Cheating in Tennis

 In Emotion, Junior Athletes & Parents, Tennis

Has cheating in tennis reached an all-time high? There’s so much conversation about it. I certainly understand that cheating can be a difficult thing to deal with when you are on the other side of the net.

Many of my clients want to talk about how they lost because the other person cheated and “why doesn’t the USTA do more to help eliminate it?” Cheating causes quite the emotional reaction. We feel like we’ve been wronged and someone is out to get us.

Cheating is big in tennis because kids make the line calls. But let’s consider an alternative way to look at cheating and how to work through it, and not let it destroy our focus.

Why does cheating happen?

Cheating happens because the other person wants to win. Plain and simple. What’s not so plain and simple is the pressure kids feel to win and adults feel to not look bad. Sure, we all have some of this but for some, it runs deeper and because people don’t understand how to deal with those factors, the easiest thing for them to do is cheat.

I often tell my clients, cheating sucks but if that’s what happening you should actually feel sorry for the person on the other side of the net. Clearly there’s something bigger going on that is causing them to cheat. I know it takes a bigger person to look at it that way but it’s true and the only impact of getting mad and frustrated that someone is cheating is your game goes downhill. And then the impact continues and impacts you more than it should.

My last, mostly unpopular thought about cheating is that sometimes your opponent is calling it the way they see it. Maybe it’s a close call and they call it out. Your vantage point on the other side of the net is not great so it may have been out or it may have been in. However, if there are several questionable calls, it starts to eat away at you. Every call feeds the next and they all seem wrong.

How does cheating impact your game?

Your game goes downhill. You are so caught up in your head thinking your opponent is cheating (out to get you) that the rage and anger build and you are no longer able to play tennis. All you can think about is how you detest your opponent. You can’t believe the bad calls. How could someone cheat you out of winning this match? And now if you are in your head, you are not playing the match. You are not playing your game.

Where do you have control?

Here are your options:

You can continue to think about the fact that your opponent is cheating.


You can let it go and keep playing.

What’s your choice? I hope the latter. Even though it’s easier said than done, when you learn to let go of cheating or even anything having to do with your opponent, you have control of your ability to play and are able to stay in the match.

Also, you don’t have control of your opponent. If they are going to cheat, they are going to cheat. Nothing you do or say will change that. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t challenge a call but what it does mean is, don’t let your opponent’s calls get in the way of your game.

Playing your own game – let go of the frustration

As I said above, when you let go of cheating (your opponent, the score, the error, the double fault), reset and remain present this is when you have control and are able to play your game so that your ability to enjoy the match and to potentially win exponentially goes up.

What is one tool you can use to do that? A mantra. A mantra is a 1-3-word phrase that you come up with that resets your brain away from thinking about being cheated. Some of my clients use get the next one or I’ve got this. Many simply use, reset.

You have to train yourself that when an opponent cheats; you use your mantra to change the direction of what usually happens. If you get mad, the mantra is designed to move you away from being mad. If you ruminate about it, the mantra is designed to help you get out of your head and focus on your game, not theirs.

Hanging on or letting go

It’s too bad that opponents cheat and it totally sucks when it happens. You don’t have control over the calls your opponent is making. You can either hang onto them and let them control (choke the life out of) your game, or learn to let go of them so you can play your best. It’s up to you!

So many of my clients talk about losing a match because their opponent was cheating. That may be true or it may be true that they allowed their opponent’s behavior to take them down. They gave away their control and ability to play their best tennis.

You got this! Keep the focus! Play your game!


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Unlock your potential, ego mindset versus mastery mindsetDr Michelle Mental Skills Training Sport Psychology Therapist