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Whacker Advice - Suggestions for Tennis Hackers

Following the overwhelming response to my post about advice for golf hackers, the one comment it received suggested I offer similar advice for tennis players. So here are some ideas to get it started. Whackers... players who aspire to be Rafa, Roger or Serena but remain perspiring, awkward dreamers probably nursing tennis elbows, dodgy knees and arthritic hips, and regularly deflated egos.

  1. Grunt. All top players expel a noisy grunt after every shot to prove to spectators, opponents and coaches that a maximum amount of effort has been expended to serve or return a shot. Failure to grunt proves a lack of effort and commitment even if the ball is out or the point lost. At least he/she tried hard to win it. Whackers, on the other hand, have neither spectators (other than those patiently waiting to use the court) or coaches to worry about. So the grunt is solely intended to scare the opponent, to disguise the sound of ball on frame, or it's actually a squeal of pain rather than the signalling of hard work and herculean effort. If used tactically however, the terror it can impart on the opponent might just edge a small advantage as he/she is momentarily distracted and more concerned about your health than winning the point... actually, scrub that. No whacker is ever concerned about the health or well-being of their opponent until the match is won or abandoned. Should injury have actually occurred, the priority is to take full advantage to win the point followed by feigned concern about the newly acquired limp or frantically rubbed shoulder.

  2. Choice of racquet. Pros choose racquets based on balance, weight, feel and no doubt every possible variation except aesthetics... which is exactly the opposite for whackers. It's all about brandishing a well worn killing machine. Whackers don't win by playing well. They win by sufficiently demoralising their opponents to the extent that they won't be bothered to chase down every ball in the certain knowledge if they do, it will come back even faster and less reachably. Psychology wins tennis games. Not prowess. Pick a racquet that looks like you don't care how it hits. Using the latest high tech design only proves you're useless and hoping to rely on some magic built into the thing to win points. That might work for Rafa, but the whacker hasn't a clue which racquet will work best for them because unlike Rafa and co, they've never consistently hit the same shot twice. So a racquet tuned perfectly to one style of play is useless for a player who plays all styles of play.

  3. But strings DO matter. Pick ones that break easily. As emphasised above, tennis is a game of psychology. A whacker who breaks a string during a rally gives the impression of being a powerful hitter who repeatedly uses the same part of the racquet face. Not true of course, but Kevlar and synthetic strings are designed to rarely break. Pick gut and thinner gauges. And therefore always carry two or even three racquets onto court. You're a couple of games up even before you've knocked up... And make a fuss over which one to select for the game. Bang each one onto the front of your wrist with your hand flexed backwards (it's the only use there is for that part of the body). It won't give a clue how it's strung, but the trick is to pretend you know. Terror imparted!

  4. The knock up is by far the most important part of a match. If you haven't all but knocked the racquet out of your opponent's hand by the time the game begins, he/she isn't scared of you and resigned to lose. They'll believe they might win if they knock up better than you. Always win the knock up. The other reason to focus on the knock up is to tease out your opponents' weaknesses. Test their deep wide backhand by deliberately 'mishitting' a ball to the corner. "Sorry"... but Aha! Weakness logged. Equally when he/she is knocking up at the net, smash balls right at him/her. Make sure they never approach the net again! But one word of warning about knock ups. Never try to impress with fast serves. They're guaranteed to go out or in the net thereby undoing all the demoralising you've just achieved. Relaxed second serves only in knock ups for maximum demonstrations of confidence.

  5. Calling confidently. Whackers should never cheat. But there will be times during every match when a ball shaves a line. Any hesitation to your out call will prompt a response of "Are you sure?" resulting in a replayed point (more about this later when it's your turn to question line calls). Bold, loud, fast, confident calls will dispel any chance of an appeal, especially if you weren't totally certain. BUT there is also a place for the early charitable call of "On the line" - especially when you think in all probability the ball was actually out and your opponent would have agreed. This will achieve several things. If performed early enough it establishes to the opponent that you are not only honest but generous. This will play dividends later in the match when you're not 100% certain. And there's a slim chance your call was right. It was in and now you feel righteous that you didn't steal a point, thereby ensuring god will look favourably on your next few shots. And finally should those couple of players waiting to use your court have spotted your generous call, your reputation for decency will precede you for future matches.

