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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy

August 2022

Q. What other sport asks individuals, or entire teams, to kindly warm-up their opponents?
A. None that I can think of.

Weird? You bet. Being asked to play nice with the opposition, prior to the contest, is somewhat counterintuitive to say the least. Yet, that's the long standing protocol, the unique civility of tennis, like it or not. Best for all concerned to conform out of respect for the game itself, and your opponents too!

And why not?

Some traditions are worth maintaining in spite of the undeniable existence of ignorant behavior exhibited by some club players.

Ignorant is dictionary defined as
1: lacking knowledge
2: resulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence
3: unaware, uninformed.

I sadly, often, hear the horror stories of contrarian opponent behavior, particularly among league players in match play – not so much among recreational non-leaguers who are solely intent on having fun and getting some exercise - when everyone is supposed to be experiencing the joys of competitive tennis.

Andy Murray made his singles comeback at the Cincinnati Masters

The USTA has long been effectively incessant about their "growing the game" message, which begs still another question - is success mostly determined in windowless board rooms mainly by increasing membership numbers, and participation?

Hope not, but sometimes I wonder. Cannot quantity and quality co-exist?

Admirably, they do stress a goal of making the game more diverse and affordable, and less country clubish! I'm all for that, having come of age as a poor kid without means, wearing out the toes of my state of the art canvas $9.95 Converse Skidgrips - which my supportive Mother could ill-afford - in a day or two playing on the abrasive blacktop public park courts. Since duct tape hadn't yet been invented, adhesive tape was at the ready so you didn't end up with holes in your socks too.

But, where's the USTA, with their considerable resources, when it comes to budgeting some of that revenue pie (the U.S. Open provides the vast majority of its net income - millions) for educating the tennis masses through public service announcements (Tennis Channel etc) - especially targeting those new players to our sport, the ones being actively recruited - regarding both expected long standing pre-match warm-up behavior, and sportsmanship in general, or lack thereof, and how they can negatively affect the match play experience?

Looks like somewhat invisible so far. And that has had a damaging effect on how the game is played in the local trenches. Where's the responsibility in stewarding the game?

Even in some of my supervised team practices it can be sometimes challenging - always surprising to me - to get schooled players, ones who know better, to be committed to delivering cooperative balls to their warm-up partner opponent.

That's just wrong-headed competitiveness prematurely creeping in.

It's the warm-up! Why not enjoy it? Embrace the process of methodically trying to dial-in a solid game prior to the start of match play - hopefully you're A-game – while still providing a cooperative back and forth with the bad guys.

One needs only to look at that same USTA's CODE – The Players Guide to Fair Play and the Unwritten Rules of Tennis that states: "WARM-UP – Warm-Up is not practice." [their bold italics] A Player should provide the opponent a warm-up of five to ten minutes. If a player declines to warm-up the opponent, the player forfeits the right to a warm-up, and the opponent may warm-up with another person. Each player should try to hit shots directly to the opponent. (If partners want to warm-up each other [because opponents are demonstratively uncooperative] while their opponents are warming-up, they may do so."

Need more information? Easy. Just go to my website and watch the five-minute warm-up video of a past Federer v Djokovic match that's just a click away on my home page. You'll witness two of the best of all-time shot making machines, cooperatively, respectfully, hitting to each other at somewhat less than full throttle, actually assisting each other dial-in their A-games before going to war just as all professional players did before them.

Let's be clear, the USTA is not solely responsible. It's also the thousands of club pros – all of whom I'm confident follow that code in any matches that they play or have played – who don't bother themselves with educating their players and teams regarding the sportsmanship inherent in a proper warm-up, and beyond.

I once presented a seminar at the International Tennis Hall of Fame courts (aka The Casino) in Newport, RI at a New England Pro convention. I began by seriously asking the club pro attendees if they were aware of the class action law suit being brought against the USPTA for routinely failing to teach the accepted protocol of the warm-up. Quite a few slumped down in their chairs, guilty as charged, until I explained just kidding, to their collective relief.

Every time that I witness otherwise nice people warm-up in such a combative, uncooperative, disrespectful way – of their opponent and the game itself – I cringe, become frustrated, and motivated to continue to try and educate players to help correct this assault on a game heaped in tradition and its accompanying civility. I'm trying again here.

I am concerned that this particular concern for the health of the traditional game is also a reflection of a declining civility in our society in general. If so, let's collectively do our part to mentor the less experienced and knowledgeable among us day in and day out.

Copyright© by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

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Past Essays

  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
    [read more]
  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
    [read more]
  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
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  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
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  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
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  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
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  • March 2022 - Caving
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  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
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  • January 2022 - The Knees
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  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
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  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
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  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
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  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
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  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
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  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
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  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
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  • May 2021 - The Focus
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  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
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  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
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  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
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  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
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Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays

2020

  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
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  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
    [read more]
  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
    [read more]
  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
    [read more]
  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
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  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
    [read more]
  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
    [read more]
  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
    [read more]
  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
    [read more]
  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
    [read more]
  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
    [read more]

2019

  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
    [read more]
  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]

2018

  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]

2017

  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.