Dan Bloxham, the head coach at the All England Club, on how to cope when playing a cheat:
Know that your cheating opponent is “scared” and insecure.
“A cheating opponent, someone who gives bad line-calls, is the curse of junior tennis. Unfortunately, a lot of kids are giving up because of cheating opponents and that environment. It’s certainly affecting the girls. It’s a big issue, a big problem. The girls get very disheartened. They see it as a personal attack. With the girls, it goes deeper, it upsets them, and they think, ‘what’s the point?’ We explain to the kids that the cheater is probably quite insecure. The reason they’re cheating is not because they’re good or confident, but actually because they’re scared. We tell our kids that they have to be stronger than the cheats, those who can’t play without cheating over line-calls. We tell our kids that cheats never prosper. You can cheat your way for a certain amount of time, but you can’t cheat your way into the Davis Cup squad. Eventually, they will get found out.”
Don’t lose your temper or cross over on to your opponent’s side.
“You shouldn’t cross the net and hit them with the racket. You shouldn’t lose your cool or get involved with the parents at the side of the court. Parents shouldn’t get involved. They should seek an independent adult.”
Call the referee to your court.
“At most events, there’s a referee there, and if a kid thinks their opponent is cheating, he or she should put his hand up. The governing body has a big role to play in clamping down on this behaviour, with six-week bans, eight-week bans, for bad behaviour. There’s one story I know about this bright boy, a really intelligent guy who has just got a scholarship to an Ivy League school. The opponent was cheating, the boy called the referee over and said his opponent was cheating, but the referee said they had to play on. The boy – the boy who wasn’t cheating – ended up being banned for refusing to play on. I feel as though more needs to be done with sanctions for poor behaviour. Unfortunately, a lot goes on. The referee will ask them to go back to the point they agree on. But obviously that’s not great if that happens if you feel as though your opponent was cheating when you had a match point. The good cheats wait for the right time to call your good shots out. They wait for a tiebreak or a major point.”
Confront bad behaviour (but in the right way).
“If there’s no one around, they have to try to discuss this with their opponent. They have to front up. Obviously in the right way, but they have to front up to bad behaviour.”
Realise that the cheat won’t go home happy or satisfied, while you can.
“Why do you play tennis? To be number one in the world? Yes, that’s a dream. But, along the way, whichever bus stop you get off at, hopefully you’ve learnt to compete well, you’ve learnt to make friends, you’ve learnt to make good decisions, so really what we’re talking about are the values of life. If the other guy cheats, what sort of person will he be, how successful can you see him being, and how happy will he be? Even if he wins, he’s going to go home knowing that he’s done the wrong thing. You’ll go home happy, knowing that you’ve done the best you could, and that you’re a better person.”
Dan Bloxham was speaking at Sheen Mount School’s Olympian Sporting Extravaganza.