You rarely see him on the tournament circuit, but he is plentiful on the tennis courts… the guy who says stuff that is “just an innocent question” or “just teasing and fooling around.” He is the guy who INTENTIONALLY says something to get inside your head during a tennis match.
The Big Game
It happened to me just the other day during a “fun” doubles match with a good friend (who shall remain nameless). We had split the first two sets and talked about how much more anyone wanted to play; and agreed to start a full set and see how it went.
My team was leading 3-2 and my friend said, “If we break you here, let’s then play a tie breaker.” I don’t think he was doing anything here except just saying he had had enough tennis; but the gamesmanship came later after we held serve and then broke his serve.
With us leading 5-2 and serving, I did have enough tennis for the day and asked, “You guys want to stop now?” And my friend, verbally jabbed me saying, “Nooooo, we want to see if you can serve it out!!” (They had broken me at 4-5 to win the second set).
My philosophy is to not let something like that go “unanswered” so I threw it right back at him and said, “I am going to get all my serves in. The question is, can you guys return serve?”
So I got almost all first serves in … and they did not put one return back in play and we took the third set 6-2.
The Stroke Analyst
One time I was playing singles, serving very well, and beating a friend of mine. He “innocently” asked me, “Gee, you are serving especially well today. Are you doing anything differently?” Did he really want to know, or did he want me to start thinking instead of serving naturally?
In the early days of baseball, a sportswriter asked a young Mickey Mantle to analyze his swing because he was batting well over .340. Young Mickey attempted to do that … and immediately went into a multi-game batting slump.
The Tie Breaker
Many years ago, we were playing doubles in a New England tournament vs. two legendary Gamesmanship Gurus (those who played back then will remember their plaid Bermuda shorts, colored socks, and metal suitcase).
When we crossed the net with our team serving at 6-5, they “innocently” asked, “What kind of tie breaker are we playing in this tournament?” I immediately responded, “We are not playing any kind of tie breaker!” (and we held serve to win the set and the match).
The basic caution to all the Mr. Big Mouths out there: “Never write a check with your mouth that your ass can’t cash.”
Have you run into Mr. Big Mouth on the court? What do you do?
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