A little over a week ago I played in a national tournament in the Phoenix area and for the most part really enjoyed each match in singles and doubles. The competition was tough and people converge for this last national from all over the country. I played people from Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, California, Canada and Arizona.
Our common denominator is that we all love the game of tennis and want to compete at the highest level in our age categories. There are points awarded for each round you win and they go on and in the USTA website/software and sort out each players ranking which conclude at the end of the year to show where you fall for the amount of events you’ve played. Each section (17 sections) also do this for their region.
Between playing singles and doubles I played 7 matches and in all but one the line calls were very fair, no problems.
I had a friend of mine who lost in a close three setter come off the court in the quarter-finals, of which I was to play the winner, and he said in very terse words, “I’ve never received so many bad line calls.” I could tell it really affected him and it wasn’t a good experience. Those type of things can really get in your head and make a difference in the outcome that is contrary to the thought of “good sportsmanship” and “fair play.”
The next day I met my opponent in the semi-finals and certainly would give him the benefit of the doubt of what I had heard.
He was friendly, steely-eyed, and pleasant.
I lost the toss and he chose for me to begin serving, probably thinking he would get me when I was not so warmed up and maybe gain an early break.
But I was serving well. At 40-15 and serving my right handed slice serve wide, the ball landed just inside the service-box sideline for an ace. “Out”, he called.
It was “so in” I couldn’t just let it go. I walked up to the net and said, “Look, that ball wasn’t even close to being out, it was inside the line.” He replied, “I saw it out.” I went on, “Well, you’re wrong and this isn’t right. I just want you to know that and all I want is a fair match with fair calls, and that wasn’t one of them.”
Sometimes you have to make your point early with players who think anything close to the lines you hit is there’s to call out. It seems they want to win so bad they will do just about anything to gain an advantage.
Luckily I maintained my composure and won the game.
We all want to win, we all want to perform to the best of our ability and there’s no doubt we’ve all had calls we’ve made that were close we have to live with.
My rule is that if I can’t look someone in the eye and tell them for sure the ball was out, it was just too close and the point goes to them.
As for professional tennis, I’d be an advocate for using “Hawkeye” for every close shot. It’s fun to have the players challenge a call, but with the technology we have, why not make all the calls correctly and have as perfect an outcome as possible?
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or email@example.com.