As a tennis professional I see an extremely wide range of attitudes on the court each and every day. Do you have one that will lead to the greatest amount of success in your career as a tennis player?

First lets visit the two extremes, both of which will do a great deal to affect your improvement and enjoyment of the game:

On one hand, we have the purely social tennis player. Everybody who is a member of a public or private tennis club knows this type quite well. They play purely for the purpose of getting out of the house and seeing friends, and if along the way there is some exersize as well then all the better. Its possible for this type of player to improve if they play enough, but because there isn’t much seriousness or focus behind their play there will rarely be a large jump in ability. Is there anything wrong with this? Certainly not, the reason why each person decides to walk out on a tennis court is their own perogitive. This player enjoys their time on the court because there is no pressure to perform up to any certain standard. Any missed shot can easily be shrugged off because, after all, “we’re just out here to have fun”.

On the other hand we have the player who takes themselves incredibly seriously on the tennis court, and usually, in most other things as well. This player demands “110%” at all times from him or herself, and anything less than that in terms of results is simply a failure. As somebody who considers himself mostly in this category I can tell you that it is both a blessing and a curse. If I’m honest with myself, mostly a curse, haha. Because of my perfectionism there have been times in my tennis career that I have seen huge strides in my ability as a player, and as an athlete in general. This however has to be underscored by the fact that I’ve also gone long periods of time as a tennis player with absolutely no satisfaction or joy in what it was I was pursuing. Looking back, it just isn’t worth the agony of never quite being good enough, or the worry and stress of wondering as I walked out onto the court for a match if I would play “well” that day.

In reality, the optimum attitude for most of us is somewhere in between. Do I want you to be concerned about how well you do? Well sure, you should want to get better and improve. Each time you walk out onto the court you should “leave it all out there” and all those other cliches. Never go out to practice, play, or take a lesson without giving the best effort possible. But please realize this: most of your days will be average. Read that again please. Most of your days will be average. For people like me, that statement is really difficult to accept. However, that is the reality of things, thats a reality of life. Don’t let it discourage you, there are always three things that you CAN control: your effort, your focus, and your attitude. If each time you walk out onto a court you CHOSE to have a high level of effort and focus you WILL get better. By also choosing a healthy attitude towards your results, you can not only get better but have more fun and satisfaction along the way. If you can keep a close eye on those three things, your “average” performance will continue to raise.

This doesn’t mean that you will stop having bad days on the court, simply that the level of your bad days will become higher than before. It’s all relative. Don’t let a bad day or match affect your focus and effort, realize that its going to happen some times, and learn to live with it, even laugh at it. Then come back next time hoping for the best once again.

So strive for a healthy attitude for your tennis, and in your life in general. Things that are done just for fun are fine, but don’t expect to ever become great at them. Things that are done with the expectation of personal perfection will probably result in competence quickly, but very little satisfaction and a great deal of frustration.