May 4, 2022  ·  Barbara Wyatt

We are still scratching our heads.

The USTA match was scheduled for a 5:15 p.m. start. The host team booked a court prior for an extra warm-up. With only one available court, the host team will use it from 4:00 to 4:45 p.m., then provide the final half hour to the visiting team. Or, they work all players onto court as they arrive, allowing players on both teams to warm each other up.  

On this afternoon, Court 10 had four host team members hitting ground strokes. At 4:50 p.m., I stepped onto the court, waited quietly. When a player turned around, I asked, “Will my team have an opportunity to use this warm-up court?” 

The answer was “It’s not my decision, I’m not the host captain.” 

In this great sport with wonderful people, their veins raging with positive energy from endorphins, it seemed an odd response. I returned to advise my teammates (the visiting team). Heads tilted to the side, eyebrows raised, and mouths twisted in confusion. The custom to share a warm-up court with all players—hosts and opponents—had been derailed. 

Did the club abandon it? Are they aware it could be perceived as poor sportsmanship and a snub to visitors? 

“I’ll try again,” I tell my teammates. 

At 5:00 p.m., I again asked the players on court, “May we use the court for warm-up?” 

“It’s not my decision.” 

“I think this is more of a sportsmanship issue,” I said. I held my breath, hoping that these players with years of USTA experience would remember how well they are respected and treated at other locations. Surely, they will behave as the most gracious of hosts and in the spirit of friendly competition, provide their opponents (who traveled some distance) access to the court. 

Their feet remained ensconced on court. Faces stared at me blankly. I returned to my mates to announce the hosts are not sharing the court. 

A few minutes before match start time, we were told we could use the court. I was encouraged—perhaps it was competitive jitters that created a misunderstanding on pre-match courtesies. 

I was wrong. 

Two host players refused to leave and announced that all visitors may only use half the court. After having access to the court to practise volleys, ground strokes and serves for over an hour, these two monopolized half the court for the remaining seven minutes. My mates tucked far into the corners for short frying-pan tennis rallies and two rallied on their half of the court. I was proud of my teammates—the visiting team. They adjusted to the slight and didn’t complain. 

Sharing a pre-match court is not a rule; it is an indication of the height of the sportsmanship bar of the host team. Is it fair to invoke a home-team advantage, and forbid opponents access to a court? Should all players enter the match under a fair level playing field? 

On this afternoon, Karma stepped in and answered my questions. My mates and I (the visiting team) won the match.

Editorial submission to New York Tennis Magazine & Long Island Tennis Magazine.