In the latest article in the “What is Racketlon” series, former top-10 star Cedric Junillon explains about racketlon’s iconic scoring tiebreaker – the gummi-arm. He also tells some of his favourite gummi-arm stories from his racketlon career.
From Swedish: Gummi-arm
Racketlon’s scoring system is exciting and mentally challenging enough with it’s “every point counts” system. However, there is another extraordinary scoring feature in the racketlon rules: the dreaded/hotly anticipated – depending on if you are player or spectator – Gummi-Arm.
What is a Gummi-Arm?
Short definition: if at the end of the tennis set, both players have the exact same number of points (i.e: 21-12; 19-21; 22-24; 16-21), then a single, sudden-death point of tennis will be played. As not to give an advantage to the player serving, there is only one serve.
Simple and straightforward rule, isn’t it? However, living through this situation is all but simple. Just try to imagine the situation.
First of all, to get to a Gummi-Arm, it means you’ve had a hard fought match where you’ve concentrated on each point for one hour with your mental ups-and-downs. You’re also usually as exhausted physically as mentally. Getting to the Gummi also means one of the players has had match points which were saved or squandered. Sometimes both players have had match points alternately! Usually, the crowd around has sensed that a Gummi is likely to come so people have been gathering around the court, and the last points have been played in an atmosphere full of noisy excitement and electrical silence.
“Heads or Tails? Up or Down? The clueless choice is crucial”
And then it’s Gummi time. You go back to the middle of the court to have a new toss with your opponent. Heads or Tails? Up or Down? The clueless choice is crucial. Except for semi-pro tennis players who might be (very slightly) more relaxed, it’s a toss you desperately want to win as you usually don’t want to be the one going back to the baseline having to play this battle’s destiny on a “second serve” after a one minute break, with your nerves rattled and your shaking hand. When learning tennis, one has to overcome the fear of double faulting. Here, there’s no overcoming the fear of single faulting, you’ll just have to deal with it!
I don’t believe anyone has done statistics on that theme, but in my own career, I have played just three Gummis, and two of those ended with the player faulting on serve – once me, and once my opponent Benjamin Graenicher. So much pressure reminds you just how much harder technically the act of serving is in tennis, compared to the other sports.
Cedric’s Favourite Gummi-Arm Stories
Though playing only three myself, I have had the chance to witness many more, and each and every one of them was an intense moment, even as a simple spectator.
I believe I’ve seen it all:
- A fantastic tennis player, who hadn’t missed a single kick serve throughout the set, deciding to serve underhand and serving long.
- A Racketlon newcomer who didn’t know he had only one serve hitting a huge ace down the T.
- A Ladies World Championship final, which had been a ferocious battle of an unprecedented level broadcasted on Swedish TV, ending with a shaky underhand serve and a horrible forehand slice return sailing wide by two metres.
- A Men’s Doubles World Championship final ending with a great champion deciding to serve, and hitting a great kick serve in the diagonal with sheer self-confidence.
- A Swiss Interclubs game, last of the season supposed to determine who would go down one league, finishing at 183-apiece. We learnt that in the rules it is the mixed double which would be playing that point. Having lost the toss, our tennis champion woman was so scared to take that responsibility that she actually tried to push her badminton-squash partner into serving himself. Of course, he would have none of that.
- A National Team World Championship game where the two tennis old-timers played a gruesome rally of 30-or-so forehand baseline topspins before one eventually tried something which ended up in the net.
The last situation in which I have yet to see a Gummi-Arm ending is the Men’s Singles World Championship final. How about this year, lads?
No other sport that I can think of can boast a dramatic situation of that intensity and if that isn’t a reason to participate in Racketlon, even as a spectator, I don’t know what will be!
Cedric Junillon / Former Top-10 Racketlon Player
Image Credit / Inge Omey