Would Mike Tyson ever let up on a guy if he felt he was beating him too badly? Just to let the other guy get a few punches in and not feel so bad about himself? No.
Would General Patton ever have let another army crush a few of his tank divisions because he felt he was being too hard on them? No way, José.
So how come in a tennis match people start feeling sorry for their opponents?
‘Oh well maybe I’ll just let him win a few games so it’s not such a lop-sided set’
You’re out there to do battle! Never underestimate your opponent. Nothing is predictable in tennis. Anyone can come back to beat you at anytime. Each point is sacred and you have to play it to the utmost of your ability. If you are crushing someone badly, and you choose to hit them some soft ones, or hit the ball to their stronger side, you’re not doing anybody any favors. In fact, I would argue that since tennis is indeed a game of etiquette, the best way to respect your opponent is to never underestimate them! Always assume they have the capability to come back and beat you – so never let up.
If you’re “just rallying” to warm up, then okay – don’t crush the ball and be overly aggressive. But if you’re playing a match, then there is no room for sympathy. Your goal should be to win the match without your opponent ever winning a point. And if they get upset and start being a crybaby about it, then that is an internal battle that they will have to solve on their own. It’s not your job.
Now, to be VERY clear on this point – I do not condone being a jerk. You can crush someone with your game, but still be absolutely pleasant and polite about it. There’s no need to fist pump and do primal screams over the net to rub it in. Just play your game, win quickly and efficiently, and try to make it pleasant for both parties.
This saying also goes for making line-calls in tournament play. You have to be certain of your calls and call them out loudly with confidence. Once you make a call, NEVER over-rule yourself if your opponent questions your call. I will devote a different article to tournament play line-calls, but just remember not to feel any sympathy. If it’s out, then it’s out. It’s not your job to hand over points to your opponent.