It's match point. You're about to hit your second serve, on the verge of your biggest win of the season. You toss the ball, begin your swing, and just as you're about to make contact, a cell phone rings on the next court.
You're fuming and promptly double fault the match away. You look toward the next court and see one of the players still talking into her cell phone, discussing where she's going for lunch. The three other women on her court are fuming as well as she keeps them waiting.
Cell phones are just one breach of tennis etiquette that has infected the tennis scene over the past few years. After talking to hundreds of players around the country and teaching thousands of hours of tennis, I've come up with my list of Top 10 Bad Behaviors -- the ones that annoy tennis players the most. All are considered rude and inconsiderate. Recognize any?
A) Arriving early. I know you're eager to play, but if your court is being used, wait patiently until your time starts. Do not enter the court in the middle of a point being played.
B) Arriving late. You risk alienating your partners, besides wasting expensive court time, if you don't arrive on time. Set your watch 10 minutes ahead if you need it to get to the court on time.
C) Leaving early. If you can't stay for the entire time, don't agree to the game.
D) Staying too long. When your time is up, get off the court. It is not appropriate to ask if you can finish the game or play one more point.
2. NEVER PROVIDING BALLS
Always keep a new can of balls in your bag. No, those balls that were only used once will not do.
3. WINNING THE WARM-UP
Your job during the brief warm-up period is to practice all of your shots and help your opponent do the same. Hit the ball right to your opponent so he or she can practice their volley instead of seeing if you can put it by them.
4. RETRIEVING BALLS
A) Don't just walk onto another court while people are mid-point to retrieve your errant ball. Wait until the point is over, and then politely ask for your ball. It's also considered good etiquette to apologize for interrupting their game. Be sure to thank them when they return your ball.
B) Don't make a fuss when an errant ball from another court comes onto yours. Even if it was at break point, the players on the other court didn't mean to hit it onto your court. Graciously return it to them, and play a let.
5. COMPLAINING & MAKING EXCUSES
No matter how badly you may be playing or losing, keep a positive attitude and your excuses to yourself. No one's interested, and you'll only sound foolish.
6. TREATING YOUR OPPONENT AS THE ENEMY
You're out there together to get a good workout and have some fun. Compliment your opponent's good shot, and at the end of the match shake hands and say "Well played" -- win or lose.
7. CRITICIZING OR COACHING YOUR PARTNER
You are his or her partner, not their coach. Offer support, not instruction.
8. LEAVING THE COURT MESSY
Be sure to remove all balls, cans, water bottles, towels and anything else you brought to the court. If you're playing on a clay court, it's not a bad idea to sweep it if the equipment is available.
9. INTERRUPTING THE PRO DURING YOUR LESSON
If you're not interested in what he or she has to say, you shouldn't be out on the court.
And last, but not least. . . .
10. CELL PHONES
The President is not calling to ask for your advice, and Andre Agassi is not calling you for a game. Leave the number of the club with your friends and family. If there is an emergency, you can be reached via the front desk. If you are playing at a facility where there is no receptionist, leave your cell phone on, but put the ring function on the silent mode. Check it at every changeover if you must. (There are exceptions, such as doctors on call, so be tolerant.)
Tennis was conceived as a sport of finesse and etiquette to be played by ladies and gentlemen. In the modern game, too often finesse has been replaced by brute force and etiquette lost to temper tantrums and rude behavior. Foremost in a real tennis player's mind should be playing hard and playing graciously with respect for the game, your opponents and those around you. The way we act on the court says a lot about the way we approach life.