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 results.

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.