So I went to the courts today to film a little bit and do some footwork drills. A guy and girl look at me and ask me if I play. I tell them yes I was planning on hitting some serves and doing some drills, and he asked if I would like to play. I said sure.
First he asks me how old I am (12?), and if I am USTA ranked. I laughed off both questions and was just happy hitting back and forth. It’s always good to hit a live ball, and people with weird technique can sometimes really keep you on your toes because the ball doesn’t behave as it usually does! We rally around and I am coming on the court totally cold so I’m taking my time warming up, not really running for balls too much. I congratulate him on his series of accidental drop shots.
Then the girl he was with came over with another old man who just started learning(both beginners) and the original guy (the jerk) gets a game of doubles going, pairing me with the old man who just started last week.
My partner and I won the first four games in a row, and the jerk started doing things like barking at you every time you didnt’ call the score, or every time you called a ball out, he’d say in a loud voice ‘WAS THAT OUT?’. It was funny. But I actually got angry at a couple points, which I should never do. The point I got angry at was when I hit a weak ball near the net, and he smashed it right at my partner who was also at the net, and then he smashed the net with his racquet letting out a primal scream in some sort of caveman-esque display of verility and aggression. No sorries here! My partner had literally only started playing tennis 1 week prior. Not cool! The jerk never said anything good about another player, and never said thank you to a compliment. Apparently after we switched teams, when my partner said “good shot” to the guy, the guy replied “Pfft. Obviously. Everyone already knew it was a good shot”. Ha.
He’d also do super annoying things like instead of passing you the ball, he’d hit them really hard onto your side of the court away from you. Stuff like that. God I haven’t seen such ridiculous behavior since the juniors 10 years ago.
I was really tempted throughout the “match” to just start letting them rip right at him while he stood flat footed at the net, and I have done this before during a match against jerks. As satisfying as it is to hit them and get them even more riled up /throwing their racquets, it’s just not worth it. Instead, I cleaned the court and was nice about it. Great try! Just missed! Unlucky there! Wow so great to play with you. He went bonkers. At the end of the 2nd set where he lost badly again, he threw his racquet. It was great.
But I think the moral of the story is not to let a jerk get into your head, or to start trying to hit the ball hard, or hit the ball at them, or away from them. Don’t even think about it. The simple fact is that tennis is a hard enough game as it is. There is so much going on with the ball, the racquet, the wind and everything. Once you start losing your concentration on the important things like footwork, tactics, etc. you are at a big disadvantage. You want to maintain your composure at all times, ideally showing no emotion at all. Save the energy. Have fun.
Iceman Bjorn Borg was famous for his on-court composure. And that is how you should strive to behave. As satisfying as it can be to get into the stupid mind games of an idiot or a jerk, and beat them at it, it’s just too tiring, and you aren’t playing tennis for that kind of mental game garbage, you are playing because of the technique and tactical challenges (hopefully).