  6. Appealing calls. Pick your moment and judge carefully your opponent who will fall into one of the following categories: Awed by you and never question giving you the benefit of the doubt; Suspicious that you have stolen points off him/her before and will argue the call; Nervous about what people will think of them. You're going to beat the nervous type anyway, so why bother raising your blood pressure by arguing? You'll also beat the awed opponent, but that will depend on how well you actually play (all other points above considered). So make sure it's a useful point to question, like if you're 0-40 down. Not appealing a close call with an awed opponent when you're 40-0 up will only increase the awe he/she has for you, as will quietly conceding an obviously close call. The suspicious player should be questioned as often as possible, but not by asking politely "Are you sure?". You need expressions of derision or even anger. Remember "You cannot be serious"? Fight fire with fire. Exude confidence and indignation. Make it clear you are suspicious too.

  7. Choice of balls is crucial. New balls are all the same. Consistent bounces, depending on the court surface. Always make sure your opponent understands you will be selecting which balls you'll be using. Pro players and top club players will only ever use new balls, or if desperate, used-once balls. Whackers on the other hand can use ball selection to add advantage to their game. As all whackers know, balls in their bags fall into five categories: Unopened (rare and expensive); Fluffy; Bald; Hard; and Soft. Hard, bald balls (usually pressureless) will bounce ridiculously high and turn gentle taps into rocket launches. Fluffy soft ones die instantly on any surface, thereby testing opponent cardiac vulnerability - do not use with good mates. Fluffy hard ones which were last used in the rain will smell, be horrible to hold and extra heavy. Perfect for drop shots and feeble second serves that might bounce twice before reaching your protagonist. But whichever style of ball you select, don't forget your own health and fitness.

  8. Tactics when changing ends. Whackers will know about the importance of what happens when meeting in the middle at end changes. Head up or down? Down of course! Especially if the last two games were disasters. If your head is up, your opponent will think that's the best you could have played - and their confidence for the next two games will be at peak levels. Make them think you're going to radically change everything about your game. You won't of course, but keep them guessing. Also, whatever advantage they got from the wind, it's about to become yours. Remind them of this by casually remarking as you cross something like "the wind was awful from that end" or "thank god that's over for a couple of games" or "your turn now". Of course it won't make the slightest difference. The wind will annoy you equally from both ends.

  9. "One set all, shall we play a decider?". Your response will depend on a number of factors. Did you win the previous set? If yes, never assume you're on a run. The gods of tennis are not smiling on you, they've got bored with your erratic flaying about and have moved to watch another court. Another factor will be relative exhaustion. Both whackers will of course be knackered after two sets, but which of you will best survive and prevail in a third? Watch for clues to give you the confidence to accept continuing. Limps, rubbing of joints, flexing of wrists and elbows. Profuse sweating - always a telltale. Appropriate for the temperature or on the verge of cardiac failure? Was their suggestion to play on in the hope that you will decline and call it a draw... and in which case, expecting to lose the third... so accept immediately before they can back out.

  10. Net height. Watch any top pro game and their shots very rarely come anywhere near the top of the net. Each shot has so much spin, it doesn't need to precisely skim the net to be hard and in on the other side. But whackers, lacking anything more than a sluggish couple of spin revolutions before meeting ground at the other end, need a margin of error amounting to just one or two inches above the net for any sort of strongly hit shot to stand a chance of being in. It's a little recognised fact that the skill needed by whackers to hit firm shots in, exceeds by a good margin the skill needed by pros to hit a ball as hard as they can when it's being spun to a point where it's distorted into a disk that struggles to make it as far as the service line before diving with Newtonian determination to deform in the opposite direction and bounce to a ridiculously unreturnable height, or else instantly die where it landed, such was the backspin imparted. Go on Roger and Rafa. No spin. Hit it hard. Out!


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