5 Weirdest on-Court Routines and Behaviors in Tennis

Jeff Cohn@jeff_cohnCorrespondent IIIAugust 15, 2011

5 Weirdest on-Court Routines and Behaviors in Tennis

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    Some of the world's biggest tennis icons, such as Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, are known for their supernatural skills and success on the court.

    But, what goes unbeknownst to some tennis fans and viewers are the habits and strange routines that even the most famous of players do during a match.

    These mainly odd routines are highly mental components to athletes' performance in a match and may sometimes be the deciding factor in whether or not a player loses focus or simply loses.

    Here are the top five most peculiar and bizarre behaviors you will see tennis players doing today.

Honorable Mention: Ernests Gulbis' Ball Tossing

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    Before Ernests Gublis steps up to the baseline to serve, he undergoes a very consistent routine.

    Usually, he asks the ball kid for three tennis balls. He proceeds to juggle them in one hand and tap two of the balls with the tips of his fingers before deciding to throw a ball back, keep one in his pocket and serve the one of his choice.

    This is all done while he simultaneously wipes the sweat off his forehead with his wristband.

    Then he bombs aces, so I guess the routine works for him.

5. Marion Bartoli's Hopping and Dry Swings

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    Sorry for the poor quality, but it was the best clip I could find.

    Marion Bartoli is always moving or doing something. She frequently hops and jumps around the court when a point is not being played and she takes what Dirk Nowitzki (after watching one of her recent matches) called "dry swings," which are simply ground strokes and service motions being swung at the air without the use of a ball.

    Bartoli has some other odd habits, such as the way she serves and plays tennis in general. But Dr. Bartoli, her father and coach, suggested all of these oddities for her game for a reason, and they are certainly paying off. 

4. Richard Gasquet and Dustin Brown's Lucky Ball

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    For those of you who do not know who Dustin Brown is (and I guarantee almost none of you have heard of him), he is a German-Jamaican tennis player with a very comical shot selection and attitude on the court. Brown and Gasquet both do the following activity during matches, as do many other tennis players, but these two in particular make it a top priority.

    Whenever either player wins a point, they request for the same ball back to be used for the following point. This is highly superstitious behavior—and Dustin Brown actually walks all the way up to the net whenever the ball kids do not remember to give him the same ball.

    I had the privilege of seeing Gasquet play at the U.S. Open on a number of occasions, and I truly saw his habit escalate over the years.

    During his 2010 second round match against Nikolay Davydenko, one player hit the ball into the first row of the crowd (and obviously Gasquet won the point beforehand—you shall soon see why).

    An excited adult male fan in that row grabbed hold of the ball and was ecstatic that he would most likely get to keep it (why he would get excited over a shanked ball I have no idea—after all, it had no signature on it and was just a standard ball).

    Richard Gasquet came over to the man (I was sitting just a couple rows behind that man, by the way) and asked for the ball back. The man played dumb and did not feel obliged to give it back (he was right in thinking so). However, the Frenchman would not leave and kept bugging the guy for the "lucky" ball. After a very long 30 seconds, Gasquet gave up on the resistant man (who should have forked it over).

    In the end, he won in straight sets so the lucky tennis ball shouldn't really make a big difference to either of these athletes.

3. Rafael Nadal's Bottle Placement and Wedgies

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    I have no idea what Tennis Now is, but they made a nice compilation of Nadal's pre-point wedgie-picking.

    As for his water bottles, he usually has two to three of them on the floor by his seat for the changeover. He places them in his own special layout and requests that the ball kids do not touch them. He takes a sip from each of them separately, and his superstitious ways have been overshadowed by his overall success.

2. Maria Sharapova Before Every Point

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    Maria Sharapova is known for two things: her wonderful skills as a tennis player, and her grunting.

    Another thing she does, though, is talk to the wall and face away from her opponent before every point. To go into even more detail—when she is the one serving, she also picks strands of hair out of her face, does a few hop-skips, stares her opponent down, and bounces the ball once every time.

    This habit bothers me perhaps more than her grunting—no, just kidding. Nothing is more annoying than her high-pitched screams during the point.

1. Rafael Nadal's Superstition of the Lines

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    For somebody that plays tennis as much as he does, one would think he would know how to at least step on the lines once in a while.

    But, not Rafa. He runs and scrambles all over the lines during the point, but is deathly afraid to step on them after a point. He does deserve some credit, though—he at least walks on the printed letters toward the back of the court.

    He also always steps in front of the line with his right foot first. Take a look at these behaviors next time you watch one of his matches.

    So, what did we learn today? The players that do the weirdest things on the court are also some of the absolute best and most successful ones.

    Maybe doing weird things on the court can help one's game, but I personally find no need to pick a wedgie more than once a set.

    This article was written by Jeff Cohn, a sports writer and enthusiast.