Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.
Player to Player:
This week's question from Maureen:
I recently played a match where my opponent would hold two balls in her hand while serving. Once the first serve was in play, she would throw the second ball from her hand towards the back fence. I asked her not to do this, as it was a distraction, but she insisted it was allowed as long as she threw the ball behind the base line. Who is right?
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
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Last week's question from Richard
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
What do you suggest is the best way to handle opponents who deliberately make multiple bad line calls to win at all costs? The temptation is to do the same to them, but there must be a better way. Any suggestions?
Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.
Deliberate bad line calling unfortunately is not a lost art. We all hope that everyone plays the game with honesty and good sportsmanship. Those who resort to using bad calls are ones who find that they can't win on skill alone. Here is my procedure in this type of situation:
- Try the guilt angle. Right after the call, I ask questions in this order... "Are you sure?" "Positive?" "Where did you see it hit?" "Do you want to win that badly?" "Should I get a linesman now or wait for the next one?" Ask the opponent's partner,"Do you agree?" They may grow tired of this and avoid the verbiage.
- If this is a USTA match, stop play and have the captain get a linesman.
- If this is a USTA tournament, have the director get the referee.
Making bad calls are intended to not only win points but to get you to lose focus. Stay calm. I ask these questions in a relaxed manner. Often they will reply back angrily and load. Even making bad calls won't help someone if they are shaken and upset.
Tennis is a sport of a lifetime. Playing never gets old. Bad line calls do.
Keith H., Melbourne, Fla.
If it is tournament play, call for an official.
If it is league play, have the captains appoint a linesperson or linespersons from each team to officiate the match. Note: In college, we had a player who was well known for hooking (making bad line calls). The opposing coaches used to tell our coach they wanted linespeople from the beginning of the match.
If it is recreational play, stop playing with them. If enough people do that, the person will realize that type of behavior will not be tolerated. If you continue to play with them, you are enabling their bad behavior.
Erin S., Tacoma, Wash.
If you are playing a social match and feel repeatedly pickpocketed by your opponent's bad line calls (intentional or otherwise), you should end your misery – the game is supposed to be fun! Approach the net, extend your hand, announce that you are retiring from the match, and congratulate your opponent on winning. You need not offer any reason, other than that you prefer not to continue play. Walk away and never play them again. If the bad line calls were intentional, the message will come through loud and clear. A player who intentionally makes incorrect line calls is not a worthy opponent, and it does the entire game of tennis a huge disservice to grant them any further court time.
I would not lower myself to arguing about their integrity. Life is too short, and you run the risk of falsely accusing someone of poor sportsmanship. Bad line calls are not always intentional. Some of the most honorable players I know are just horrible at making close line calls. They do not see the blur well enough to call it fairly. Plus, it seems some players simply cannot understand that a ball that is 'mostly out' is also 'partly in' and should be called good.
If you know your opponent isn't a great line caller but you enjoy playing with him anyway, then focus on the quality of the hitting, and don't worry about the scoring. Give your ego the day off; it might be refreshing. You can keep the 'real score' in your own mind, if you need the technical satisfaction of a win.
If you are playing in a sanctioned match setting, I think it is a whole different deal. You have to stand your ground, if only to remain a force on the court psychologically. Maybe give the opponent the benefit of the doubt once, question the call and ask for (demand) a let the second time it happens, and next time, stop play and ask the officials for a linesperson. You will be letting your opponent know that you came to play – and win.
Jim, Roswell, Ga.
"When the point is real important, never aim closer than one foot from the lines." There is a lot of room on the court to win points. If you are getting bad line calls, you are hitting the ball especially close to the lines. That is not necessary.
In doubles, one of the best shots is right up the middle – it never gets called out. In net fights, go right at the opponent. If it hits them or their racquet, those do not get called out, either.
Finally do not go for the "extra-clean winner." If it is too good, they will not try for it and may call it out. If it is a bit less good, they will spend the energy to try for it – hopefully get their racquet on it, still miss – and it never gets called out. You still get the point. There is less risk and more reward because, besides the point, you also get energy used up and an "error" besides – all of which serve to wear down the opponent.
Ken S., Chicago
If it is a tournament and the player keeps making bad calls to win, then you have to get an umpire after maybe two or three calls. Don't go for revenge. It just isn't right making calls that are bad to get back at your opponent. If it is a match in a group or two people meeting up, then you have a problem and might need to ask the opponent if they wear glasses normally.
On a hard court, if the ball is hit hard enough or with a lot of spin, there should be a small mark. If you choose not to leave, you might want to put in a little game theory. Say "thanks" when they give you a close call. When they give a bad call, just chill. When they give a second bad call, you must question them and also maybe the next call that is close to you that is out.
It is a tough place to be in when it is a match without any umpires or people around to help.
Sabrina, Buffalo, N.Y.
Omg, are you sure? Comes to mind when bad line calls are made by your opponent, especially during tournaments. It is often extremely frustrating, especially when you know you are in the 'zone' and hitting your shots within three inches of the lines with few errors and playing your best. Then, boom! A bad line call is made by opponents who are losing badly and unable to bring their game to the next level.
In my case, opponents have taken whole games away, claiming that they won the game when they didn't. At that point, I seek an official or tennis director. I encounter this type of "bad tennis" 95 percent of the time I play in tournaments. Emotions are high and opponents are behaving badly, and you can witness their confidence and game fall apart right before your eyes due to their dishonesty.
The 'best' tennis player always wins! Asking for assistance from an official usually resolves the immediate problem, but, long-term, a less-prepared player will remain a bad line caller at all costs.
Dianne S., Vero Beach, Fla.
If one of your doubles opponents seems to be making bad calls, try asking her partner, "What did you see?" She may back up her partner once, but it usually puts a halt to future bad calls.
It is always difficult to deal with a situation like this. I still have a hard time with it. Usually they are trying to get under your nerves and cause you to play worse.
You can always diplomatically ask them to show you the mark where they felt the ball had landed. If this is a USTA tournament, district playoff or sectionals, then you have the option of getting an official on the court to help with line calls. If it is a regular USTA league match and the situation is getting out of control, you can ask your captain to address the issue.
Try to stay as calm and patient as possible. Most of the time, this person will realize that they are unable to get to you, and they stop.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
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