Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida provides some insight into the delicate question of player retirements in this installment of Coach's Q and A.
Today's question: Retirements seem to be on the rise in pro tennis. How does a junior coach or parent know when their player should consider retiring from a match? How do you balance the health and safety issue with the desire to be seen as a tough competitor?
Tom Downs, director of coaching at the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute, responds:
Health and safety are of paramount importance for young tennis players. We think that it is important for players and parents to be clear about the risk/reward ratio for playing in situations which might cause long term damage to a players career.
Rarely do professional or elite junior players play matches where their bodies are 100%. That said, there is a big difference between playing or continuing a match where a player has obviously seriously injured a part of their body and continuing to may cause long term damage, and playing with a minor injury such as a blister, minor ankle sprain, or strained muscle.
There have been too many examples of professional players being determined to try and gut out a victory with an injury, when by continuing to play with that injury, they have actually put their careers in jeopardy. We believe that when a trainer tells a player that they are at risk of further injury or aggravating an injury, they should stop.
It is important to recognize how many players also try to come back too soon from injuries and once again put their careers in jeopardy. It is our belief that you always err on the side of caution. It is easy to get caught up in the moment of an important match or tournament but it is necessary to be able to keep everything in perspective and make sure that decisions regarding a player's health and well being are oriented toward the long term.
Harold Solomon adds:
Of course players are always dealing with minor injuries, most of which are not going to have long term effects on a player's career if they continue to play on. There is a fine line between a legitimate match-ending injury and one that is nagging, and it is important that players not use those nagging injuries as a back door to stop competing in a match. I never remember retiring during a match. I always wanted to respect my opponent and let them have a real victory rather then a default. I hate when I see players retiring being down 5-2 or 5-0 in the last set. Unless you are in serious physical trouble you always should have the character to finish out the match and walk always with your head held high.
Do you have a question for Tom or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coach's Q and A in the subject line.