One of the oft-asked questions off tennis coaches is what does it take to become a great tennis player. What are the personality traits needed or the temperament expected from a tennis player to get to professional levels.
What distinguishes a good tennis player from a great one. Or even, what is it that a semi-professional player must do from one’s temperament point of view to ensure he or she can take that step up and make a long career out of playing tennis.
Great tennis players may all look completely different to one another, but they do all have certain traits in common. These include:
- Physical Strength and Skill
- Mental strength
You can be a good tennis player and have all the skills to play good tennis, excellent tennis shots and great footwork, but without the above mentioned mental strength personality, you are not going to be a great tennis player.
The mental game is as important as the physical game, if not more important, and a player needs the right temperament to be great.
Can Your Temperament Be Changed?
Think of all the tennis players you know who started off playing good tennis but then landed up in a rage, having a temper tantrum, throwing their racquet, or with their shoulders slouched when they lost.
The good players, with good mentors and good coaches, can get through this. Great players not only have tennis coaches who teach them the physical skills, but they have coaches, often including sports psychologists, who help them and lead them with their temperament.
Drive is something you are born with, as is determination, and optimism may be a part of your personality, but these are all skills that you can work on, and improve too.
Let’s take a look at the aforementioned traits required to improve a tennis player’s temperament.
Mental strength encompasses pretty much everything we mentioned above. A sociable tennis player who does not really mind if they win or lose, is exactly that – a sociable tennis player.
A tennis player who wants to do well, enjoys winning, wants to lift up a trophy, takes pleasure in winning and hates giving up – that is what it takes to be a successful and professional tennis player.
We all have different IQs and EQs.
IQ is when you are smart. IQ, when applied to tennis is you know where to place the ball, which kind of tennis game you should be playing, when to suddenly switch to a slice or to change your physical game.
EQ is part of the mental strength you need.
You need, and you can learn EQ, to be able to lose a point at a critical time, breathe in, and move on to the next winning point. Your EQ, or mental strength, comes in to play when you are two sets down but go on to win the next three sets in a row.
Your EQ comes in when you want to lose your temper but you manage to calm yourself down.
EQ, mental strength, can be developed over time. The thing is, you have to want to develop it.
Physical and Mental Endurance
Endurance comes in to the picture physically and mentally.
To be a great tennis player, one needs physical endurance. For a male tennis player, he need the ability to play five strong sets. For a woman, she needs the ability to play three strong sets.
But whether it is one set or five sets, endurance is needed and this means physical fitness. Tennis players do not only practice tennis all the time, they work on their fitness. The tennis greats all have physical fitness routines that are intense; running, skipping, weight training, stretches, curls, drills, and more.
Mental endurance is just as important as physical endurance for a great tennis player.
It’s what we said before. Mental endurance means preparing your mind, knowing there will be ups and downs in a tennis match and being equipped to deal with them both. A double fault can make you mad at yourself.
But, being mad with yourself is not going to help your game. An unforced error can make you mad at yourself. This is also not going to help you, unless it really fires you up to do better.
Mental endurance means being able to pick yourself up and carry on playing, even better than before!
Having The Competitive Drive
This is a personality trait that often a person has or does not have. Some people are more competitive than others. Some don’t care about winning at all. Take a look at all the great tennis players you watch on television – they WANT to win.
They are not there on Centre Court for fun and for the adoration.
They are there for the trophy.
They want it more than anything else and they are prepared to work as hard as possible, and to put in all the work that it takes, to win.
If you are playing tennis tournaments, you are likely there because you want to do well and you want to win. Losing is not an option for you and it is definitely not an option for a great tennis player.
Determination Is Key
You will find that most professional sports players are determined, often not only in their sport of choice but in all their life choices.
Someone who is determined wants to do everything well. It does not mean they have to do everything brilliantly, but they are usually fairly determined in personality. Being determined means never giving up in a game of tennis.
A great tennis player will fight till the very end, and put their all into every single tennis shot or tennis rally. A determined tennis player might lose one tennis final but will definitely come back next year, determined to win!
Determination goes with mental endurance; it means focusing, staying positive and looking forward and not back.
Good Tennis Players are Optimistic
Optimism is actually something that will get you through life. Being optimistic is far more pleasurable than being pessimistic.
It’s like positivity and negativity. To play tennis, you must be optimistic about the game and your play, and be optimistic about the umpire, the linesmen and the ballboys.
If you go into a game hating the umpire and feeling pessimistic about his skills, it is going to affect YOUR game, nobody else’s. Optimism helps with everything. Crowds like optimistic players too, so if you ever make it to Wimbledon, get the crowd on your side!
Tenacious Tennis Players are Good Tennis Players
Tenacity is a bit different to determination.
Tenacity often means going for something and taking the chance. It means you are persevering and not prepared to give up, but you are tenacious in the way you do it. You are going to do it no matter what!
Everybody likes a tenacious tennis player, and a bit of tenacity will see you go far. You need a combination of tenacity, determination and optimism – these are all the components of mental strength.
If a game you are playing is not working (perhaps your opponents loves to keep lobbing and you hate that kind of game) you need to be tenacious in changing the game.
Persist If It is Important to You
Being persistent is really important. Your tennis might be average to start off with. If you really love the game, and you want to play more and do well, you need to be persistent.
You need to practice as much as possible, while still holding on to your passion about the game. Work on all levels of your tennis, not just your physical skills. Sure, you are going to practice your forehand, backhand, volley and serve, and you are going to do fitness travel, and keep at it.
If you are entering tournaments but not doing so well, persist. Don’t give up. Enter the next tennis tournament and the next one. If you really persevere, your talent is going to rise. Your tenacity is going to prove itself. Your optimism is going to shine through. It will all be worth it!
It’s All about Passion
The one thing we did not mention, that all great tennis players share, is a passion for the game.
You know that all the top tennis players are passionate; you can hear it in their winning speeches after a Grand Slam, or in their defeat speeches.
They love the game, they feel every moment of the game, they are passionate about it. Hold on to your passion. Watch the tennis greats, be motivated by them, and also, learn as much about the game as you possibly can. It will help you, physically and mentally.
Try to Learn from your Mistakes
This is the other thing that all the tennis greats do.
They learn from their mistakes.
They have coaches and together they analyse the game and look at everything they did right, and everything they did wrong.
They look at their errors and they do the best they can not to make the same error again, whether physical or mental. You may not have your own private coach or your own private sports psychologist – yet – but you can analyse your own game.
Should you have kept serving the slice?
Was it a mistake to slam your racquet against the net?
Did you scream at the umpire when you could have just taken a big breath in and moved on to the next point? Are you fit enough? Take the positive and the negative and keep improving your game.
Final Words on a Top Tennis Player’s Temperament
To be a tennis great, you do need to have the right temperament.
It helps if you are born with a competitive drive, but remember, you can work on your temperament and on every aspect of it. You have to want to win! Which means, why are you waiting?
Get out there now, practice, play, have fun, and if you are able to take your tennis further, go for it. Because you deserve it.