You were down all set and now you've finally broken your opponent's serve. The momentum has shifted, you're in control of the match and you're hitting the ball cleanly.
Your opponent recognizes that the game has changed. Suddenly, the opponent has to tie their shoes between every point. They take an extended bathroom break or start questioning your line calls.
All of these tactics, known as gamesmanship, are used by players in an effort to disrupt their opponent's performance.
Gamesmanship tactics routinely begin once a player believes that his physical strokes are no match against his more talented opponent. When this occurs, psychological warfare begins.
Handling gamesmanship is not just mental toughness, it's emotional toughness as well. And building the emotional muscles are learned behaviors that require practice.
Many experienced competitors are willing to do anything, subtle or blatant, to win. They know that winning tennis involves more than physical skills. Often this means an experienced player will emotionally attack an inexperienced player with gamesmanship. The inexperienced player is often more emotionally fragile and will crack and fall victim to such antics, giving the match away to the emotionally stronger player.
At a recent event, I witnessed players using the following gamesmanship tactics:
- Creative line calling (Especially on big points)
- Accusing the opponent of "hooking" even when they didn't
- Annoying squeaking of their tennis shoes as the opponent begins their service motion
- Irritating racquet tapping on the ground as the opponent prepares to serve
- Excessive loud grunting /screeching long after their ball was struck
- Changing the game score when the opponent is too cool to call the score
- Excessive delays, stalling at the back fence and bathroom visits to control the match speed
- Accusing the innocent opponent of changing the score
- Creative let-cord management (Especially when a ball from another match rolled close by)
- Belittling the opponent under their breath ( " I can't believe I'm losing, this guy sucks")