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Tue, Feb. 18

Howard: The proverbial excuse – as well as a few rants and raves
My Point

How many of you tennis players have made it through a whole tennis match and not said something that sounded like an excuse?

It’s definitely the exceptional person who accomplishes this physical and mental control when especially on the losing side of the score.

Keeping your emotions in check when you miss the easiest of shots is pretty dog-gone tough, or worse yet getting beat by a player who’s never come close to a victory over you, just ask John McEnroe.

And if you happen to have tendencies of being a perfectionist in this game of “mistake control” many different thoughts will enter your mind and if not real careful - come out your mouth.

Emotions are like boiling water, you better turn the heat down before it overflows.

Once peak frustration has been reached you’ll hear about every phrase known to mankind.

“How could I ever miss that?” “Another double fault - how many points can I possibly give away?” “This just isn’t my day!” “How many lines and net cords can someone hit in a match?”

Chris Evert was really good at controlling her emotions and stayed outwardly cool and together, dubbed the “Ice Maiden,” no matter if she won an important point or lost one. No big highs and no big lows. That takes years of training to learn and seconds to lose if someone knows which buttons to push.

Bjorn Borg as he became a champion had a similar type of demeanor, where nothing was going to faze him if at all possible.

Arthur Ashe due to the color-barrier would go overboard in not creating any waves, even when it was warranted.

There aren’t that many professionals who can maintain under a lot of duress, let alone college, high school and recreational players.

Add in some close calls that one side believe was in and the other out and things can be put on edge in another way.

You might hear comments like: “Do you have to win points by hooking your opponents?” “You really need it that bad?”

In mixed doubles matches a strong hitting guy player who keeps trying to intimidate the female opponent with line drives and overheads to the body can be trying; or in a social setting that’s mismatched ability-wise, the better player(s) stomping on their weaker opponents relentlessly - or worse yet making fun and laughing at their lesser talents.

Thank goodness these type of situations are the exceptions to the rule.

When someone’s being a “Bobo” it’s easy to get into it with them while refraining or calling a referee over would be a better choice.

But there’s more craziness that over the years I’ve seen take place.

Someone who calls the wrong score, but always in their favor. Taking too much time between points, serving when you’re not ready, talking incessantly during the match and changeovers. Not knowing the rules, how to run a tie break or which one to use - yet they pretend they do.

Staying focused in any of these situations can be daunting.

Have you given consideration in how you’ll handle yourself if you do get a jerk for an opponent?

Keeping it together is a true art when tested.

Try for just one set to stay focused and not make even one excuse. When someone gives you a call you believe was wrong, just ask them, “Are you sure?” Don’t get super excited when you hit an ace and don’t explode when you double fault. For some players this just might be asking too much, but try it anyway.

A few weeks of trial and error on these items and your over-all game just might get a little better under pressure.

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

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