Communication is key for tennis doubles pairs

There is nothing more important than communication for doubles teams in tennis. Communication is the gear that keeps a team running smoothly. It can also be the biggest challenge doubles pairs face on the court.

For DePaul women’s tennis doubles team Hristina Djokic and Marija Jovicic, communication has flowed smoothly from the beginning, and the pair has had four years to perfect it. Their journey together has not been easy, but those struggles only motivated them to work harder.

This season, the pair went 5-3 in doubles competition, and were named the Big East Females Doubles Team of the Week on March 10.

“We’ve been progressing our game every day, really,” Djokic said. “We were thinking of how we can do better every day to improve our tactic and finally it worked.”

Djokic and Jovicic were first paired together as a doubles team in the 2018-19 season when Djokic was a freshman and Jovicic was a sophomore.

The chemistry between the pair was instantaneous and they were victorious in their first game together, a 6-4 win over Ohio State on Nov. 2, 2018. However, their time together was short-lived when an ACL injury knocked Djokic out of that game and the rest of the season.

Djokic and Jovicic reunited in the 2019-20 season and had an immediate impact for the Blue Demons. The pair won 10 out of 11 games and won seven in a row before finishing with a record of 10-4.

“Tina and [I] have this special connection in doubles,” Jovicic said. “We played the first time and it just feels very good on the court from match to match, and it keeps getting better and we keep finding ways on how to improve our doubles, and what to do better, what to stop doing. We’re pretty good at giving feedback to each other.”

Djokic missed the entire 2020-21 season with another ACL injury. However, she and Jocivic came back together as a team this season and opened with a 4-2 win over Bradley on Jan. 21.

“Two ACL injuries was not an easy thing to go through,” Djokic said. “But here I am getting the Doubles Team of the Week, so that’s nice.”

Djokic and Jovicic have an easy-going connection that flows off the court and into their daily life. They have known each other for years, which has helped them spark their team and build their communication into what it is today.

The two can read each other’s body language and know what the other is going to do before they do it. They trust each other and the decisions they make, which is key in tight game situations where each move matters.

“They’re the type of team that you don’t have to babysit,” head coach Marie Arce said. “They know what they’re doing, they know how to get it done and they want it for themselves and for the team, so it’s nice from a coaching standpoint that they’re pretty self-sufficient.”

A big part of the communication between them is what language they speak in, which is always Serbian. For Djokic, who is from Serbia, and Jovicic, who is from Bosnia-Herzegovina, speaking in Serbian is second-nature for them and allows for them to talk in a language they’re both comfortable with.

“It’s beautiful, especially when the opponents don’t understand it,” Jovicic said. “We can just talk across the court.”

However, the pair gets annoyed when their opponents also understand the language and they are forced to change their game plan.

When it comes to doubles competitions, every factor of the game depends on the pair and their ability to communicate. For Djokic and Jovicic, their years as doubles partners may have been impacted by injuries or a pandemic, but their trust and connection has continued to grow stronger.

“It’s hard to control your emotions on the court when you’re playing singles. When you’re playing doubles, now you have two people,” Djokic said. “It’s never going to be perfect, we’re never both going to be like, ‘I’m so ready for this match,’ so we always have to find different ways of how to go around that, how to make both of us feel at the best level that we can each match.”