“How I Beat You”

 You just played a grueling and close tennis match and after you congratulate your opponent(s) they proceed to tell you how/why they beat you.  What do you feel about opponents who give you “advice” after a match?

Solicited or Unsolicited?

For me, the key is did YOU seek out their advice or did they just take it upon themselves to start telling you the answers?  If they just started pointing out your weaknesses (or their strengths), In my opinion, that is inappropriate.

But on the other hand, I am one who really appreciates any insights the better players can give me to help improve my game … especially after they just played and beat me!

Key Examples

Two excellent examples of players who have regularly beat me (in singles and doubles) are Fred Drilling and Hank Irvine.  They both are very willing to hang around after a match and share their valuable insights with you.  And if you are smart, you listen.

The one caution I would offer is … sometimes the teaching pros (and I include my hero Roy Emerson in this group) will seize on just an error or two you made during the match and GENERALIZE that to an inherent weakness in your game.  You have to be objective enough to know the difference.  It is a little like the alcoholic’s prayer…

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Why I LOST to You

And then there are the players who tell you why they LOST to you … “Boy, I couldn’t hit my forehand today.” … “I just couldn’t get my big first serve in.” … “My game was just off today.” … etc.

I believe, if you hear the same excuses from a player two times, that IS their game!  They are not off that day.

How about YOU … are you an advice giver or taker?

PS I just got this via email from a friend: “We had a phone conference yesterday Florida section Leagues Committee. National has canceled all national championships for 2020. USTA no play has been extended through May 31. Sectional championship dates are yet to be determined based on when play will resume.  Challenging times for everybody but we can handle it and come out stronger on the other side. “

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13 thoughts on ““How I Beat You”

  1. Unsolicited advice often seems condescending, but still can be valuable to use the next time you play them! I’m not sure I’d want to tell the opponent that I just barely beat, how I did it.
    My favorite excuse story is when the losing player says to the victor, ” I think that was the worst I’ve played in months”, to which the winner says, “That’s interesting, me too!!”

    Steve, usually the advice givers are pretty confident they can beat me again, and again! thanks, george

  2. Those post match chats are like all conversations. If you can calm your ego, either from the buoyant or sunken state, there’s something to be learned. Hopefully it’s about your game or how you competed. Other times it’s a window into your opponent’s overly robust or threatened self image. In my game learning is winning as I’m not getting a tennis paycheck. I like your approach George, hang around and engage the better players and nicer individuals.

    Brian, i will let you know when i DON”t need to learn anymore! thanks, george

  3. Ignore the arseholes who volunteer unsolicited ‘advice’ after they’ve just won the last point. No excuses either. When it’s over, that’s it. Have a cold beer, talk about women & have a nice day ! Just think about it quietly by yourself & resolve to change whatever next time. It’s better than work !
    BTW George I’ve watched Federer’s amazing volley challenge, not for me as I never volley, concentrating instead on hitting 100+ ground strokes against the wall !
    Take care, stay well.

    Howard, i will have to check out his “challenge.” My garage-wall record is 161 volleys without a miss! thanks, george

  4. Yet another great topic, George. For the first 15-30 minutes after a loss, I don’t care to hear anything from anyone, and that includes our beloved legends or any other observer. Please at that stage let me boil off the emotion, adrenalin, fatigue, sweat. Once that’s done, time for treating the tennis as business. Then it can be potentially edifying to gain input from either someone who was watching, or, perhaps, just perhaps, the opponent (if I respect their skills). I say potential because I also remember something John Newcombe once told me: Be leery of hearing input from someone who’s never seen you win. For if that person has only seen you lose, it’s easy for them to pick you apart, strand by strand, with little understanding of how you thrive. Another thing I’ve learned is that you can learn a lot from your wins if you pay attention.

    As far as hearing from a loser goes, welcome to my world: usually I get either silence or a variation on “I played so badly today.” A junior recently apologized to me for that. Being mildly paternal, I said, “Don’t you see? I helped take you there.” There followed a nice chat. But with peers, that’s not an easy step to take, so instead, I’ve spent 50 years hearing how badly my opponents have played. This is the surtax for my eclectic lefty playing style. Maybe in the next lifetime, I’ll simply have a massive forehand and a flat serve.

