Tennis Prose



I Asked The Pros: Why Do You Love Playing Tennis?

I asked some recognizable tennis pros the simple question: Why do you love playing tennis?

Novak Djokovic: “The feeling of winning a match or winning a tournament. The feeling of winning a tennis match is irreplaceable.”

Roger Federer: “I guess, you know, it’s myself to blame if I win or lose, which I kind of like. And that it’s one on one, or if you like, in doubles two on two. But there’s a distance, so there’s always a lot of fair play. There’s no ugly plays in that way. Good sport to watch on TV. Good sport to watch live. It’s athletic and has a bit of everything. I think it’s really nice.”

Justin Gimelstob: “I think tennis is the greatest sport in the world. Because, first of all, it’s based on merit on the court. It’s a combination of physical, mental, technical and tactical skills. It’s one on one. It’s international. And it’s just a great feeling hitting that ball cleanly and purely.”

Xavier Malisse: “It’s a nice game to come out here and play. It’s a different sport, it’s one on one, it’s physical, it’s mental. It’s just a great feeling to be out there on the court and just grind it out.”

Bethanie Mattek-Sands: “It’s something I like because I’m good at it. I don’t like to do things that I’m not good at. Like, I would be the person, I would literally go practice before I do something. Just like kinda be good at it – I’m not a big, First time if I suck, oh well. Like, I hate to be bad at stuff. So the fact that I’m good at it. And it’s something – there’s always a next tournament. The individuality of it is great. I played team sports when I was younger. I did okay [laughs]. Got a little mad at my teammates if they weren’t up to standards. So I think tennis suited me well. But I like playing in crowded stadiums. I think that’s the coolest part. To see the crowd get into it. Everybody having a good time. Playing a great match. Me and my opponent playing high level tennis. And it’s just a great match. I think that’s the best feeling you can get. It’s just competition.”

Jelena Jankovic: “I love playing tennis. I love competing. Being in front of crowds and winning matches. And I love the fact when you work hard and then you go and sometimes when you win tournaments, you lift the trophy, the hard work has paid off. And many things as well. I get to travel the world, I get to meet different people, see different cultures. So all of this, it’s kind of, you get all of this when you are a professional tennis player.”

Samantha Stosur: “I just always have. I think it’s a great life and I’m able to do something that I love to do. So whether it’s competing out on the court or seeing different places around the world or meeting new people, I think whoever can do this is very fortunate.”

Rafael Nadal: “I love the competition. Yeah. I love the support in general, all the sports. Tennis is my sport. So I like the tennis and especially I love the competition.”

Jiim Courier: “I get to chase a yellow ball around the court. It’s a game. I’ve always loved playing games as a kid. Anything with a ball, I was very happy to be doing. And tennis turned out to be my calling. And the best part of it is it’s a sport that I can now play at 40 years of age and play for fun and competitively. And also, if I live long enough, to sort of be 75 and 80 and still be able to go out and play with my friends, and have fun doing it. So I think the opportunity to be able to play something that you loved for your entire life is something that I love about tennis the most.”

Aravane Rezai: “I think my destiny was to play tennis before I was born. Because my brother before me was playing tennis and my dad decided to bring me on the court. Why I love tennis is because I love to compete and that’s why I like tennis.”

Vijay Armritraj: “Tennis is something that I enjoyed immensely. I had great passion for it. It was a form of entertainment that I could never substitute. It gave me more in my life that I could have possibly imagined. Whatever education I could have possibly had. And if I had to change anything over my career, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Thomas Johansson: “It’s an individual sport if you win. You have yourself to give credit and if you lose, you have yourself to blame. But I love the fact, between two players, it’s almost like boxing, you’re alone out there. But it’s still a nice sport and a fair game, that’s why I like it.”

Adrian Mannarino: “I think it’s a really interesting sport. We move a lot on the court, we need to have good tactic, technique. I think that maybe the main reason that I love the sport is because I’m good at it [laughs]. I like to win. I’m a good competitor. Yep. Maybe that. The love of the win [smiles].”

Jonas Bjorkman: “I don’t play much now. I stopped, more or less, competitively. It’s been two years now. I just started to hit on my own and practice. I mean, I play sponsor tennis. But that’s about it, more or less. I haven’t had time to play any for my own interest. And I didn’t really have any intent to play as well. Once I was finished, it was such a nice feeling not to practice, not to go to the gym, to run. I loved it because it was something that I started very young. And it’s all about winning. I think the passion of being out there and trying to win matches. The atmosphere around the court, for me, obviously, it’s you have to go in and do your job and try to win on court 18. But your goal was always to try to be on the show courts. And play in front of the big crowds. That was the passion and the love for the game – to go out there and try to perform in front of the big crowds. It was so much fun to be out there and try to win those matches. For me it was mostly try to find the way to win the matches. I mean, sometimes you go out and play with one game. If that didn’t work, you have to find a way to win and that could be plan B or plan C. If that worked, it was great. If it didn’t, at least you tried your hardest and tried to find ways to win. So, for sure, the excitement on the big court was something you felt was great.”

