Trash talk, subtle comments, outright poor sportsmanship. How do you deal with it?
I've got some guys I play with that say things just to get into your head. They'll hit a winner and then gloat about how great the shot was and that you never had a chance. Or you miss your first serve and they'll say "Oh...don't double fault!". Or one of my personal favorites, its 4 serving 5, AD out and they yell, "Set point!"
How do you handle it? I try to just ignore them and play my game but emotions eventually creep in and I end up just trying to hit a winner on every shot, try way too hard, and eventually beat myself.
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I don't see any reason you should have to put up with that. I play with tons of different people, I mean 40 to 50 to maybe 80 a year, and none of them talk trash. Who is setting you up with these guys? I hope you didn't meet them on tennisopolis! :-)
To me, it sounds like you already know what is happening - so you are half way there to solving this problem. My advice is going to sound obvious. Don't let it get under your skin, remember that it is just a game. First, I'd say find nicer opponents. I play tennis for fun AND competition, but I won't waste my time hanging with jerks. If you have to play someone like this in a league or tourney, then just relax and ignore the comments.
I played a guy that would say "oh, no" every time I missed a shot or double faulted. It was subtle but super annoying. Very early in the match I told him to stop doing it. I gave no explanation, and he stopped. The point here is don't be afraid to just ask (or tell) your opponent that you don't appreciate something. Then it is out in the open and they can choose to respect your wishes or choose to be a jerk.
I've had that conversation with a few of them more than once, but I guess that's just their 'thing'. So be it. The solution is just to find new people to play with.
Funny thing is....I got a call last night from a guy I played against in Flex League last summer, and we had a great match today!
I play for the competition and fun as well, but I would never berate my opponent. Win fair and square, you'll feel better about it.
You've got the right idea, ignore them. Also maintaining your level of composure really annoys these types of players. I have a friend that I play matches against often & he contantly loves to yell & talk to himself. I kinda find it funny so I play with a smirk on my face & best thing is beating these guys at their own games. Sure expression of emotions is always a good thing, pumping yourself up, getting upset, one has to let some steam off but how it's done does matter.
This guy is so annoying to the point that every time I missed the ball or lost a game to him he'd say "That's what I'm talking about, give a few more of those" . My son watching sometimes said afterwards, what's wrong with that man? I just try to laugh it off because in the end the one who loses it mentally & shows frustrations in a very unattractive manner to me is already showing signs of defeat & weakness. They'll do anything to get one over you :) If they start cheating then I am on top of it. Good sportsmanship is acquired & has to be practiced, with experience it comes & to some it never does.