Bringing out the worst in opponents

leech

Semi-Pro
I've only played organized tennis (USTA leagues and local ladder) since August 2011, but I've already seen a lifetime's worth of boorish/childish/unsportsmanlike conduct from my opponents. Four separate incidents, in varying degrees of outlandishness, are described below.

(1) This is the most benign of the four, but my first glimpse at what frustration can do. I joined a local tennis ladder and challenged an older gentleman (guessing 55; I am 40). I was beating him handily the first set, and was taken aback by his antics. He would routinely make verbal outbursts (directed at himself), and 3-4 times he would punctuate his tirade by smacking his racquet into the fence. I thought it was a little weird that a grown man would not be able to keep his cool, and made a mental note not to play him again if I didn't have to.

(2) I then joined a USTA Flex League (3.5) to get more singles match play in last all. Met and played with six friendly, cordial opponents, but there was one opponent that was ridiculous with his behavior. He was also older, probably in his late 50s. He fell behind early, and I kid you not, in the SECOND game of the first set, he threw his racquet into the fence out of frustration. He threw his racquet into the fence or net about ten times that match, along with a steady stream of F-bombs. We were playing at a local HS, so there were kids around and also another couple playing tennis two courts over. Twice, after losing a point, he smacked the ball down to the other other end of the courts, where the couple was playing. (He did track down the balls each time, to his credit.) At one point, during a changeover, my smart-Alec self told him I bet I could guess who his favorite tennis player was growing up (obviously alluding to McEnroe; he didn't seem to get what I was driving at, and responded that it was either Federer or Nadal).

(3) This spring, I joined a men's doubles league at the tennis club my family joined. It was a friendly league; we didn't even keep track of sets over the season like we were supposed to. But one member blew up big time (after losing a set to me and my partner). He threw his racquet over the back curtain. He evidently did not cool down, because during the next set (not vs. me), he spazzed out when a kid (early 20s, maybe 160 pounds) crossed through the court during a stoppage in play. The maniac (late 40s, 250 pounds) threw his racquet at the kid, barely missing him, then followed up by pushing the kid down into the Gatorade bucket adjacent to the court. [Haven't seen the maniac since; heard he terminated his membership at the club.]

(4) Last week, I played a singles match for my 3.5 men's USTA league team. My opponent looked to be in his late 20s or early 30s and had much better strokes than me. But his nerves must have gotten to him, because he kept shanking balls and lost the first set 6-0 to me. He kept up a steady stream of F-bombs and other "motivational" words to himself, and threw his racquet a few times during the match. His captain was watching, and offered me an apology after the match (which I won, even after he pulled ahead 5-3 in the second set). Truthfully, I replied that it didn't bother me (I want them flustered and off their game). But just find it weird that there are so many folks playing tennis with no ability to moderate their emotions.

Do I have some sort of Dennis Rodman-like ability to bring out the worst in my opponents, or is this type of behavior par for the course?
 
Do I have some sort of Dennis Rodman-like ability to bring out the worst in my opponents, or is this type of behavior par for the course?
Unfortunate but don't blame yourself, that's what happens when the inmates are running the asylum. Best thing you can do is not engage them. To paraphrase Dr. Allen Fox, tennis is a game we are not emotionally evolved to deal with--some more than others, as you're finding out. It sounds like you dealt with the situations as well as can be expected, don't let the *******s get you down.
 

leech

Semi-Pro
Unfortunate but don't blame yourself, that's what happens when the inmates are running the asylum. Best thing you can do is not engage them. To paraphrase Dr. Allen Fox, tennis is a game we are not emotionally evolved to deal with--some more than others, as you're finding out. It sounds like you dealt with the situations as well as can be expected, don't let the *******s get you down.
Thanks. With the exception of the first match (when I did let it affect me and my opponent was able to get back in the match and ultimately win in a third set tie-break), I was able to ignore their antics.

I play a lot of poker, and know the importance of tilt control. Surprised the veteran tennis players do not have more self-control.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
Nope, this is just the Adult Little League Syndrome...

I've only played organized tennis (USTA leagues and local ladder) since August 2011, but I've already seen a lifetime's worth of boorish/childish/unsportsmanlike conduct from my opponents. Four separate incidents, in varying degrees of outlandishness, are described below.

