Handling Cheating and Gamesmanship
by Alexander Claussen
You and your opponent just walked out on the court. You warm-up, and the match starts.
You start off the match with an error in the net, and a ďCímon, right here,Ē rings in your
ears. You let it go. Next point, your opponent says loudly the same phrase just as you
begin your ball toss. You double-fault.
It is one thing if your opponent is trying to pump himself up, but I donít think this
is the case. During the many years of my playing of tennis, I have encountered players
whose strategies heavily rely on this concept, gamesmanship (and cheating too). And of
all the cases I have encountered, it wasnít the actual acts of gamesmanship that won the
match, but the overreaction of the victim player.
If you are an active player, youíve probably experienced players like this many
times. Whether itís stalling, questioning every line call, or like the example presented
above, we all need to learn how to handle gamesmanship that leads to on-court
meltdowns and ultimately the match. The trick is to tame your own game and not get
caught up in your opponentís behavior. If your game begins to weaken because of
gamesmanship or cheating, try these strategies that will help you win more matches
against players who donít deserve them.
1. Focus on Now. When you begin to feel frustrated, you have to forget the points of the
past and regain your concentration. Take your time before points, and image the point
that you are about to play. Breathing before and after points will prevent you from
rushing and you may even irate |not an actual verb!| your opponent. While playing the
point, just focus on the ball and donít let anything distract you.
2. Play Longer Points. If you can get more balls in play, you will have time to build
your momentum before hitting a winning shot -- or wait for the error that your opponent
will make. More than likely, if you are frustrated with your opponent, you will feel
rushed and try to go for an amazing winner. Just wait a little bit longer and you will see
3. Donít Ask ďAre You Sure?Ē If you know your opponent is cheating, donít ask, ďAre
you sure?Ē When cheaters cheat, they choose to call balls out that are so close to the line
that they can get away with it. And if you did call a good ball out, would you like to face
the crowd and admit your lie? I donít think so. Maybe ask it once or twice to make sure
they know that you know they are cheating, but donít embarrass yourself. Instead, ask an
umpire to watch the match. Your opponent will then know you are serious.
4. Know it Goes Both Ways. Even though I wrote this article because as a junior, I was
so frustrated with all the little cheaters out there, I have probably given my share of bad
calls. You donít have to argue about every single close ball. You may be wrong, but
donít sit there without action. And donít be a jerk about it either, because it will just
make it worse. Tell your opponent directly, or try the methods I have listed above, and
you will see fewer losses to cheaters and players you have worked hard to beat.