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Player to Player: Handling Hecklers

February 27, 2012 12:22 PM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow tennis players!
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 Maryann:
When I go to the gym, I just do random exercises. Are there any specific exercises I should be doing that will help prepare me better on the court?
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

Last week's question from Lulu
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
In a recent match, I was serving a deuce point in a division finals doubles match, and a ball rolled from the adjacent court past our court and outside the fence. As we were on our second deuce and the ball was no longer on our court, we continued play. The people from the court that lost the ball kept telling us to go and retrieve their ball. We explained that we were playing a match and were back at deuce but would get it when the game ended. These men continued to heckle us and distract us through that game as well as the match. What should we have done?
Player Responses:
Kenny S., Highland Park, Ill.

If the heckling continues while you are playing, you must go and get an umpire or the tournament director. These people are immature and just being jerks. If it is not a tournament situation, you need to stand up for yourself and confront the people on their loser-like attitude. If you remain silent, it is just going to hurt your game and your mind set.

Jeff S., Deephaven, Minn.
Lulu, it was very rude of you to continue your match without retrieving their ball. If no let was called when the ball rolled across, you have the right to finish the point in progress (ball in play, or to take a second serve), but as soon as the point is completed, you must get your neighbor's balls back to their court (waiting until they complete their point or unobtrusively placing it at the back corner of their court). You cannot justify your lack of courtesy by the importance of your match. Their match is important to them, also, and everyone should work together to allow all matches to carry on as continuously as possible.
Courtesy only dictates that you do not interrupt points to retrieve or return a ball (assume a server ready to serve is in the middle of a point, unless you saw the end of the previous point and know it would be a first serve), including your opponent's first-serve fault which ended up in the next court. The neighbors should wait for your point to finish, but if you feel it necessary to retrieve the ball immediately, you must grant your opponent another first serve. 

Sally D., Pewaukee, Wisc.

Why would the players whose ball rolled outside the court demand those playing on the other court retrieve it? It should be their responsibility to retrieve their own ball. I could see the other players allowing a man to go between points through their court to get to the ball, but he should wait for the next point to conclude before returning to his court. That would be the courteous thing to do. A prolonged break in a game could change the momentum and the outcome of the game. I believe it was very discourteous of the men to taunt the other players. If there was management available, the taunted players should file a complaint.

Eric R.

AAAAAAAagghhh such a pain... Lulu, you probably met a charter member of what George Costanza used to call "The Jerk Club." Use your intuition about that sort of confrontation before choosing your response. Some people are not worth the hassle of the argument.

You clearly stated that the ball went past your court and out of the fenced area. Since play was also interrupted to converse with those guys, either party was entitled to call a let with two serves. Since they refused to be quiet after your polite and appropriate request for them to wait, just let them fetch it. It was no longer on your court and is not your problem. "Please go around. We are playing a match." Then you have to do your best to give them "the silent treatment."
These verbal bullies sound like they enjoyed getting things into a heated back and forth. Just ignore them, unless they are identified with a club or league where you could talk to a supervisor or manager.

Linda, Stroudsburg, Pa.

They should wait till your game is over; then they go get their ball. They should not have talked to you!

Jake, Clearwater, Fla.

I would like to think that if I was on that adjacent court, one of us would have quietly retrieved the ball ourselves rather than bother you further, if possible. If not, we would have gone ahead and played with two balls until you retrieved our third one. No big deal.

There was no excuse for their heckling -- totally unsportsmanlike and childish. Considering that it persisted beyond the immediate incident and that you were playing an important match, you would have been justified in seeking out a tournament official and requesting intervention.

Rick C., Little Rock, Ark.

Even if you are in the middle of a game, it has been my experience and practice to stop, retrieve the ball to the court that lost it and then finish your game. It is common tennis courtesy to do this. So the reason you "stirred the pot" with those other players is that the selfish stance you took bothered them. In what -- 30 seconds, you could have had the ball back to them, and they would have been grateful instead of resentful.

This is a gentleman’s and lady’s game. Think of your fellow players first. You will make friends instead of enemies. Just my opinion, after 30 years of team and club tennis.

Tony S., Haddonfield

Lulu, it might have been to your advantage to retrieve the ball and use that interruption as a chance to regroup mentally, depending, of course, on the difficulty in fetching the errant ball. On the other hand, given the situation, you just had to endure the outrageous behavior of these unthinking mutants and play your game.
But certainly you, your teammates and opponents should have lodged a serious complaint to the tournament director and the site manager. It does put a blight on the tournament and the site's reputation and should be addressed and dealt with. I know of a similar occurrence where the culprits were invited to play elsewhere. 

Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

This could have been resolved earlier, before tempers started flaring. After the ball has passed, the ball could have been given between points. I realize that you were focused on the outcome of your game. Remember to always be a good neighbor. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. You are in your division final. You lose a ball to the next court. Here are scenerios that need to be considered...
1) You only had two tennis balls. A big inconvenience playing with one.
2) Superstition, 1st option - Always wants all three balls.
3) Superstition, 2nd option - Ace ball or winner ball, so always want it back.
Anyway, so imagine that your ball went on their court. They tell you, "You'll get it after this game. This is a final." You watch the long rallies and multiple deuces. How do you feel? First you have a wait time. And basically you were just told that you're not as important as they are. Breathe. Thank goodness it was the other way around. If the ball was out of sight, let them try to find it or help. Neighbors, right? If one player from the next court slipped and fell, what would you do? Tell him to get off your court because you're in a final, or ask if he's OK? Maybe it may have gotten heated a bit too quick. Just remember, approach heat by being cool. If it's after the game, get the ball for them and apologize. Perhaps it will deter the heckling next time.
I explain tennis to my teams as 90 percent mental. Unfortunately, it sometimes can be 10 percent temper. In other words, temperamental.
*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.
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.


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