(1) This is the most benign of the four, but my first glimpse at what frustration can do. I joined a local tennis ladder and challenged an older gentleman (guessing 55; I am 40). I was beating him handily the first set, and was taken aback by his antics. He would routinely make verbal outbursts (directed at himself), and 3-4 times he would punctuate his tirade by smacking his racquet into the fence. I thought it was a little weird that a grown man would not be able to keep his cool, and made a mental note not to play him again if I didn't have to.

(2) I then joined a USTA Flex League (3.5) to get more singles match play in last all. Met and played with six friendly, cordial opponents, but there was one opponent that was ridiculous with his behavior. He was also older, probably in his late 50s. He fell behind early, and I kid you not, in the SECOND game of the first set, he threw his racquet into the fence out of frustration. He threw his racquet into the fence or net about ten times that match, along with a steady stream of F-bombs. We were playing at a local HS, so there were kids around and also another couple playing tennis two courts over. Twice, after losing a point, he smacked the ball down to the other other end of the courts, where the couple was playing. (He did track down the balls each time, to his credit.) At one point, during a changeover, my smart-Alec self told him I bet I could guess who his favorite tennis player was growing up (obviously alluding to McEnroe; he didn't seem to get what I was driving at, and responded that it was either Federer or Nadal).

(3) This spring, I joined a men's doubles league at the tennis club my family joined. It was a friendly league; we didn't even keep track of sets over the season like we were supposed to. But one member blew up big time (after losing a set to me and my partner). He threw his racquet over the back curtain. He evidently did not cool down, because during the next set (not vs. me), he spazzed out when a kid (early 20s, maybe 160 pounds) crossed through the court during a stoppage in play. The maniac (late 40s, 250 pounds) threw his racquet at the kid, barely missing him, then followed up by pushing the kid down into the Gatorade bucket adjacent to the court. [Haven't seen the maniac since; heard he terminated his membership at the club.]

(4) Last week, I played a singles match for my 3.5 men's USTA league team. My opponent looked to be in his late 20s or early 30s and had much better strokes than me. But his nerves must have gotten to him, because he kept shanking balls and lost the first set 6-0 to me. He kept up a steady stream of F-bombs and other "motivational" words to himself, and threw his racquet a few times during the match. His captain was watching, and offered me an apology after the match (which I won, even after he pulled ahead 5-3 in the second set). Truthfully, I replied that it didn't bother me (I want them flustered and off their game). But just find it weird that there are so many folks playing tennis with no ability to moderate their emotions.

Do I have some sort of Dennis Rodman-like ability to bring out the worst in my opponents, or is this type of behavior par for the course?
...not exclusive to NTRP, but there sure seem to be a bunch of them in your local leagues...
 

mikeler

Moderator
Thanks. With the exception of the first match (when I did let it affect me and my opponent was able to get back in the match and ultimately win in a third set tie-break), I was able to ignore their antics.

I play a lot of poker, and know the importance of tilt control. Surprised the veteran tennis players do not have more self-control.

Most folks use tennis as their stress relief outlet. Expect to see some incredibly juvenile behavior from people regardless of age.
 

North

Professional
Par for the course. I sometimes come across people like you described. Sounds like you kept your cool. When people do the stuff you described, or engage in any gamesmanship at all, I just get a mental image of a toddler having a tantrum or the cartoon character Yosemite Sam stomping his feet and blustering around the court lol. Makes me just laugh at anyone who resorts to gamesmanship and such.
 

leech

Semi-Pro
Sounds like you're a pusher. LOL.
LOL, I may be guilty as charged, at times. (However, one of the flare-ups came after I was coming to net and ending points that way.) I certainly don't look the prettiest during warmups, and my opponents are probably pissed they're losing to an inferior player.
 

galain

Hall of Fame
You know - it took me a long time to realise that your personality doesn't necessarily change as you get older (I guess I needed to get older to work that out!).

The people who couldn't hack it or were poor sports when they were young are generally not going to magically become enlightened beings once they hit their 40's. I had a guy just last week walk off court "to get a drink" when he was match point down.

You can only grin and shake your head sometimes.
 

r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
I used to see this McEnroe kid show emotion on the court too. People seemed to pretty much tolerate it because he was good / won a lot.

