“Arthur Ashe motivated. He taught. We listened when he spoke. He used tennis for a greater good. Many players don’t. He made a difference.” The Player, by Billie Jean King.
In this short yet pointed book, sports writer Alexander McNab compiles many articles and thoughts of the great Arthur Ashe. Ashe was the first man of color and African-American to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. Ashe was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton in 1993. His insights on the the topics of tennis, strokes, strategy and psychology, and much more, remain relevant today.
One of his insights was about “who” you really “play” in tennis. In a famous quote, Ashe remarked: “You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards. And when you reach your limits, that is real joy.”
The book is easy-to-read and nicely organized on a wide range of tennis topics, and packed with gems from a gifted and accomplished player. And it is well worth reading in full…
Here are a few brief excerpts…
Five Shots-a-Point Rule
For club players, I have a comfortable rule of thumb. If, on every point you play, you hit the ball in five times, you are not going to lose any matches…steadiness is a habit; it is not something you turn on or off like a light bulb…start with steadiness; and then add aggression and power.
Make Up Your Mind
Indecision is a common problem for many players…You can take too long to make up your mind and end up trying a foolish play…In most situations, there is a bread-and-butter play that works ninety percent of the time…
When You Get in Trouble
Aim for the center strap of the net. If the ball passes over it at a reasonable speed, it should stay in, regardless of where you are on the court.
The Important Points and The Important Games
The first point of the game is key. After that, the points on the Ad side of the court are more important than the points on the Deuce side because you are either building a two-point lead…pulling even…or winning or fending off a game point…The first four games are important because that is the feeling out period of the match, and no one wants to lose his serve. I think Bill Tilden was right about the seventh game, which he identified as crucial.