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Respected tennis writer Joel Drucker answers your questions about the thrills and spills of the recreational player. Got a hole in your game or a question for Joel? Drop him an email at and you may find yourself in a future column.

Q) I was playing a league mixed doubles match and after my opponent thought we made a bad line call he tried to drill my partner with his service return. Fortunately my partner ducked and the ball was long. That left a bad taste in my mouth and I just never recovered emotionally, so we lost. Any advice?
-Marty Mixed

A) Dear Marty:

First, acknowledge that this kind of service return is a completely legitimate play. But as my friend Marvin Levine told me on a tennis court many years ago, the shmuckery percentage is the same in all walks of life. Following Mr. Head Hunter's return, you have two options. If you're able to shrug this off ala Stefan Edberg, merely carry on, business as usual, happy that you won the point. But while you should certainly grin, you don't have to bear it, and if you feel yourself feeling emotionally and physically contaminated by this guy's poison, try the counterpunch. Basically what this guy has done is toss a demon into your soul. Your mission is to exorcise it. Once, for example, an opponent eight inches taller than me yelled, "So, we're going to start making those kind of line calls, are we?" At the next changeover, in order to purge his rude remark, I yelled, "If you want to get a linesman, go ahead." In the case of a HeadHunter, it's plausible - though tricky - to ask a diplomatic question such as, "Do you want to just play a tennis match?" It can also be useful to proceed this question with a comment about the 3,000 people who will die of starvation during your match. A little perspective can be useful. Sometimes. 

Q) Dear Roving Player:
Our local park puts on a tournament, and I'm wondering as a 3.5 player if it would be better for me to play in the 4.0 or 3.5 division. A bunch of friends of mine are 4.0 players, and I've beaten some, so what should I do?

A) Dear Ralph:

Unless you've already won the 4.0 tournament, my recommendation is that if you want to improve you should play the 4.0 division. Some folks believe that you improve by playing better players, but - and I'll say this until I'm blue in the face - the truth is that you get better by facing pressure. And that means winning when you're expected to win. When you go up against better players, there's no pressure, so you may feel loose, but you will not test yourself in the heat of battle the way you would against someone you feel you should beat. Go into that 4.0 event and bring home the trophy. 

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Oakland-based Joel Drucker is one of the world's leading tennis writers. Author of the book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, Drucker's work has appeared in a wide range of print and broadcast media, including Tennis, USTA Magazine, ESPN, CBS and The Tennis Channel. For The Tennis Channel he's worked as an on-air analyst and is co-producer of the program, Center Court with Chris Myers. An avid recreational player, Drucker's lefthanded 4.5 game attempts to combine the tactical array of Brad Gilbert with the variety of John McEnroe, a style he fondly refers to as "Spinning Ugly."