Take home lesson: If you lose and show emotion, you are a fool. If you win and show emotion, then you know how to use emotion to fire you up. So just make damn sure you win and you can do pretty much anything you want. All actions are ultimately judged by outcome only.

End justifies the means; anything not resulting in a positive outcome (in this case a win) is bad; anything resulting in a positive outcome (a win) is good.
 
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OrangePower

Legend
I think there's a difference between anger/frustration directed at oneself, and anger/frustration directed at others.

In your examples 1, 2 and 4, seems it was self-directed. I'm not condoning that kind of behavior, especially swearing aloud when there are kids around, but some people are hard on themselves.

Example 3 is different and the worst in my eyes, because there was anger directed at another person (the kid crossing the court). That is inexcusable.
 

PowerPlay

Rookie
I have been on both sides of this coin. I am the "self talker" - when I get frustrated I give myself sermons on the court. I am sure my opponent thinks I am crazed, but it's not directed toward anyone and it's obvious that I am just talking quietly to myself. I think that everyone is prone to this type of reaction at some point in their tennis career when things are going south in a match...the problem arises when the self-sermons go a step further and become directed towards others. That is crossing the line. I always try to remember that we tennis players love the game so much and want to play so well, that we let our passion for the sport elevate our emotions to another level beyond our normal selves. If I play someone that gets frustrated and behaves poorly, I certainly don't revel in his misery...but I am also not shy in telling him to keep cool if his behavior is a hindrance to me. I find that once you bring it to their attention that they tend to snap out of it and realize that being a jackass is not worth the stress...(I realize that one day I will probably have a racquet thrown at me when I do this...)
 

jdubbs

Hall of Fame
I used to get sooo mad on the court, mostly due to ego. Now that ive taken so many beatings, and play a lot better, i control it bett tahn i used to. But if im having a tough day where i just cant hit the ball at all, orni double fault all the time, i still yell, but no throwing rackets.
I'm working on it and much better compared to many of my opponents. One even smashed his racket into a million pieces after i thrashed him.
 

Fuji

Legend
People are hilarious. I've never had any type of outburst while playing. Tennis is all about keeping calm for me. Getting upset ruins my game, so why would I bother getting upset over something that really doesn't matter in the big picture? Lose a game and get upset? It doesn't seem like the most mature response to me at least! :razz:

-Fuji
 

leech

Semi-Pro
I certainly am not surprised by the self-directed, motivational language, but acting out beyond that is kind of pathetic, IMO. Throwing racquets or smashing balls out of the court when things aren't going your way is going overboard. The peeps I play are way too hard on themselves; they may need to realize that we aren't that good (we are playing 3.5 level tennis), and the likelihood of us achieving more than incremental improvement is slim at this stage in our athletic life.
 

jdubbs

Hall of Fame
I get maddest at crafty dropshotters, if they go to it all the time and i miss the shot. I hate playing guys like that and get mad when i play them. That being said, i dont see too many of them, but have one friend who loves it. It makes me angry to hit the ball off a dropshot and then get passed while at net...
Until i finally handled pushers, they made me mad too.
Now that i play better players, i dont get as mad!
 

Joehax

New User
Sounds like you're a pusher. LOL.
I was going to say the same thing!

I try to keep my emotions in check, but sometimes I can't help air some frustration when I'm losing to someone I perceive as being a weaker player but beating me (though I am actually the weaker player in this situation).

I don't mind losing when I'm being outplayed, I accept there are always going to be people better than me.

Losing to people who dink the ball over, have a patty-cake serve and use all sorts of crazy, unorthodox swings really gets under my skin for some reason..:oops:
 

Mick

Legend
one time i played doubles and the other doubles team almost got into a fight. both of them were chronic complainers and one guy hit a short lob allowing our team to put away the ball. The guy who hit the short lob then complained to his doubles partner for not returning that smash. His partner (a much bigger guy) got so mad that he was ready to let his doubles partner have it but we broke up the fight in time :)
 

blip

Rookie
During a tight doubles playoff match, I and the opponents got into it. It was a very close match to make it to the next round. From the opponents end the calls got worse and worse. I called them out on a few which made them even more mad. I remember hitting a hard forehand just long, and was mad at myself and let out a NOOOOOOOO after he called it out. The opponent then stopped and started yelling something. I yelled back that the No was directed at myself and he was still hot. So once he finished, I asked him if he wanted to play tennis or do something else. He finally calmed down and we continued to play very quietly. LOL. Not much later in the match, his partner lost his forehand and was getting real frustrated as I continued to pound it. After hitting a hard approach to him he missed the shot and it landed far into the other court. It was a close point so I let out a YES! As I turned around to go high five my partner I see a racket come flying over the net, not close to me and into the fence. I see the racket look at my partner and ask out loud. Was that thrown at me? He said no so I continued to the backof the baseline then turned around to calm myself down. THe opponent apologized as he said he was throwing it into the net but got away from him. LOL.

