What’s not to love about tennis, right? But let’s take it from the top. The life of a professional athlete was something that always inspired me. Although most teens admire singers or actors –and I did have my occasional celebrity crush throughout puberty- , what really got me excited were the stories of personalities from the sports world who fought their way to the top, having to endure incredible sacrifices, overcome injuries and build up some serious mental toughness.
It wasn’t just a new world record or an Olympic medal that left me in awe, nor the ridiculous amounts of money involved from a point on, but the knowledge that in order to get there an athlete needs to endure and overcome physical and mental pain that would be unbearable to most people. Probably due to some psychological disorder, this kind of life was always extremely appealing to me. I experimented with several different sports, none of which motivated me enough to commit to it for the long run, before my life took its course away from that childhood dream. And then, much later, tennis came along.
Now, I know there are millions of tennis amateurs out there who think “if only I had started this earlier in my life”… I am no different in that regard. So, from the perspective of a recreational sports aficionado who never made it to be a pro athlete, I wanted to point out the 4 things about tennis that renewed my passion for sport.
Why tennis easily holds to love (0) against most sports out there
Here are the 4 reasons why tennis was an instant match for me vs. any other sport I had tried, counting tennis-style:
- The need to fix your attention on a single, tangible thing -that small yellow ball- with the laser focus required to meditate staring at a candle. Having a very difficult time to shut out the noise in my head, only archery and cork fishing did that for me (and I can’t consider the latter a sport). Still, they lacked in the second aspect. (15-0)
- The athleticism needed to stay in a tennis match, the high physical demands, which completely drain up all the energy you can possibly gather when you start it. Apparently, I need that feeling of complete emptiness more often than not. Kick boxing had very high physical demands but I never found any beauty or grace in it. (30-0)
- The beauty that comes out of the perfect shot, when all the pieces important to it fall into place –the right anticipation, the power, the touch, the timing, the angle. All of those compose something that is so beautiful to watch and the composer is you and your body. Football (soccer for my American friends) has some of the above, but that is a team sport and it lacks in the last attribute I love about tennis. (40-0)
- The feeling of complete loneliness and exposure when you’re out there on the court, defending your side against someone who is so far away from you. Your opponent can’t attack your physically (like in the martial arts) nor do they wait to take their turn like in other sports. They’re there, an ever fixed presence but somewhat irrelevant to you and your game, while you have to keep grinding for energy and strength deep inside your head, point after point for as long as it takes for either of you to win. And it can take long! (Game)
Think of it this way: in order to get in and out of a high level tennis match, you need the laser focus and accuracy of an archer, the stamina of a long distance runner, the physical strength and mental toughness of a kick boxer and the reflexes of a Formula 1 driver – or a goalkeeper at the very least. And all of that in order to create a spectacle whose beauty and refinement few can deny.
How can anyone who loves a challenge not love this sport?