An individual’s tennis play style will tell you a lot about their personality and the type of person they are off the court. While tennis is a highly physical game and fitness and ability play a key role in success, players who don’t have the ‘right’ personality will find it more difficult to succeed at the highest level. You can spend hours copying the likes of Federer or Nadal to learn how they play and the techniques they use, but you also need to try and adopt their mindset.
Each players personality will differ slightly, however, there are a set of traits that are constant in all high-level tennis players. For example, Federer and Nadal both have quite different personalities and playing styles but they are two of the best players in the men’s game. Federer is a more graceful player who seems to glide across the court while looking to attack the ball and take control of the match. Whereas Nadal is a far more physical player and uses this to counter shots and turn defense into attack in the blink of an eye.
However, although both of these players have different personalities, both on and off the court, they have the same innate traits and push them to succeed. Below we’ve highlighted some of the key personality traits that all tennis players need.
Having the drive and desire to win is absolutely vital for tennis players who are looking to rise up the ranks. It’s highly likely that if you are choosing to participate in sport at any level you will be a relatively competitive person who is constantly looking to win. Therefore, you need to more than just the desire to win, losing cannot be an option. Losing is unfortunately inevitable when competing at any level but it’s the hatred of losing that pushes players to better themselves to ensure they are winning as many matches as possible.
Having goals is vital if you are to succeed in any sport at any level. Players need to have clear long term goals they can work towards as well as short terms goals that they can achieve throughout their journey in the sport. It’s common for tennis matches to last a few hours, therefore many consider it to be an endurance sport. One of the best ways for players to cope with the length of a match and ensure they have the endurance to last the full match is to break it down into short-term goals. For example, your first aim should be to win the next point, the next goal is to win the game, then the set and overall the match. Due to the scoring system used in tennis, it is easy to break the game down into short term goals to help players stay focused throughout the full match.
Tennis is a sport that takes time to master and perfect, it can’t be learned overnight. New players must understand that it’s going to take lots of time, practice, and experience to reach the top of the game. It’s also important to understand that you aren’t going to win every match and in the early stages it’s likely that you will lose more than you win. Players with optimistic personalities will find it easier to cope with the losses as they know the experience is helping to increase their chances of success in the future. Additionally, they are more likely to spend time practicing in order to improve their chance of achieving their long term goals.
Ability to rise to the occasion
The best players are able to rise to the biggest occasions and perform on the biggest stage, even when things aren’t going their way. For example in the 2005 Miami Masters Final Roger Federer found himself down 2 sets to nothing and looking likely to lose the match as he was losing the third set tiebreaker 5-3. In what is considered to be one of the greatest tennis comebacks ever Federer fought his way back into the match and won the final three sets to win the match. This is a prime example of how Federer was able to rise to the occasion and display a huge amount of mental strength to not only stay in the match but to go on and win.
A more recent example of a player rising to the biggest occasion is Cori Gauff’s victory over Venus Williams at Wimbledon 2019. The 15-year old showed an innate ability to step to the biggest occasion on her Grand Slam debut and defeat 5 time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams.
Mental strength is a key trait that all athletes need to be successful. Anyone can say that they have confidence in their own ability to win but the mentally strong are able to back that up with their performances no matter the scenario. Whether they are two sets down, playing in adverse weather conditions, or in front of a hostile crowd mentally strong players have the belief that they can outsmart their opponent and win the match. The importance of mental strength in tennis is something that we have spoken about in detail previously.