We won that match to go to the next round where we lost a close one.

Ahh the fun of competetive tennis.
 
D

decades

Guest
as a pusher who coaxes the last ounce of frustration out of your opponents, consider yourself lucky you made it out these matches in one piece.
 

leech

Semi-Pro
as a pusher who coaxes the last ounce of frustration out of your opponents, consider yourself lucky you made it out these matches in one piece.
?? Seriously?? I'm not certain I agree I'm a pusher, but even assuming that I am, I'm lucky I'm not physically harmed?

I'm trying to win a match and have fun.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
You win the prize...

one time i played doubles and the other doubles team almost got into a fight. both of them were chronic complainers and one guy hit a short lob allowing our team to put away the ball. The guy who hit the short lob then complained to his doubles partner for not returning that smash. His partner (a much bigger guy) got so mad that he was ready to let his doubles partner have it but we broke up the fight in time :)
...we've got a number of juicy stories in this thread with opposing teams getting ready to throw hands, but this is the first I've heard of partners almost duking it out. Why did you break it up? Just kidding, but I think it would have been hysterical if the big guy had punched his partner's lights out and you won the match because they weren't able to continue...
 

oragne lovre

New User
People are hilarious. I've never had any type of outburst while playing. Tennis is all about keeping calm for me. Getting upset ruins my game, so why would I bother getting upset over something that really doesn't matter in the big picture? Lose a game and get upset? It doesn't seem like the most mature response to me at least! :razz:

-Fuji
Couldn't agree more.
One of reasons that keeps me going back to tennis court is to train my mind to be calm. I find tennis game extremely helpful in teaching myself to stay composed under stress or frustration, which occurs in everyone's daily activities. I love challenging myself to find the best solutions to tough tasks while under tremendous pressure. And tennis just fits in.
 

rdis10093

Hall of Fame
yeah, I only had one bad outburst in my tennis life. said a nast thing, and then went gonzo on the racquet. After that I never did it again, because I can't aford to kill racquets.
 

mikeler

Moderator
There was an incident down at my club a few years ago in a dubs match where one guy got pissed and threw his racket aiming for the net, but it went over and broke the guy's hand on the other side.
 

J_R_B

Hall of Fame
I have been on both sides of this coin. I am the "self talker" - when I get frustrated I give myself sermons on the court. I am sure my opponent thinks I am crazed, but it's not directed toward anyone and it's obvious that I am just talking quietly to myself. I think that everyone is prone to this type of reaction at some point in their tennis career when things are going south in a match...the problem arises when the self-sermons go a step further and become directed towards others. That is crossing the line. I always try to remember that we tennis players love the game so much and want to play so well, that we let our passion for the sport elevate our emotions to another level beyond our normal selves. If I play someone that gets frustrated and behaves poorly, I certainly don't revel in his misery...but I am also not shy in telling him to keep cool if his behavior is a hindrance to me. I find that once you bring it to their attention that they tend to snap out of it and realize that being a jackass is not worth the stress...(I realize that one day I will probably have a racquet thrown at me when I do this...)
I've been a self-talker for years. While if it's not directed at anyone else (as you say) there's really no harm, in the last year, I've made an effort to stop for a couple reasons. First, it projects weakness. I played a guy who was yelling at himself nearly the whole match, and it gave me confidence to see him berating himself. Second, I find I play better if I play more relaxed and not hyper-critical of everything I do. If I just relax and swing, I can get in a groove. If I start with the self-analysis and self-loathing, then I get tight and make more mistakes.

I used to throw racquets in high school. That I have grown out of.
 

ATP100

Professional
I've only played organized tennis (USTA leagues and local ladder) since August 2011, but I've already seen a lifetime's worth of boorish/childish/unsportsmanlike conduct from my opponents. Four separate incidents, in varying degrees of outlandishness, are described below.

