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Player to Player: Staying Quiet during a Point

June 18, 2012 11:24 AM
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 Naomi:
What is the best time to eat before a big match, and what are some good things for me to eat?
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 Mike
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
If I hit a bad lob and I know the net person will put it away with ease, I often say out loud "OOOH OOOH" or "Mercy" or something else. It's just a bad habit I've developed. Most of the time, the net person successfully puts the overhead away, but on occasion will miss. It's possible my words distracted them, but when I've apologized, they say it was their miss-hit. How can I learn to keep my mouth shut?
Player Responses:
Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

Any words coming from you while your opponent is hitting a shot can be considered a hindrance or distraction. The point goes to your opponent. Hindrances from grunting was the hot topic at the recent French Open.

Here are my recommendations on kicking your habit:
1) Play matches for practice. If you sound off on a short lob, you lose the point. Make it second nature to have your partner go back as soon as you throw up your lob before it gets to your opponent's racquet.
2) Work on hitting deeper lobs. Drop the shoulder of your racquet hand and lift that lob. The finish of your follow through should be pointing the tip of your racquet to the top of the fence behind your opponent.
3) If the opponents are picking off your lobs, consider a much better alternative than warning your partner. Positioning your net person back at the baseline to start.
4) Do drills where you place your two opponents at the service line while you and your partner are at the baseline. Have them hit overheads so that you work on blocking them back. This will help reduce the fear factor.
Players resort to lobbing, hoping to push their opponents off the net. What they don't realize is that after the game plan is exposed, the other team will adjust and stay behind the service box and await for the overhead opportunity. Time to counter attack. Once your opponents fade back, it's wiser to go at their shoes and have them feed the sitters. Then they'll be saying,"Oh, oh" and "Mercy."
Terry, Fort Worth, Texas

If you really want to break the habit, then it should be no problem if you’re an adult. Just keep your mouth shut! And forfeit the point every time you cannot, regardless of the opponent’s polite refusal to accept it. On the other hand, this should not be a really big deal in recreational tennis, so just quit worrying about it.

Eric R., Northern California


What are we to do with someone's inability to control his urge to yell out something funny when his opponent is trying to hit an overhead? Waterboarding might work... or... solitary confinement... or you could walk around with a tennis sock stuffed in your mouth for the rest of the set??

The overhead smash on a sunny day with a swirling wind can be a trick proposition for many players. It is not a gimmee put.

While most good-natured social players will put up with your intrusion, it could be called as a verbal hindrance. In USTA match play, the other player may try to nail the offender with the smash. Watch out!! If you tried that funny stuff with the wrong guy, say, Nasty Nastase or Johnny McEnroe, they might chase you out of the courts.

When you get that mischievous urge again, just count to 10. Your partners and opponents will thank you.

Nancy C., Highland, Calif.

Your yelling is a hindrance to your opponent. If there was an official on the court, the point would be given to them. Saying you're sorry isn't good enough. You should give them the point, whether they ask for it or not. If you give up too many points, you will learn not to yell anymore. Your yelling distracted them just enough to miss-hit the ball. They are being nice when they tell you they just missed it.

Rosemary F., Lewisville, Texas

During a recent USTA match, my partner ran back for a baseline shot and hit a weak return lob right to the opponent at net. The opponent tried to hit the overhead slam shot but netted the ball on her side of the court. She immediately said, "Verbal let, our point," and took the point from us. My partner and I were so stunned that we didn’t raise a fuss, but we had never heard of such a thing and thought it unfair that she waited until she missed the shot to call it. We were pretty sure she wouldn’t have mentioned it if she had made the winning shot. Later, we did some research and learned that the proper way to handle a verbal distraction from an opponent while you are attempting to return the ball is to stop play (not attempt to strike the ball at all) and declare a hindrance. If you go for the shot and miss it, you have no right to retroactively declare you were bothered. Even though we feel the situation was handled incorrectly by our opponent in this match, you can bet we learned a lesson from that, and we are careful now not to talk after striking the ball. We do, however, talk to each other as the ball is headed in our direction, saying, "yours" or "mine," etc. Maybe losing a point is what it takes to learn to stop verbal habits. No one likes to lose a point.

James A.

The tendency to call out when playing, in my experience, is usually a sign that someone normally plays a very casual game. Our team practices together by playing two or three times a week, but we are far too casual. We get accustomed to saying things in the middle of points or carrying on conversations between points. It can be hard, when you are used to playing around with friends, to play seriously at other times. Try playing more seriously among your friends. If you are serious, you will not find yourself blurting out things in points very often.

If you are with friends, by the way, they will not mind the noise much, and you need not apologize (unless you are calling a noise hindrance on yourself and giving them the point). But you should try to be more serious about your game. We all miss our shots sometimes and sometimes just hit bad shots, but in a serious match, we do not tell the other person that we were wrong. We just make them hit the ball. It is amazing how often they miss.
*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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