. Neither player will have to serve into the sun, and your opponents will be forced to return two different types of serves. When choosing sides, the lefty should be on the deuce side—like how Mike and Bob Bryan set up—so the forehand volleys are in the middle. This will increase your chances at poaching. 

Gigi Fernandez won 17 Grand Slams during her career, reaching No. 1 for the first time in 1991. Learn more from Fernandez at