© Ella Ling

Tennis balls

Mark Petchey: How to deal with a cheat


Mark Petchey, Andy Murray’s former coach, and a supporter of the Barclays Ball Kids scheme, gives his tips on ‘How to deal with an opponent’s cheating and gamesmanship’.

You have to be very sure before you accuse someone of cheating over line-calls: “Cheating in junior tennis is rife. But you shouldn’t accuse someone of cheating after one bad line-call or even a couple. Only after several bad line-calls, and obviously bad ones, should you say something. You have to keep some perspective about this. But if you’re sure, you should call your opponent out over this.”

Sometimes, drastic action is needed: “Parents are loathe to teach their children to do what an opponent is doing to them. But sometimes only drastic action works. You see people getting fed up with their opponent’s cheating and catching an opponent’s serve on a big point and calling ‘out’ and there’s not very much that the opponent can do about it. That sends out the message to your opponent, ‘Are we going to play tennis or we going to play something else?’ The reality is that, in junior tennis, you probably won’t have an umpire or a supervisor, and this is sometimes the only way to deal with it.”

It’s boring, but the best way to deal with an opponent’s gamesmanship is to block it out: “There is more scope for gamesmanhip in junior tennis than in the professional game. There are rules in places in professional tennis about not taking too much time between points. But in the juniors, you will get players who slow everything down, who keep stopping to tie up their shoelaces, or who stall in other ways. And there’s not very much you can do about it. There used to be a lot more trash-talking in professional men’s tennis, with players chirping away during the changeovers and trying to get into their opponent’s head. But that doesn’t happen so now much because of the microphones, as they know that everything will be picked up.”


Barclays holds an annual nationwide search to find 30 youngsters to join the world’s best players and star as Barclays Ball Kids at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London. To take part in one of the regional trials, which start this month, please click here.