Well as I said in my last post, we are in Czech.  Sasha and I watched parts of many matches yesterday as we waited for him to go on.  He was last singles match of the day.  These matches, even though it is a Grade 1 (next to the highest level ITF Junior Event), early round matches are not chaired.  There are roving officials but their responsibilities include starting matches, reporting scores, calling trainer if necessary, getting new balls when matches split etc.  We saw much cheating–I mean deliberate cheating not missed calls because it’s close, but balls 6 inches in or out, and that only accounts for baseline or service line calls since we were sitting courtside, not behind the court where you can see the sidelines.  That’s quite different that western Europe or Scandinavia specifically where play is generally VERY fair.

So Sasha goes to play his match–he played a Russian player who we know and with whom we have practiced.  He’s a good player, and certainly does not need to cheat.  Almost every time the official left the court, there was a blatant bad call or two.  At least 7 people came over to me and said, what is going on there (the ball was way in).  But you know, many people often comment from off the court, and often they are wrong.  In this case, it was rather blatant.  And of course, the player never did it when the official was on the court.

For a while, one of the officials was on his break sitting by me.  The guy made a blatantly bad call, he said “oh oh” and terminated his break and went on court.  The tournament referee is quite nice here and is experienced (the event is quite efficiently run).  She came over and sat down beside me at the end of the match when I was waiting for Sasha.  She said “he has not played too much in this part of Europe right?”  I told her we played last year.  She said “well, he doesn’t seem to understand, when you are cheated like that so many times, you simply cheat back”.  The area where she sits is glassed so she can see the courts.  She said, I told the officials to stay on that court after I saw this happening, but they have other duties as well of course.  For those of you who don’t know the rules, the ITF regulations prohibit any official from making a call unless they are on the court in question.  So even if an official sees a problem happening, they have limited ability to correct the problem–if they can get to the court before the next point is played AND they saw the call was clearly wrong, they can call a let and replay the point, they can then remain on court and over rule a clear error.  That did happen on several courts during play yesterday.

Sasha had seen this happening, but he is very fair with his calls and trusts that the other player will be as well.  The calls didn’t directly change the outcome of the match.  They were not on game point or break point.  They were primarily at the begin of a game when the official probably felt it was “safe” to walk away.

I’ve always discouraged my players from cheating back.  It can turn into a vicious cycle.  But very frustrating to watch it happen time after time.

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