The etiquette and rules of tennis form a code of conduct for the sport. Adherence to "The Code" is the foundation of "sportsmanship," and responsible parents and coaches should teach and reinforce fair play.
I cannot think of a time in which I have been more impressed by players' sportsmanship then last December, when, by a quirk in the rules, Brenden Volk along with his partner William Blumberg had a choice of ending the doubles tournament or defaulting in the semifinals of The Super Nationals in Tucson. They choose to default and allow the tournament to be played to a conclusion because they felt it was the "fair" thing to do. They tried their best to win and I think they would have; however, this display of character is more impressive then any tournament victory.
In contrast to good sportsmanship, when players say "I s-ck" or they bang their rackets on the ground it bad behavior, not simply self directed anger, because it sends a message to the other player that seeks to marginalize. Accusing an opponent of "Treeing" is directly aggressive and "disrespectful" when used in a negative context as Ricky Becker points out in his blog.
When David Ferrer hit a ball out of frustration in the direction of a crying baby it was un-sportsman-like behavior that should be condemned, not defended. While he surely had no intent to hurt that infant, in the unlikely event that he caused harm, it would not have been "bad misfortune." His actions were willful. not accidental, and he could have been charged with reckless endangerment and be in a world of profound trouble.
He must now explain why he was justified in expecting the crowd to behave with proper etiquette, when he, as a professional and a role model, did not? The protocol is to ask the umpire on court for quiet. As a tour veteran, Ferrer should know that it is the umpire's job to enforce the rules and not his job.
Every player has the potential to get frustrated on the tennis court and act impulsively and stupidly in the heat of the moment. Afterwards, while "cooled down," Ferrer was interviewed by the press. He could have taken ownership and responsibility for his actions, instead he was dismissive of the incident.
It is important to teach young players to know, and follow the rules, and if in doubt, be fair. If you make a mistake, take responsibility for your actions. Ferrer demonstrated a great opportunity to explain to players how not to act, as a sportsman like professional, a fair player and a responsible adult.
Even that infant might have already learned that two wrongs don't make a right.
Steve Kaplan is the Owner and Managing Director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as Director Emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and Executive Director and Founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 state high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.