Tennis Prose



Tennis Intimidation

The big stars in the top 5 possess a natural intimidation factor that has an effect on the lower ranked players they meet in the first week of a Grand Slam.

A former ATP champion of Sydney in 1980 Fritz Buehning explained how it works.

“You’re down a break before the match starts. You’re nervous. You don’t think you belong out there. It happens in juniors too. They play the no. 1 seed in a tournament and they’re shaking in their boots.”

A UCLA All American and NCAA championship team member, Buehning achieved a best ranking of 21 in singles and 4 in doubles along with the one ATP title in 1980 Sydney (beat Brian Teacher in final, who two weeks later won AO). But a series of foot operations and problems shortened his career after five seasons on the ATP World Tour.

The New Jersey native remembers playing Jimmy Connors in Brussels QF, where he won the first set 64. “I was having success off his can-opener serve in the ad court, stepping in and hitting backhand winners. Connors started chirping with the referee and I got involved and said, ‘He’s intimidating you!’ Connors didn’t like that. And we almost got into a fight. He said, ‘Let’s put some money on the match.’ I said, ‘Jimmy I just turned pro, so let me put some money in my pocket first.'” Connors came back to win 46 62 62.

Buehning ended up 0-5 vs. Connors, only winning that one set.

Buehning also played John McEnroe once, in 1979 in Stockholm. He won the first set 64 but then McEnroe used his old tricks to change the match rhythm. “When John needed a point, he would make you wait, start an argument or complain about some camera being too noisy or something. He would intentionally cause a distraction and a delay. Then he’d put that serve in and you’d miss. He did that so many times. John really understood everything about tennis.”

Final score vs. McEnroe 46 62 62.

So when you watch the Australian Open the next two weeks, watch for the intimidation and sophisticated stalling and delay tactics utilized by the top 5 stars of the game and how their methods succeed…

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  • catherine · January 16, 2023 at 12:06 pm

    McEnroe acted up whenever he knew he could get away with it.
    In fact he acted up most of the time – no matter if the match was important or just routine.

    He usually got sycophantic reactions from the crowd and boos for the umpire. You just sighed and shut your notebook and played noughts and crosses until Mac won the point he wanted and the match carried on.

    Not funny. Just tedious.

    Connors used to work the crowd in an unpleasant way. Behind official’s backs. I thought that was worse.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 16, 2023 at 12:40 pm

    Catherine, there was a method to McEnroe’s madness, he didn’t create distractions to stall unless he needed it. Which is acceptable. Nadal stalls on ever one of his serve points. And when that’s not working he will fake an injury or lecture Sonego for grunting too loud. All these tricks and shenanigans are good though because they add another layer of drama/intrigue to the match.



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