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Tony Lee's Professional Tennis School

A Practical Guide to Match Play for the Club Player

Match PlayerVolumes have been written about the psychological approach to tennis. Pre-match training, diet, calisthenics; the physical and emotional preparation required to condition top players and sustain them through the pressures of competitive tennis.

Overlooked in most tennis texts are the practical aids which can shift the balance in tight matches and ensure victory for club players.

Recent research and study of the 'average' games are detailed below, and should prove invaluable to players of club standard:

Having warmed up for at least half an hour,

  • Always arrive at the club late. Not to the extent that you are disqualified, but be sufficiently tardy as to raise your already tense opponent's hopes of being awarded a walkover. Rush onto the court half dressed and, if possible, smoking.

  • Continue to smoke during the hit up, and, if you have more than one racquet change continually during both the hit up and the match. Tap the strings and comment loudly about tension and humidity, which should increase your opponent's. During the pre-game knock, hit all balls out or into the net.

  • Inspect your opponent's racquet either before the match commences or at change over breaks. If any string appears worn - tell him. Offer the use of your spare 'when the string goes'. Given the opportunity to test your opponent's string tension tell him they are either sloppy or too taut


  • Should you win the toss make your opponent serve. Joke about needing an 'early break'. In the absence of an umpire call all faults loudly.

  • Talk constantly during the change over about anything to anyone including the umpire, your opponent and any spectators. If your opponent objects apologise for breaking his concentration.

  • To prevent your opponent from settling into his service rhythm wipe spectacles, drop a contact lens, adjust athletic support or retie shoelaces as he tosses the ball to serve. On vital points (if possible) break wind loudly and apologise profusely.

  • On your own service bounce the ball repeatedly; toss the ball to the extreme right or left and abort your service action. Occasionally bounce the ball on your shoe and then retrieve it, apologetically.

  • 'Forget' the score; to assist your opponent in recalling the correct score verbally replay each point. 'You served to my backhand, I hit a short chip to the forehand court, you ran in, hit a cross court to my forehand, I lobbed, you ran back, retrieved it and hit a forehand to me at the net, I volleyed it away for a winner.' By the time this proceeds through to 30-40 your opponent should be well on his way to a complete emotional collapse.

  • If these tactics have not affected your opponent's game and he is still able to hit shots which are beating you, compliment him on change over on his unusual and 'natural' game. e.g. 'You have no follow through on that forehand, but what power'. 'Volley control with that backswing is unbelievable', etc. It all helps.

  • Look for the signs of your opponent cracking. Glazed eyes and pulsing temples are sure signs.

  • The coup de grace to ensure victory comes when your opponent's game finally goes to water. Once he starts overhitting, double faulting and hitting the bottom of the net regularly, offer assistance 'slow down and watch the ball', 'head down', 'get side on', etc. One most effective device is the 'get your racquet back early' routiine, especially in the case of a suspect backhand.

Players in moments of severe stress have been known to freeze in the racquet back position.

Always jump the ney to ensure that any gallery is aware of the result.

The use of these points will add to your enjoyment and success in the game at club level.

And remember: The most important thing is not to win but to take part; just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is to have fought well.


From 'The World's Best Tennis Book Ever '

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