Tennis Match from Hell

Tennis tournament friend Dave Spilseth writes about his poor experience playing a cheater:

“I have always enjoyed my mid-July trip to Rochester, MN to play in the Rochester adult tournament because there is nothing I enjoy more than a hard fought, yet friendly, singles tournament match. I always get that in this tournament—except this year.

I always play in 2 events, the men’s 65 singles and the men’s 55 singles. The draw in the 55s was low so they combined the 55s and the 45s with which resulted in a draw of 9. I won easily in my Sat 10 a.m. 65 singles and immediately following I agreed to play my first 45-55 match. My opponent, whom I will call Fred, was from Brazil working temporarily in Rochester. Fred was friendly and very talkative about the places he had worked and some of his jobs in developing computer software.

Since I hadn’t met or heard of Fred before I looked for clues of what kind of player he might be. I couldn’t help but notice he had no tennis bag but just had two older model Wilson rackets in an old, small back pack. In the warm up his forehand and serve seemed O.K. but his backhand was weak and awkward. He hit very few serves and no overheads. He was tall about 6’ 2” but he did have a little gut on him and did not seem very fast. He was unseeded and, at least subconsciously, I’m thinking I should be able to take him.

I was wrong. I was caught off guard; Fred started banging in his serves and just pounding his forehand and I lost the first set 6-2 mostly because I was not playing either smart nor well.

It was mid-day and very hot, almost 100 degrees, with not much wind but I thought it was unnecessary to take as much time as Fred took between sets–at least 15 minutes. Not only that, but Fred was taking a long time between points when the second set started. I started playing smarter hitting almost every shot to Fred’s backhand and only hitting to his forehand when I could hit a winner. I started to notice that many shots near the baseline that seemed good to me were called out. Also, I double hit a ball but it was one continuous swing and Fred said that should be his point. I still managed to win the second set 6-3.

Fred goes to get new balls for the third set and it was at least 15 minutes before he came back. Finally we start playing the third set and I am definitely starting to get the edge and am ahead 2-1 and serving at add point. Fred stops the match, limps to the net and claims cramps. Unbelievably he asks if we can stop and continue the match tomorrow. I said we have two choices, play on or default. After another lengthy delay, Fred limps back and claims it’s deuce game. I am absolutely sure I had an ad and finally play out the game WHICH I WON. I’m ahead, have the momentum and now things get real ugly.

Every ball that is even close at the baseline is called out, but then he starts calling balls out that I can see are clearly in on the sidelines. What really is bad is that I didn’t watch Fred change the set score on the changeover and in the middle of the next game I notice the score shows 4-3 HIS favor. I just know it was 4-3 for me but with all the delays, bad calls, being tired myself and couldn’t give details. Now I figure I was getting at least 2 bad calls every game, was getting very angry and screamed out “this is ridiculous” at one point. The tournament director was walking by as I got another bad call and I shouted at him “did you see that”. The tournament director did come to referee but it was too late. I lost 6-3 at least that’s what the score card said.

As luck would have it, Fred plays the tournament director, Tim, in the next round. Tim is well respected Mr. Tennis in Rochester and had just returned from Wimbledon where he watched his son play doubles. After Tim’s match he told me that he would frequently disagree with Fred’s obvious missed calls and Fred would change them. But Tim said he could not get his deep serve called good and after splitting sets Tim said it wasn’t worth the agony and trouble so he said, “If you want to win that bad, I quit.” and walked off the court. Fred did lose in the finals 6-2, 6-0 but the winner is an exceptional player where bad calls wouldn’t make a difference.

Many have said I should have called a line judge to keep score and overrule obvious bad calls. I wanted to but after thinking about it I am glad that I didn’t. This was not Wimbledon and the whole purpose was to have a friendly yet competitive match. I believe Fred, whether he realizes or not, paid a heavy price for his wins. How can you have any reputation left when you hook the tournament director, much less me?”

5 thoughts on “Tennis Match from Hell

  1. Dave is one of the nicest, most honest guys I know and rarely gets upset. Dave is a good competitor and wins a lot. This must have really been bad situation for him. Tim ,the tournament director, is also a very fair person.

  2. George: We all have experienced the “cheater” along the way but how would you like to carry that reputation around with you? My last experience has a happy ending a couple of years ago at the Clem Easton tournament. After many bad calls and disagreement on the score, the cheater quit and siad he would never play again in these tournaments. Many by-standers stated good riddance and have not seen him since. Gene

    Gene: now THAT is the ideal solution! george

  3. This kind of behavior simply stinks.
    We’ve all experienced various degrees of it.
    There is in my opinion only one way to handle it (I’ve commented before)
    If it’s so flagrant, keep questioning and after a very clear bad call like Dave experienced, wait till the next point and when your opponent’s shot lands smack in the middle of the court around the service box, calmly call the ball “out.” This will get you results and when he questions YOUR very bad call simply tell, “hey it’s MY call” this has worked for me personally very well.

    Of course you can be like a friend of mine who I was once saw pull the following and I almost peed myself from laughter.

    After many many bad calls (which we all saw) my friend picks up 2 balls walks to the net and as the “cheater” is picking up a ball at the fence behind him my friend says “here you go” and proceeds to smack 2 balls right at the guy at the fence . One hits him on the leg. My friend very calmly says “oops sorry” it took the cheater right out of his game and the bad calls stopped after that. I don’t think I could do it but it sure worked and like I said I almost peed on myself from silent laughter watching it.

  4. I believe the best way to handle the situation is to call for the tournament referee, if there is one. and request an umpire for the remainder of the match.

    Nick – but that is not as much fun as being nasty! Congrats on your winning another tournament in Hartford this weekend. george.


  5. Here are a few favorites of mine…
    Are we playing lines in or out today?
    I am sorry did that shot bother you skipping off the line?
    Please circle something near where my ball hit.
    On a crossover I once said to my opponent that I usually win a game with 4 winning points but with you it is 5 and sometimes 6 winners are needed to win a game.

    Bill – good stuff! george

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