Bud Collins: “As a kid, I loved hearing the balls hit the racquet. The tennis courts by my home – that would be my wake-up call. And then finally I got to play. It was just a nice feeling to be out there running, to be hitting the ball. To be getting better. And being able to play almost anywhere I went.”

Mats Wilander: “It changes every day. (Many reasons?) No, it’s only one reason every time. They’re different every time. Sometimes it’s competing. Sometimes it’s hitting balls. Sometimes it’s the nervousness that it brings. Very rarely is it all three at the same time. Except when you are 22-years-old and you’re on the cusp of breaking through and being one of the best players in the world. And all three are at the same time.”

Guillermo Canas: “I think it’s a great sport. I love to play tennis. It’s my passion. I don’t play anymore and I still love this sport. I think it’s great. It’s incredible. You take the position. You’re alone. You’re there competing with someone else. It’s a great sport, I love it.”

Francesca Schiavone: “It was thinking, that space is just mine. I can decide, I can do everything that I want. Because when I play, I feel comfortable. I can enjoy and inspire myself on the court.”

Kim Clijsters: “I love the variety of tennis. I think that’s something I’ve always enjoyed. It’s never the same. That’s something I sayt to my coach and trainer – always have variety. What I’ve learned over the years – I need to have it mixed up. And I like the challenge of a lot of different players. And always trying to improve and physically trying to become better and stronger. In a world where people always try to compare everybody to everybody, but I feell like I’ve always been really good at not doing that. And just focusing on myself. And not comparing to anybody else. And do try to be the best Kim out there. And not worry about other things.”

Peng Shuai: “Well, when I was young I didn’t love it. Now I think I love it more than before. I think it brings me a lot of happiness but also a lot of tough times and sad. They are kind of together. I feel in the court, to play the match, a lot of time you are thinking how to play the opponent. I just love this game. Even if I lose, I really want to enjoy this short tennis career..

Murphy Jensen: “Why do I love playing tennis? It’s what I’ve always done. That’s one reason. I’ve been playing since I was basically spoonfed tennis. But I like it because it’s given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. It’s kind of a loaded question. Because I could answer it 20 different ways. And then, on the court, physically, it’s wonderful. I stay in shape. It’s an art and a tap dance. Play with the ball. It’s really a beautiful sport. And it’s the only thing I have found where I must – if I can – stay in the moment. You have to be in the moment. Coaches can say you have to think three shots ahead. Baloney. Because if you don’t get the serve in the box, there’s no next shot. Just bouncing the ball that moment, just every shudder of time or whatever, that moment is everything. I love that about tennis. I’m doing deep on you. That’s what I’ve been into lately. I woke up the other day, I was hitting balls and playing the match. And I had to be in that moment. I didn’t really know that till I stepped away from the game for a while Started playing a lot again. And it was blowing my mind. This is really cool. A war could be going on. But on that tennis court, I feel safe and protected. That’s a pretty cool place to be.”

Luke Jensen: “To be honest, whether it’s a park, whether it’s a final of a slam or anything, I just like winning. I like going out there and someone’s gonna win, someone’s gonna lose. It doesn’t matter what you’re ranked, doesn’t matter what your age is, spin the racquet and it starts up, zero-zero. And someone’s gonna serve and someone’s gonna return. At the end of the entire contest, if you’ve put in the entire effort and you’ve put in the right tactics and you executed it, you’ve got a shot to win. And, to me, it’s about putting it on the line. And no one can pull you off the court, there’s no politics, it’s raw, it’s out there, it’s real. And it’s the best thing of all time. Once you leave that arena, it’s political, it’s who’s popular, it’s who you know. It’s not so clear. And this game is extremely clear. You’re winning or you’re losing.”

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Scoop’s book “Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew” has just completed the final proof and will be available at before the end of the month.


  • Gans · October 20, 2011 at 3:30 am

    I just got back from my business trip and wanted to see what we have in (y)our site. Enjoyed it.

    Fantastic question……a very important one…..there may be a common theme in these answers if we look closer.

    Thanks for the post, Scoop.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Yes Gans there are so many reasons to love this sport. It’s hard to imagine athletes from cycling, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, or any other sport being able to describe so many reasons why they love their sport, like we learned here. I think this article shows tennis really is the best sport in the world.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    By asking a simple question you get some profound answers. I particularly like Courier’s response that it he always liked playing with balls as a kid. Sometimes we lose that very elemental feeling about something that we have as a tennis, but at its most basic sense, tennis is all about playing with this bouncing ball which can be a lot of fun.

    I also like Murphy Jensen’s response where he can feel safe on a tennis court. I remember 9/11 and being out in Westchester on a beautiful day, and thinking there was all this mayhem 30 miles south of me, but I went out to a tennis court and hit some serves and my mind became peaceful to a degree.

    I also like the movie, “Win Win” that came out this year about a young wrestler, and the Paul Giamatti character who is his guardian and coach says to him, “What’s it like to be so good?” And the young teen says who’s had a turbulent life, “I feel like I’m in control.”

