I do like this excerpt from Nick Saviano’s book Maximum Tennis. Read it carefully and compare with your feelings on the tennis court. I wish you to have a lot of fun on the tennis court. If you or your junior tennis player do not have fun playing tennis, think about it. No having fun means no success on the tennis court.
Reflect for a moment on a time when you played your best tennis. Perhaps it was a victory over the number-one player at your club or when you won a big tournament. Or maybe it was a losing effort against a superior opponent. How did you perceive your tennis at that time? Did you look forward to playing? Was the match fun and enjoyable?
I would be willing to bet the answer is yes. In all of my years of playing and coaching, I can’t remember hearing a player say, “I hated being out on the court today, but I just had the best win of my life.” You’ll rarely hear someone say, “Practice has been miserable, but, wow, I am improving!” It is ludicrous to think you can improve your tennis when you are devoid of fun, enjoyment, and passion for the game. In fact, without it, your chances of taking your game to the next level are virtually nil.
Before the start of the 1999 Wimbledon final against Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras told his coach, Paul Annacone, that “this is going to be fun. I’m going to enjoy this time. Who knows how many more finals I’ll play here and how often I’ll play Andre?” That same year Steffi Graf was coming back from an injury and unexpectedly won the French Open.
Three short weeks later, she lost in the finals of Wimbledon to Lindsay Davenport and announced that it would be her last Grand Slam event. “The last few weeks have been pretty amazing,” Graf said. “It’s obvious that I’m disappointed about losing the final, but I do have to say it’s been great…It’s been a lot of fun.” After losing in the 2001 Wimbledon final, 9 – 7, in the fifth set, the great Australian Patrick Rafter said, “It was electric out there, that is what we play for, it was a lot of fun”.
Sure you say. Those tennis players have won millions of dollars playing tennis and can afford to say it’s fun. But do you really think they would have endured countless hours of training and practicing, overcome agonizing injures, and struggled to gain their success over the years if it wasn’t fun and enjoyable to be on the tennis court? Tennis can be hard work, and it takes sacrifice to reach your potential at almost every level. If you do not enjoy your time spent on the tennis court, the rewards are often not enough to keep you playing tennis.
Tennis is a game and as such should be fun and enjoyable, which over time will manifest itself into a real passion for the game. The love of the game is a key ingredient to your success in tennis. Of course, tennis has become many other things in today’s world. It can be an avenue to fame and fortune for those good enough to compete at the highest level.
It can be the means to earning a living for tennis players, coaches, manufactures, entrepreneurs, administrators, and business people. It can be the path to college scholarship. It can be a proving ground for your self-worth – your standing in your peer group, club, or community. And it is a wonderful way to keep physically fit. But first and foremost, tennis is a game, a wonderful game for a lifetime, from which we should derive enjoyment.
The principal of having fun and cultivating not only a love but also a true passion for tennis is a prerequisite to any meaningful and significant improvement in your game. If you don’t enjoy your time on the tennis court, whether it’s in practice or in competition, you might as well kiss success good-bye.
This is true for every tennis player – a world class professional, a college player, an aspiring junior, or a recreational player. We’ve all heard great athletes from every sport say things like, “I play because I love the game,” or a veteran who states, “I play because I still have a passion and enjoyment for the competition,” or the idol of millions who claims, “Playing tennis is not work for me. It’s fun.” The message is so loud that it’s deafening, yet it is consistently overlooked and misinterpreted.
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