Gamesmanship is name of the game in tennis
Cheating is hard to pull off in tennis. However, whether it's coaching from the stands or bathroom breaks, players can -- and do -- get away with various forms of gamesmanship, writes Greg Garber.
As Maria Sharapova began her service motion, Patty Schnyder, not quite ready across the net, raised her hand to call time. Sharapova, who later said she didn't see Schnyder's signal until her follow-through, hit the serve, which a flat-footed Schnyder did not attempt to return.The chair umpire ruled it an ace. Schnyder complained, and the crowd watching the fourth-round match at this year's French Open whistled their collective disapproval in the European fashion. For the rest of the match -- won by Sharapova 9-7 in the third set -- the spectators rooted strongly against the comely Russian. "It's tough playing tennis and being Mother Teresa at the same time," said Sharapova, sulking after the match. The incident recalled a similar conflict between Serena Williams and Justine Henin in the semifinals of the 2003 French Open. Henin raised her hand for a timeout -- a signal that eluded the chair umpire -- and Williams, assuming she would get two fresh serves, hit a soft-serve into the net. When Henin didn't acknowledge the sign, Williams was furious. She was charged with a fault and eventually lost her composure -- and the match.
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It's tough playing tennis and being Mother Teresa at the same time.
It was the 1985 doubles final, pitting Americans Ken Flach and Robert Seguso against Frenchmen Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte. At one point, a ball struck by the French team seemed to graze Flach's (ample) hair. Flach did not concede the point, and the Frenchmen were furious. Flach never denied the ball touched him but essentially maintained that it was the chair umpire's call, which was not forthcoming. Flach and Seguso ultimately prevailed.McEnroe remembers a match against Greg Rusedski indoors at Memphis, Tenn., Rusedski, whose serve was a huge weapon, was wiping the ball on his sweat-soaked shirt before serving. "I asked the chair umpire if it was legal, and he said there was no rule," McEnroe said. "I wasn't sure he was doing it on purpose, but with Greg, you're thinking he just might try to pull that. I think it added a little skid, an extra slide to the ball." Today, gamesmanship is widely prevalent in tennis. Remember that five-set, third-round Wimbledon match between Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling? It required five rainy days to finish and escalated into something more of a battle of attrition. Soderling, unhappy with Nadal's typically slow play, started waiting him out in a game of changeover chicken. Then, at the beginning of the fifth set, Soderling did a spot-on impression of Nadal's notorious crease (shorts) adjustment after each point. "It just made me think of the victory," Nadal said. Responded Soderling, "It was more of a fun thing. I had to wait for him, I mean, more than 200 times. Every point, I had to wait for him. He had to wait for me one time, and then he started shaking his head and saying things. "I think most of the players, I think all players, play faster than him." Nadal and Novak Djokovic -- who typically bounces the ball 15-20 times before each serve -- regularly violate the rules that call for a maximum of 20 seconds between the end of a point and the next serve. "It's an individual sport, which brings out individual quirks," McEnroe said. "You're out there on your own, so I think you develop rituals to control your environment. That's just how Nadal plays, and it works for him." Bathroom breaks, particularly on the women's side, often seem to be used primarily as psychological weapons, rather than springing from physiological necessity. In the fourth round at Wimbledon this year, Venus Williams and Sharapova resumed their match that rain had cut short after three points the day before. When Sharapova walked out onto the court, Williams asked for a bathroom break -- technically legal -- and kept her waiting for nearly five minutes. Williams won the opening game with two quick points and, in the fourth game, Sharapova hit four double-faults, sending her on the way to an ugly straight-sets loss. Gamesmanship, slow play and bathroom breaks are considered part of the game. That doesn't make them right, Martin insists. "If there are rules in place, enforce them," said Martin, who has discovered a successful second career on the senior Outback Champions Series. "It's like gambling and anti-doping rules. If they're not worth enforcing, they're not worth writing. "Tennis is a game of etiquette and sportsmanship. The more we accept and allow untoward behavior on the tennis court -- and it is just behavior -- the more our future generations will abuse it. If Nadal takes more than the allotted 20 seconds, warn him. Enforce the rules -- or change the rules to accommodate the players so it's not perceived as abuse or gamesmanship." Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
CHEAT WAVE '07
Over the next two days, ESPN.com examines the recent wave of sports cheating and assesses the damage done to our trust in the games we watch. Cheat Wave
Perspectives• Drehs: Answer to cheating lies within
• Future cheats: Stem cells and gene dopers
• Helyar: When owners cheat owners
• Fish: Jose Canseco's online pharmacy primer
• Merrill: Playing unfair at the fair
• Vote: Are the rules of golf golden?
Introduction• Drehs: Cheating raises serious questions for sports
• Forde: We love 'em and can't leave 'em
• Timeline: Hot Spots Through the Years
Your Voice• Vote: Are you a habitual cheater?
• Vote: What does cheating mean to you?
Baseball• Crasnick: Call it cheating, or call it gamesmanship
• Neyer: Baseball's top 10 cheaters of all time
• Thompson: Shoeless Joe's redemption
• SportsNation: What separates cheating from strategy?
• How do you cork a bat?
• Dale Murphy chat wrap
Football• Chadiha: Players look to gain an edge almost any way they can
• Notorious image sticks with Raiders
• Cheating anecdotes: College football
• SportsNation: Cheating or gamesmanship?
Basketball• Thorpe: It's survival of the fittest in the NBA
• Cheat Wave: Pushing the Envelope
• Cheat Wave: Pushing the Envelope 2
• David Thorpe chat wrap
• Cheating anecdotes: College basketball
• Thompson: Point-shavers, a half-century later
NASCAR• Newton: Cheating might be a dirty word, but so is losing
• Blount: Cheating in NASCAR? You be the judge
• Newton: Evernham forces NASCAR's hand
• McGee: Bill France Sr. vs. the mob
Hockey• Burnside: The NHL's cheat sheet
• Burnside: Competition committee is league's best line of defense
Page 2• Zumsteg: "Cheater's Guide to Baseball"
Tennis• Garber: Players police themselves in tennis
• Inside the ATP Gambling Scandal
Golf• Harig: Golf's honor code limits 'cheating' incidents
• Sobel: Ten famous rules invocations in golf history