(1) This is the most benign of the four, but my first glimpse at what frustration can do. I joined a local tennis ladder and challenged an older gentleman (guessing 55; I am 40). I was beating him handily the first set, and was taken aback by his antics. He would routinely make verbal outbursts (directed at himself), and 3-4 times he would punctuate his tirade by smacking his racquet into the fence. I thought it was a little weird that a grown man would not be able to keep his cool, and made a mental note not to play him again if I didn't have to.

(2) I then joined a USTA Flex League (3.5) to get more singles match play in last all. Met and played with six friendly, cordial opponents, but there was one opponent that was ridiculous with his behavior. He was also older, probably in his late 50s. He fell behind early, and I kid you not, in the SECOND game of the first set, he threw his racquet into the fence out of frustration. He threw his racquet into the fence or net about ten times that match, along with a steady stream of F-bombs. We were playing at a local HS, so there were kids around and also another couple playing tennis two courts over. Twice, after losing a point, he smacked the ball down to the other other end of the courts, where the couple was playing. (He did track down the balls each time, to his credit.) At one point, during a changeover, my smart-Alec self told him I bet I could guess who his favorite tennis player was growing up (obviously alluding to McEnroe; he didn't seem to get what I was driving at, and responded that it was either Federer or Nadal).

(3) This spring, I joined a men's doubles league at the tennis club my family joined. It was a friendly league; we didn't even keep track of sets over the season like we were supposed to. But one member blew up big time (after losing a set to me and my partner). He threw his racquet over the back curtain. He evidently did not cool down, because during the next set (not vs. me), he spazzed out when a kid (early 20s, maybe 160 pounds) crossed through the court during a stoppage in play. The maniac (late 40s, 250 pounds) threw his racquet at the kid, barely missing him, then followed up by pushing the kid down into the Gatorade bucket adjacent to the court. [Haven't seen the maniac since; heard he terminated his membership at the club.]

(4) Last week, I played a singles match for my 3.5 men's USTA league team. My opponent looked to be in his late 20s or early 30s and had much better strokes than me. But his nerves must have gotten to him, because he kept shanking balls and lost the first set 6-0 to me. He kept up a steady stream of F-bombs and other "motivational" words to himself, and threw his racquet a few times during the match. His captain was watching, and offered me an apology after the match (which I won, even after he pulled ahead 5-3 in the second set). Truthfully, I replied that it didn't bother me (I want them flustered and off their game). But just find it weird that there are so many folks playing tennis with no ability to moderate their emotions.

Do I have some sort of Dennis Rodman-like ability to bring out the worst in my opponents, or is this type of behavior par for the course?

You haven't seen anything yet.
 
I was playing with a friend (she's a girl, I'm a guy) my freshman year of college, probably near the height of my tennis ability. I was playing terribly, cursing myself up and down. After I missed an easy put-away, I squatted down and chopped at the court with my racquet using two hands, like it was an axe. At the last moment, I pulled up and just barely tapped the court. However, it was enough force to snap my stick. I was pissed at myself for the shot, but more so for breaking my racquet. I was also intrigued - I had never broken a stick before, and it was very interesting to me.

So I walked over to my bag (at the back of the court) to switch to a backup. At the back of the court was a waist-high section of fence, to prevent balls from escaping. I walked up to the fence and proceeded to murder what was left of my racquet. Just bashed the bloody hell out of it - when am I going to get a chance to do that again? I switched to my backup and walked out to serve. I was no longer angry at all. In fact, it was kind of fun and I was in a much better mood.

The look on her face was abject fear. She thought I lost my mind. There was no convincing her otherwise. We never played again.

I also lost in straights.
 

maggmaster

Hall of Fame
I have been trying to zen out when playing, it makes me play better. However I did almost get into it with a dude at a tournament, not physically just a bit of angry talk. He was upset that I made a noise when moving to a ball out wide and he was under the impression that I called it out, I exhale a bit on tough shots. Anyway he made some noise and wanted to replay the point, I said no and he walked to net, I just walked back to serve.
 

Wuppy

Professional
Humans are just tall chimps. Frankly I'm surprised there isn't more primate-like behavior in all aspects of life, including sport.
 
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