Now that the weather's warming up, it can seem like everyone and their brother is out on the tennis courts, trying to shake off their cabin fever. And why not? Tennis is a great workout, it's fun and you don't have to be a pro to enjoy yourself and unwind during a game after work or on the weekend. That being said, sharing courts with people of all levels and abilities can at times be tedious or make you feel inadequate. Here's how to make the most of your time on the tennis court while respecting the other players, in the hope that they'll do the same for you - it's tennis court etiquette!
1. Don't sweat the small stuff.
You're not playing for a Grand Slam here, and friendly games of tennis should be just that – friendly. It's better to let a minor point go than to kick up a fuss about it. Unless you're taking part in an actual tournament, there aren't going to be any line judges and referees during your game, so do your best to watch closely and be honest when you make a call.
- You're only human, and so are your opponents. Sometimes mistakes will happen; accept them and move on.
- Try to see the funny side of any little errors. Laughing about them is a much better option than ruining the mood of the game.
2. In? Out? Shake it all about?
That being said, make sure you agree with your opponents on how you'll deal with close line calls. Without the fancy electronic sensors the pro tournaments have, there's a lot more room for error, so decide on a few ground rules before you begin.
- If the ball's on your side of the net, it's your call. If it's the other side, it's your opponent's. Simple!
- Agree that the ball's in unless you're sure it's out. As long as both of you play the same way, that's completely fair.
3. Cut down on the lets.
A lot of casual tennis players try to avoid disputes with their opponents by suggesting playing a let if there's any disagreement over a point. It's okay to do this if something really distracting happens, say another game's ball bounces into your playing area, but don't do it for every little thing.
- Don't play a let for a disputed line call. That will just end up with neither of you being confident in your own calling.
- Some people prefer to play without lets at all – if the ball hits the net on your serve and goes over, you're just lucky.
4. Practice good ball management.
Tennis is a ball game, but one where there's a lot of time spent between points rather than actually swinging your racket. There's nothing wrong with taking a breather, but outright slow play is just as frustrating in tennis as it is in golf. Keeping track of the balls and moving them around efficiently will make a huge difference.
- Get into a routine of how you keep hold of balls you're not using: they can be behind the court center, in a clip, or in your pocket.
- Your opponent is most likely to be able to collect a ball cleanly if you've hit it toward them fairly softly, so that it bounces twice.
5. Be considerate of other players.
Unless you're playing at a particularly quiet time, you'll probably be sharing the tennis area with other groups. Keep that fact in mind while you enjoy your own game, and try not to do anything to disturb or annoy them. If you'd be irritated by someone doing something to you, it's not fair to do it to them!
- Don't let your spare balls roll off onto neighboring courts and get in the way of other games. That's plain rude.
- Try not to get too worked up if things go wrong. It can be frustrating when you're having a bad game, but making a scene will only bring everyone down and disrupt other games.
6. Don't stay on court for too long.
Nobody expects you to rush through a game of tennis in 10 minutes, but five-hour epics are best left to the professionals. Stick to the times you've agreed, and finish off your match on another day if you go overtime. If you're new to the club, ask about any local customs or rules before you get on court for the first time.
- If you've booked a session but can't make it, cancel it properly. You won't be popular if your reserved court is lying empty!
- Try to be patient if other games are overrunning. Yes, it's annoying, but pressuring them to get out of your way is not the way to go.