Playing The Cheater

Now that it is time to begin the January USTA Super Senior Tournaments, it is a good time to re-ask the question: In that rare case when your opponent is making bad calls (and has a reputation of regularly doing that), what do you do?

The first piece of advice is to face up to it beforehand. Know in your own mind that this will be a possibility and say something to your opponent at the start of the match like, “Let’s have a clean match.” He will know what you are talking about.

If I do get what I believe is a bad call, I will usually politely ask, “Are you sure?” or, if playing on clay, “Do you have a mark?” While they are not required to show you a mark, you are not letting the bad call pass unchallenged.

And if it is a tournament match, do not be embarrassed to ask for a referee to come and monitor the match. You will be amazed how quickly the line calls will improve!

One friend was playing a reputed cheater at a tournament and insisted on his match be played on the “show court”; so there would be people all around watching the play (and the line calls). There were very few issues during the match.

Friends have told me they have used one technique (that I never have)… when you are a victim of an obvious bad call, on the next point – no matter where his ball lands – call it OUT. He will protest the obvious bad call; and then confront him with the issue … “You continue to make bad calls; I will retaliate.”

Bottom line for me? If it is not a tournament match, where I HAVE TO play a known cheater, I choose not to play with someone like that. Life is just too short to have to put up with someone ruining the enjoyment of my favorite sport.

To see the lineups for the first tournament, which starts this week in Ft. Myers, just click HERE.

but before you do, pls post any comments on “cheating”. tks,

4 thoughts on “Playing The Cheater

  1. Hi George. Right, it’s rare, but I just don’t play with known cheaters in practice matches. As you say, life’s way to short for that crap. In a tournament match however, if I know I’m up against a known cheater, I’ll let the tournament referee know BEFORE the match what my concern is, and if I get a really bad call (it’s got to be obvious, not maybe), I’ll simply tell my opponent after the bad call that I want us to get some help. I’ll stop the match, go get the ref, and you’re right, things go much more smoothly when there’s someone on the court.

    A word of advice when you do have someone on the court helping with calls. It’s easy to get out of your normal match play ‘between points’ mindset because there is someone else on the court with you and your opponent. It can be distracting. I find that I have to really focus on keeping my vision on my strings, on the ground, somewhere close to me, so that I’m not doing something totally different than what is normal for me when it’s just me and my opponent.

    Good stuff George. Thanks …


    Brent – tks for the input. You are right… having a ref on the court is equally distracting for the Good Guy.
    P.S. I really value your tips … used the overhead one yday in dubs and it worked well! tks, george.

  2. Im one of those that has made that retaliation call.
    In the finals of a tournament no less. After a string of ridiculous calls (which was obvious from the people watching) my opponent called one of my winners out. I didn’t say anything and during the next point after about 2 shots back and forth, I yelled OUT! His ball landed in the middle of the court close to the service line. He walked over and said “are you crazy…?” and I said “it’s my call and I’m calling it out” . He didn’t make another bad call the rest of the match.

    It’s an extreme approach but it gets results. Always!

    Good luck in the tournament George.

  3. I have also found that a couple of the players you have in mind seem to give better calls when they have an audience. You can request a central court at the desk. You should also talk to the umpire ahead of the match to let him know where you are playing and ask for frequent walk-byes. It is very uncomfortable waiting for the shoe to drop when playing these folks and it makes you play shorter and safer and sometimes worse. One such player is notorious for showing up late so he gets an outer court with only a few viewers.

    Bill – you are the one i was referring to on requesting the show court. Never heard the tactic of showing up late to get an outer court! If these guys would be as much thought and effort into their tennis games, they would be better players! geo.

  4. A problem that I have sometimes encountered is that, for some matches, there is nobody available who can actually be the referee. This rarely happens with well organized, sanctioned USTA tourneys, but it is commonplace with league matches, for example. One approach that I have seen work — with some success — is for the player who feels he/she is the victim of cheating to ask the OPPOSING team’s captain to serve as referee. Of course, the captain could be just as dishonest as the cheating player, in which case my view is this ploy is not going to make things any worse than they already are so you are not losing much by the gesture. But it is surprising the number of times that the opposing team’s captain is already aware of the propensity of certain players on his/her team to cheat and the captain is all too happy to step in and apply the rules fairly.

    Moreover, asking the opposing captain to be the referee is tactically sound because, if that captain declines to serve as referee, then I feel you are perfectly within your rights to ask your own captain to be referee as a fall back request. You might not be in that position if you had asked your own captain to serve as referee first.

    Finally, asking the opposing captain to be referree is telegraphing to the cheating player that you know they are cheating and it is so blatant and egregious that you are confident even their own captain will support you over them when that captain serves as referee. Therefore, even if the opposing captain declines to serve as referee, the mere fact that you had enough confidence to make this request can sometimes cause a cheater with a bit of conscience to reform his or her actions. Of course, if you are up against a hardcore cheater who simply has no scruples, then nothing will really stop them short of being overruled when they hook.

    Marty – a great idea! tks, george

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