Have you ever heard a friend, or perhaps a stranger, say, "Oh tennis? Pfft! What a joke! That ain't a sport! I would be the boss in that!"
Well I certainly have heard countless people say this—from sports enthusiasts to sports-coach-watchers. I don't know about you, but it upsets me every single time I even hear someone use the word "easy" with "tennis" in the same sentence.
For a non-tennis player it is difficult for them to comprehend what it actually takes to become a top player, and unfortunately there are many tennis commentators that make tennis sound as if it is an every-man sport. There are countless times in a match when I hear the commentator say “oh they went for too much,” “he’s thinking about what the other guy is doing.” Phrases like these from the commentators make tennis look as though it’s such a simple task that it’s ridiculous that any of the pros should ever miss any shot.
I have seen juniors from Latvia, Germany, Serbia, Russia, Croatia, etc. come to a single tournament to try and rack up points just so that they can make a name for themselves. Most of them came from nothing and yet they have the heart and the determination to step up and fight for what they want most in the world. Most of them will not even know what it feels like to even enter the Top 50, but they still work hard.
Yes, anyone can pick up a racket and hit a tennis ball, but it takes a someone to pick up a tennis racket and make it to the Top 20 or Top 10; and I'm not even talking about the Top 5 yet.
I will be honest. I thought when I first started playing six years ago that it was going to be easy. I wasn't expecting to do anything with it but just make friends and have fun. Then once I started, I got addicted.
I wanted to become better and better, and pretty soon I was having private lessons. Then I was doing junior tournaments, and it has just escalated from there. Now I'm the best I've ever been and I'm still hungry for more, and that hunger is what every tennis player needs—the ones that want to make something of it.
It doesn't take months, but years, to master a single stroke in tennis. Serena Williams has one of the best serves on the WTA circuit and to develop that serve, she would serve for hours on end. The same goes for Ana Ivanovic, who has always had a wobbly ball toss. Even if you practice seven to nine hours a week and win a few tournaments here and there, it does not necessarily make you a “pro” tennis player.
Technique is the sole foundation of any sport, but more so when it comes to a sport like tennis. If you do not have the preparation, timing, footwork, good technique on the forehand, backhand, volley, serve…
It's really not even the technique that most makes tennis so difficult, but rather, it's the mental aspect. Anyone can become fit to play for long hours, but what happens mentally in a match is what can haunt you for years.
I remember once in the juniors, I had won the first set 6-1 and was up 5-0, 40-0 in the second set. I had triple match point, on my serve. I had it. I made a perfect serve and then my forehand sprayed long, not even hitting the court anywhere but the backboard. I choked. I didn't win a single game or point after that.
I left the tennis courts crying my eyes out because I could not come up with an iota of what happened. But it could all be explained with one word: choke. I have never gotten ahead of myself in a match after that fateful day. It's always the hard losses that you learn the most from.
In the end, I would just like for people (worldwide) to understand that tennis is one of the most difficult sports to master and no, not just anyone can do what any of the pros can do. That is exactly what makes them who they are. You can learn so much from them, so do not belittle, take what you can from any match and use it to your advantage. Tennis is a wonderful sport, whether you play competitively or not.