I watched a highly ranked student compete in a national tournament the other day and behave emotionally, talking to herself, throwing her arms up in the air and displaying anger at her performance. Her opponent responded with a few "questionable" line calls and yes, I believe it was a response to my student's behavior. Not a fair response, not a proportionate action, but still a reaction to what she had seen.
What's the connection here? Perhaps it's the “Broken Window Theory” signaling effect of norm setting behavior. Simply stated, if you break the seal of bad behavior your opponent is more likely to see bad behavior as normal. When disorder is the norm, more disorder follows. What's the takeaway here? Assume responsibility for what happens and take action. A way to manage your opponents bad line calls is to discourage them by acting professional.
Steve Kaplan is Owner of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as Director of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation. Steve has been the longtime coach of more than 600 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 State High School Champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous touring professionals and prominent coaches. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.