Most of us are amazed when we see professional tennis players in action. They seem to have the total package: strength, speed, stamina, coordination and an uncanny ability to outwit their opponents. We all know that it takes hard work and discipline to excel in practically any sport, but what exactly does it take to reach the highest levels of tennis? In other words, how did the tennis pros become pros? Although each player's journey is different, there are a few common threads in the lives of successful tennis players. Read on to find out more about what goes into making a tennis all-star.
1. They practiced incessantly.
As early as 3 years old, 36-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams would spend two hours a day practicing tennis drills with the help of her father, who also doubled as her coach at the time. Between the ages of 10 and 14, Roger Federer spent more time with his tennis coach than with his own parents. While still in elementary school, nine-time Grand Slam title holder Novak Djokovic would spend every single afternoon--rain, snow or holidays--hitting balls with his tennis coach.
If there's one common factor that's undeniable in the world's greatest tennis players, it's that from early childhood, they developed a rigorous training and practice schedule that allowed for no compromise.
2. They enlisted the help of qualified coaches to take them to the next level.
It's very difficult for a person to rise to a level of prominence in any field without having some type of coach or mentor to help them get there. Practically all highly successful tennis pros have had some type of one-on-one coaching to help them learn strategy, fix errors in technique and refine their playing style.
For example, although Serena Williams's father had assumed the coaching duties early on in her life (and her sister Venus's life as well), he recognized that the sisters would need a higher level of instruction in order to progress into a professional career. Subsequently, he moved the family from California to Florida when the sisters were pre-teens in order to enlist the help of more qualified tennis coaches. At age 9, Russian tennis great Maria Sharapova moved with her father to Florida to enroll in a tennis academy. Seeing a spark of genius in a 6-year-old Novak Djokovic, Yugoslavian tennis great Jelena Gencic spent the next six years working with the "Serbian Sensation" in order to develop his tennis game. The same story holds true for hundreds of other prominent players who went on to dominate the sport of tennis.
3. They learned how to bounce back from defeat and adversity.
Andre Agassi was considered to be the "rock star" of the tennis world in the early-to-mid-1990s. Unfortunately, the trappings of success proved to be too much of a distraction for him, resulting in a "fall from grace" that ended in an embarrassing career slump; Agassi dropped from being the number-one tennis player in the world to below 100. He then made the decision to rededicate himself to his craft, training harder than ever, and in 1999 he staged an impressive comeback by winning both the U.S. Open and the French Open.
Serena Williams's tennis career has been riddled with multiple injuries and serious health scares, including a knee surgery and a blood clot in her lungs. Each time, she has had to battle back to regain her health and physical fitness, and is now playing her best tennis ever.
Novak Djokovic hit a wall several times in his career, chronically losing matches that he truly believed he could win, and being stuck at the number 3 position for three straight years. He would often suffer from breathing problems and exhaustion during competition, and even walked out on Grand Slam matches four separate times. With the help of an alternative medicine doctor, Djokovic changed his diet and cranked up the intensity of his training regimen. That same year, Djokovic defeated Roger Federer at the U.S. Open, and in 2011 he went on to win 43 matches in a row.
The top tennis pros have learned how to respond appropriately to adversity by persevering and overcoming whatever obstacles stand in their way - something athletes of all levels can benefit from learning.