Tennis Champions - Born Or Made?


Andre Agassi - French Open Champion
How does one become a tennis champion?

Is it the product of training and good coaching, or are there certain inborn abilities that determine who makes it and who doesn't?

Remember when you were in school, there were always some extremely smart kids in the math class?

They could come up with answers much more quickly than the rest of the class.

And yet most of those smart kids hadn't had any more lessons in math than the other kids. No, they just had the gift.

The math lessons provided them with additional "training" to develop that gift to a higher level.

In fact, they could be taught high-level mathematics and still follow, while the rest wouldn't understand even if the subject were explained to them over and over again.

Tennis is, in my opinion, a very similar story. Except that it's much more complex.

A genius in mathematics is brilliant when it comes to solving equations, but can be really poor in foreign languages, history and other subjects. Not to mention physical education...

But if one wants to be brilliant in tennis, then he needs to be above average in many different skills. Here are just some of them:

Physical skillsTechnical skills
SpeedForehand
StaminaBackhand
ReactionsServe
CoordinationVolley
Dynamic BalanceOverhead
Hand-eye CoordinationReturn
StrengthOther shots (slice, lob, drop shot, ...)
Mental skillsUnderstanding tennis strategy and being able to apply it
ConcentrationPlaying Offense
Emotional ControlPlaying Defense
Thought ControlPlaying against different types of opponents (aggressive baseliners, net rushers, left-handers...)
Never-give-up mentalityNet play
Courage and Self-confidencePlaying on different surfaces
MotivationPlaying Tie-breaks
Problem-solving skillsDealing with different types of shots

So, when it comes to becoming a tennis champion, the player must ALREADY be gifted (talented - or having potential) in most of the above-mentioned skills.

It's only through training and good coaching that the player can finally develop himself to the potential that is within.

But if there is not enough talent in most of these skills, then the player cannot reach high-level tennis, no matter how many hours he / she puts into training and no matter who is coaching him / her.

Just consider the Bollettieri tennis academy.

They have undoubtedly a world-class tennis program and thousands of talented tennis youngsters from all over the world (yes, even Thailand and Slovenia) come to practice there for various periods of time.

But where are these youngsters in the world rankings?

Shouldn't they be dominating the ATP and WTA tour by now? Why don't we hear more names coming from the Bollettieri academy?

Because almost every one of those players lacks some gift, some natural talent in one or more crucially important skills for world-class tennis. And even training with the great coaches in great conditions cannot improve that.

In other words, the players reach their limit, just as they reach their limit in growth and cannot be forced to grow taller.

In the same way, a player can reach a limit in their speed - determined by the ratio of fast twitch / slow twitch muscles, which is determined genetically - and there is just no way any kind of training can improve that.

For example, Lindsay Davenport can never be as fast as Justine Henin, no matter how many years she works on speed with the top experts in the field.

She compensates for the lack of speed with other super-talented skills like timing, feel for the ball, power, and most of the other above-mentioned skills.

While a top tennis player doesn't really need to be a perfect human being, he or she needs to be almost 90 percent perfect in most skills.

And the gift MUST already be there. The coaching, training and years of playing can only develop these gifts to their maximum level - to their limit.

In summary - a player who is gifted in most important tennis-related physical, mental, technical and strategic skills can reach world-class tennis with quality coaching and sufficient training. This doesn't mean that he or she will, but the possibility - the potential - is there.

But a player lacking talent and ability in some of the above-mentioned skills can never reach world-class tennis, even by putting in extra hours with an expert coach.

Of course, world-class tennis is not the only way to happiness and personal fulfillment. Being a tennis winner in your town, region or even country is a great achievement, based on your natural talents and lack of them.

The key is to realistically assess your gifts and potential and then set realistic goals which, when reached, will give the satisfaction and confidence to pursue higher ones.

And last, but not least - tennis isn't everything in life.

It's just one of many careers and endeavours you can choose to pursue and become good in what you do and do great work serving the needs of others.


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