From the qualities and traits that make a tennis champion. Learn more about mental strength, anatomy, multi-skills & other factors that make them stand out!
Any discussion on who the greatest tennis players of all time are will inevitably lead to some debate, but it is safe to say that names like Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf, and Serena Williams would probably make most people’s lists. The bigger question is – what traits do these great players have in common? As it turns out, there are quite a few common traits. Some of them have to do with basic factors such as work ethic or playing style, but others might come as a bit of a surprise. Here are the 5 things the greatest tennis players have in common:
5. They hate to lose
Nobody likes to lose but the true greats display an extreme reaction to defeat. Reportedly, after losing the 2009 Australian Open to close rival Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer cried and said “God, it’s killing me”.
Not only are they natural winners who hate to lose, great players generally tend to be perfectionists. Unlike the average player who might cut themselves some slack for a wayward volley or a few carelessly dropped points, perfectionists tend to go over each mistake repeatedly, driving themselves to improve.
4. Mental strength
For athletes in all sports, mental strength is key, because you need to find a way to keep pushing forward even when things aren’t going your way. In team sports you may be able to turn to other mentally stronger players for inspiration, but in a solo sport like tennis, you need to find that inspiration from within yourself. Great tennis players have all displayed an incredibly high amount of self-confidence and belief in their ability to turn a bad situation around. Even after a loss to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of a US Open, Roger Federer displayed a huge amount of belief in himself when he said, “It’s awkward having to explain this loss…because I feel like I should be doing the other press conference.”
Another aspect of mental strength that all great players seem to possess is the ability to not get overwhelmed by the occasion. Many competent, skillful players may have levels of ability similar to great players when there is no pressure, but the pressure that comes with playing in a Grand Slam semi-final, for example, may easily unnerve a lot of players and force them to play within their shell. Great players, on the other hand, appear to come alive on the bigger stages. Mental strength has always been one factor that always needed to be taken into account in tennis predictions, especially in finals or semi-finals.
3. They are extremely fit
Reportedly, Novak Djokovic trains for 14 hours every day, and at one point moved his training camp to Abu Dhabi in order to train in the extreme heat. Margaret Court, who dominated women’s tennis for over a decade between the 1960’s and 70’s was the first woman to incorporate weight training into her routine. The result was increased strength and athleticism, and protection from injury that allowed her to dominate her rivals.
Serena Williams reportedly said of her legendary biceps – “To this day, I don’t love my arms. People want more fit arms, but my arms are too fit. But I’m not complaining. They pay my bills.”
Most people focus on the physical side of tennis, but the real difference between average players and the true greats, lies in their ability to think strategically, on their feet. Evidence of this can be seen in the split-second decisions great players make when they hit an unexpected shot or the subtle buildup of play to cleverly displace their opponents.
Each Grand Slam tournament is a bit unique, and the ability to thrive requires a different set of skills. For example, the hard courts of the Australian Open are dramatically different from Wimbledon’s grass courts or the French Open’s clay courts. Certain types of playing styles flourish better on certain courts but the true greats are players who have been able to dominate on every court, proving their versatility and diverse skill-set.
The one trait that really underpins all the traits mentioned above is relentless drive and the desire to win. The drive to win makes great tennis players go all out and do extraordinary things to achieve their dreams.