    Again, great topic, George. Fun to see how you dig into the crunchy matter of this sport we love so much.

    Joel, that is a great perspective from Newk. And, i can see players making excuses after losing to you … not being aware of how YOU made them play poorly. thanks, george

  5. George, that’s so funny you mentioned Hank Irvine because that exact thing happened to me playing with Rick Parker against Hank and his regular partner. We killed them in the first set, something like 6-2 and were ahead 2-0 in the second both playing out of our minds (literally). We then proceeded to get killed in the second set maybe 6-3 and then they won the tiebreaker by a good margin. Now I had never spoken to Hank and he immediately informed me that he made us to start to think and that was why we lost. Now I knew we had been beaten by a Master and I happen to be totally coachable even though I have been a Teaching Pro for a long time. I really appreciated his feedback and did not have any ego about it at all. I listen to every word most people tell me outside of a match and it has always benefitted me. Fred Drilling did it in a different way after we just missed beating him and his regular partner and I was with Rick in that one. We were up I think 9-7 in the breaker and I returned a serve long and they proceeded to win 11-9 (and we lost all those bragging rights). Fred just said after shaking hands, ” I bet you’d like that return back”. It was painful but I just laughed out of all the respect I have for him. He has helped me many times while playing with him by great advice. Always listen to a Master.

    Dave, two great players … and great analysts. thanks, george

  6. Per Chuck Beckner:
    FYI- per USTA website posted 4/13.

    4. Does this cancellation apply to the USTA League National Invitationals that take place in 2021 (Adult 65 & Over, Mixed 55 & Over)?
    • No, this cancellation only applies to the 2020 USTA League National Championships that take place in the fall. Please visit the USTA League National Invitational webpage for the most up-to-date information.

    USTA Tournaments
    All Category 1 and Super Category 2 National Adult Tournaments with an ITF status, all ITF Junior events, all Junior, Adult and Wheelchair L1 – L3 events, and all USTA Pro Circuit and professional events will align with the same calendar as the ITF, ATP and WTA, and be suspended through July 12.The National Clay Court Championships, slated to begin on July 11, will proceed as scheduled, at this time.

  7. Hi George, sitting in the chemo room getting my 3rd round with a little time on my hands. Hopefully one more to go after this.
    Back when I could hit the ball, and a match wasn’t very close, I I would often ask if they would like a tip. Generally, it is something on the serve. Either it’s a soft second serve or serving too much to to forehand. My approach is I want them to enjoy the game.
    Miss you guys and hope to be on the courts in couple months. Best

    Larry, any advice from you would be GOLDEN! Get well and let’s all get back onto the courts. thanks, george

  8. George
    Since I usually get beat, I ask for the “one thing”!
    Especially from the teaching pros. They have all been generous and it does make one a better club player.

    Wright, i am with you! thanks, george

  9. George-
    Have you ever had a victorious opponent say to you after a match “I played terrible today”, or words to that effect?
    Talk about twisting the knife!

    Baird, no, but one of the strangest comments after i beat a seeded player, he said, “That was a good win for you.” Thanks, george

  10. Unless the match is a play lesson, in which case the opponent is a student and is wanting to hear what they did wrong and why they lost (points) I never tell an opponent anything in that regard.

    If I lose a match, I don’t make excuses i.e. “My serve was way off today (yeah if I had my serve going you wouldn’t have had a chance). However, I often will commend my opponent when I lose i.e. “You were really patient and composed and you played smart and made the right shot selections or “Good match. You really played the big points well today.”

    Nobody wants to hear excuses or receive “backhanded” compliments.

    alan, in addition to saying nice things after a match, i am in the minority of players (i feel) who actually compliment my opponent on their nice shots during the match. Life is too short. thanks, george

  11. My father once told me never give advice unless you were asked to do so. Real good advice.

    Charlie, well, who asked for YOUR opinion?! Oh, i guess i did. 🙂 thanks, george

  12. George,
    I’m with you. Enjoy complimenting opponents on good shots and play.

    Ron, that puts me in good company! thanks, george

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