  • Harold · October 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    There is no other sport where you can just call up a friend and go out and hit balls for 2 hours.
    Baseball, you need 18
    Football, you need 10 just to play a decent game of touch footbal
    Basketball, you need 10, one on one gets boring after a half hour.
    Golf, boringggggg
    Boxing, dont want to be hit or hit someone else for two ours or until a knockout..

    Nothing beats the physical and mental strengths needed to be a good player as does tennis…

    Your body takes a pounding like any physical sport, but the joy and artistry of good tennis, makes me hope I can do this for a long long time

  • Steve · October 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I think two of the guys mentioned “fair play”. Clearly they’ve never played club or USTA tennis in New Jersey. hehehehehe.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 20, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    You’re right, Steve. Some of those USTA tournaments are brutal, I think it’s worse at the junior level. Also, there’s a level of elitism in tennis unmatched in any other sport that I’ve played seriously.

    I played college tennis, basketball and ran cross-country and track and tennis is the only sport you can’t touch your opponent. If he does something unfair or he just has a snooty attitude, you can’t elbow him like in hoops or running. Maybe that’s good and bad, but there is a “cheating” element in tennis that can’t be remedied to a certain extent. I guess that’s just another level of psychological strength you have to possess.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    The USTA tournaments are pretty serious tennis, everybody wants to win obviously, adults and juniors. I love it though, it’s a great feeling to get out there and try as hard as you can. Lay it all on the line. I only had one incident this year with a notorious case of cheating but ended up overcoming his blatant cheat. Another guy was interesting as he wanted to talk about careers and stuff before the match. I told him let’s talk after the match. I won 63 62 and after a minute or so, when I tried to resume the conversation, he left quickly saying he had to go. But conversely, you also make some good connections too and meet some very nice people, so you get it all in USTA tennis. Highly recommend people to play USTA tennis tournaments, but you better bring your A game, the competition can be fierce.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 20, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Dan I talked with Courier in Miami outside the press center one night around dinner time he was holding court talking about Davis Cup when I asked him that question. It’s a pretty darn good answer for a question that comes totally out of the blue. Murphy’s response blew me away, I never imagined anyone would even remotely give such a profound answer as that. This article sparked me to add this question to all Biofiles from now on.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 20, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Well said Harold.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I’m sorry, I can’t agree with you, Harold or Scoop, on tennis being the ultimate test in sports. And here’s why.
    1. You are not being impeded by any defender within a few feet from doing what you have to do. In hoops, there is a defender, as there is in a lot of sports, who has a hand in your face, moves into your lanes, jumps to block your shot, and here’s where it gets most difficult, can elbow you, crack you in the shoulder (as happened to me last night and I couldn’t sleep all night because of the discomfit) and upend you.
    2. You do not have to be a transcendent athlete to be a great tennis player. You have to be a good athlete and be smart and control your emotions, but besides a Monfils or a Tsonga or the top 4 guys, there are no Michael Jordans or A-Rods, and this ARod doesn’t hail from Nebraska, playing tennis, not even close. You take John McEnroe, you think in athletic skills he’s even close to Jo Jo White?
    3. Playing tennis, even though you’re using your whole body, is an isolated activity. It entails running and hitting a ball with a racket. Take basketball again, you have to shoot, dribble, pass, play defense, jump and rebound and even bemoan practicing if you’re really good. Never in tennis do you have to sprint more than 10 yards for any shot. In hoops, you have to run a full court, and there are nine other players on the court to navigate.
    Granted, tennis is a great individual sport and it is a tremendous test of character because there are so many down moments in a match where negative thoughts and doubts can creep in.

  • Mitch · October 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Dan makes some good points, but others I disagree with. You don’t have to be a great athlete to be a great tennis player, but this same is true for most other sports, where size or talent alone can be enough. While tennis players may never have to sprint that far, there are no substitutes or timeouts outside of changeovers, so they don’t get any long breaks or timeouts to regroup. Tennis is also sometimes played in brutally hot and humid conditions, which are exacerbated by the court.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Well, boxing is the ultimate test in one on one sports, but tennis is as close as it comes, even Tracy Austin once memorably called tennis “a fistfight without the fists.” I think what tennis players do to win a match is amazing. I’d like to see a study done on how much ground in meters Djokovic and Nadal cover for some of their points and also a whole match. Basketball, hockey are amazing sports too but tennis is the most awe-inspiring in my mind. I could watch Djokovic and Nadal practice for hours and hours. Can’t say the same about top NBA or NHL athletes.

  • Steve · October 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Ultimate test? Running a 4 minute mile has always impressed me.

    Best athletes? What gymnasts do & how they train, to me, is incredible.

    Federer is definitely a better athlete than A-Rod(PED free) but that’s a debate for another blog post. 🙂 Certainly the mental side is no contest.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    True Steve, running a 4 min mile is amazing. I used to try to do 400s to train and could never even get close to 1 minute, and I’m considered very fast in tennis. The speed of those runners and the strength to do a 4 min mile is a wonder of an achievement. You would really enjoy the Fifth Ave Mile which is held two weeks after the US Open.

  • Steve · October 24, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Nice! I’ll look in to the 5th Ave Mile, next year.



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