In light of the blatant tanking that is at hand this Fall, it appears that some may need a lesson in sportsmanship, and could use some tips to help them achieve their goal of losing a match, yet still keeping the game competitive.
Remember, the players on the other side of the court paid league fees to play tennis. You can still give your opponent a challenge while still managing to lose. Here’s how you do it.
1) Have a designated tanker. Think of it as “Good Cop, Bad Cop”. When playing doubles, have one partner play their game with the other partner making the majority of the unforced errors when needed, blaming it on a “off day”. This can be set up with side- comments like, “I shouldn’t have had those 9 Tequila shots last night”, or “I’ve been working like a dog and haven’t touched my racket in weeks”.
Another card you can play is the injury card. Show up with your knee wrapped and how you tweaked it playing soccer with your son. Or perhaps your shoulder is sore from sleeping on it wrong or throwing the baseball with your son. This can limit your mobility on the court and getting crucial points. Whatever it is, have a game plan and stick to it.
2) Make it your goal to control the overall match by determining the exact # of games you want to have won in each set, and where in the set you will win those games. This gives you something to work for and allows you to focus on key points.
3) Have a stroke that you are “working” on. Maybe its lobbing in the wind or a forehand drop shot. Whatever it is, use it in crucial moments. When your opponent is rushing to the net, use the lob. If hitting into the wind, hit it short; with the wind, hit it long. When the ball goes out, blame it on the wind. Same with the drop shot.
4) Keep your games close. Make it a goal to have several of your games go to deuce. If you win the first point of a game, have your partner make an unforced error to keep the game even (see Step 3). If your opponent is up 1 or 2 points, make an effort to get the next few points to take it to deuce. This is good because it give you something to do by focusing on winning crucial points. It also makes your opponent feel like they are “earning” their points.
5) Defer service if you win the toss. This gives your opponent the opportunity to go up early in the set, and makes it easier for you to have a 2-6 loss. By allowing your appointment to serve first and hold, then breaking your serve because of your sore shoulder, pulled groin, or taped up knee, before you know it you are down 0-3 and on your way to losing the set.
Example. Play the game as you normally would. If for some reason your opponent is extremely weak and you are up on their service game about to break, make a return of serve error. Keep the first game close and even allow it to go to deuce, multiple time. Make your opponent work for a hold, so when they win their service game, they are patting themselves on the back thinking they just worked to win their game, not that you gave it to them.
Your service game is easy to control because when you need to shed a point, you can always revert to a double fault. Rub your shoulder and follow up with one of the excuses in Step 1. This isn’t rocket science.
Now you are down 0-2 and it is their serve again. Allow them to hold, again, keeping it close. Before you know it you are 0-3. Now is the time to decide and get a game. It is your service and you get a hold. Again, make it fun and challenging by keeping it close or staying in a long sustained rally. If you are up 30-love in the game, throw in a double fault or two to get your opponent back to deuce. Make it look as if you are working hard to hold your serve.
Now you are 1-3 and it is your opponents serve. Allow them to hold and your 1-4. You then hold and now you are 2-4. They hold and it is 2-5. Crucial game. Again, make it a close one. Take it to 2 or 3 deuces by doing the above. Allow them to hold and take the set 6-2.
Set 2. Repeat the above.
You have now lost a match with a score of 2-2, meeting your objective, while your opponent felt as if they just played some of their best tennis to win. Remember, most of your opponents on the other side of the court don’t know your strengths or weaknesses, they are just out there to play.
Lastly, if you are going to tank, don’t tell your opponent. It just looks bad and is outright wrong.