Jun/20

28

Fear of losing in tennis

Tennis is a game which yields the truth. A tennis match produces a winner and a loser. Or if some players feel the heat in the kitchen they sit out.

In my decades of playing competitive tennis, I’ve noticed a strange rare phenomenon. Some good players are just terrified of the idea of playing matches that count, they will not dip their toe into a unknown waters of a tournament where the match scores are posted for public historical view.

And these are athletes from other dangerous and demanding sports like boxing and mixed martial arts. They competed in those sports but they will not play a real tournament in tennis, despite playing sets every day.

One player was an actual boxer, he had many amateur fights and continued to spar into his 40s. He plays a lot of singles matches against people he knows, but even when a USTA tournament is played on his home courts literally outside of his condo window, a five second walk, he will not submit the application form.

He will not take the risk and lose by a humiliating 60 60 though it happens to everybody, even Sampras and Federer when they were juniors. I just don’t understand how a boxer who fought in real fights is afraid to play a tournament tennis match. It defies logic.

Another player was a MMA fighter but now he just plays doubles and an occasional singles tiebreaker or set with a guy at the courts. Even though there is a local league/tournament where he can play matches at his home court where one of the other 90 signed up players will schedule and come to play him at his local park court he won’t do it. There is no charge either, it’s basically free tournament matches and the top 16 ranked players (you get points for each match win) are invited to play the end of summer tournament. But this park doubles player, who touts himself as a “destroyer” because he is a pretty solid doubles player, curiously will not take the ego risk and play singles matches against new, unknown opposition, where all the scores are posted on a web site. For four years he’s been prodded to sign up and start to play real singles matches but he won’t do it. He just won’t do it. He stays in his bubble.

It defies logic. Two of the bravest athletes from other high risk sports turn into chickens when they have the opportunity to play real singles matches against different, unknown, new opponents. I don’t get it.

Playing real matches is the best way to improve your game, play a stranger and see if you can figure out how solve the player’s style and achieve the victory. Even if you lose, you learn why you lost and what you need to do to improve. That’s how you get better. And get closer to fulfilling your potential. And you learn little tricks and skills and secrets from better players.

But if you limit your tennis to just playing the same old opponents over and over and over, in your comfort zone bubble, you stagnate as an athlete physically and mentally. You do not improve. And you never will improve. You just keep spinning your wheels.

Tennis is a complex intricate activity that reveals a lot of truths and hidden truths.

Like one famous historical quotation said, You can learn more about a person in one hour of competition that you can in a week of conversation.

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4 comments

  • JohnnyTD · June 29, 2020 at 1:39 am

    About the boxer and the MMA fighter,

    MMA has its intricacies and its art too. Takes years of dedicated training to hone your skills to pro level. It’s about mind games just like tennis, and when i say mind games i mean also the mental effort of getting a certain technique right. As sportsmen the boxer and the MMA fighter know they won’t have the same time and energy that they put in their own fields to put into tennis so they just don’t bother at all, at least that’s how i see it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 29, 2020 at 7:37 am

    Johnnytd. Both have been playing tennis for decades now. They are not beginners.

  • JohnnyTD · June 29, 2020 at 9:05 am

    “Johnnytd. Both have been playing tennis for decades now. They are not beginners.”

    Hmm. Once i watched the Hulk Hogan reality show and Knobbs, Hulk’s buddy and his daughter were playing tennis, Hulk didn’t, i thought it was because he didn’t want to look like a lamer. But then that’s not what happened here.

    Then maybe they were like Bobby Fischer who used tennis to keep himself in shape but kept the competition for their no1 sport 🤷

    Or maybe they burnt out in their sports and left behind competition altogether? I used to compete in gaming for example, even played some money tournaments in a shooter game, now i play a totally different genre just for relaxation but wouldn’t compete with the top guys there.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 29, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Johnny, I’m friends with a heavyweight boxer who fought for the world title four times, vs Tyson and Lewis, and he took up tennis and got coaching, he loves tennis as much as anyone I know, drove 12 hours through the night to get to the US Open the next day for free tickets I got for him. But he quit playing, totally quit playing after giving it his best shot for a couple of years 🙂

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