The game of kings
There’s nothing like sitting down at almost court level to get the full impact of how the top tennis professionals are really hitting the ball during a tournament. The energy exerted, concentration, racquet speed, touch, the mental and physical demeanor.
You get to see how they react to winners, stupid errors, important points and games, tie breaks, shot selections and strategies. What is their mind set while in the lead, going at it neck and neck, or losing? Up a set, down a set, nearing the end of a close match - how they accept wins and losses.
Most of us play our best tennis at certain times of the day, but as a professional and in a tournament you don’t get the luxury to choose. Matches vary from early morning, in the heat of the afternoon, early or late evening. The weather at outdoor events could be cold, hot, perfect - windy, humid, very sunny, or under the lights.
We understand that both sides have the same conditions, but how do you prepare your body and mind to perform in some of these extreme time and weather conditions?
The different styles of play can also be daunting. Flat drives, varying top spins and slices, drop shots - lobs - soft touch, angles, underhanded serves, some shots that can be read and anticipated while others that catch their opponents off guard.
Players try to start each match in the right frame of mind and certainly with each body part warm and ready to go. They’re geared up, energized, mindful - with a game plan. As the match unfolds, other emotions are capable of joining in uninvited. Just ask Nick Kyrgios, John McEnroe or Serena Williams...having been through a few moments they’d rather forget.
The match might be played in front of a small crowd, for or against you, or on center court against a well-known tennis icon. What cause and effect will this have on the player if any?
During the match there are feelings of intensity, being on-edge, laid-back, up and down, tight, relaxed, pumped up, dejected, over-excited, or hopefully most of the time - just right. Good swag helps hide some of the insecurities all tennis players have to one degree or other and solid routines and rituals are necessary. Matches can be built up in our minds creating much more pressure than there really should be.
The right win can make your year, pushing your ranking to the point where you make the main draws of Grand slams, masters, 500 and 250 events outright.
Still we’re only as good as our last match, where a couple losses or a short term injury normally won’t kill you, but a flurry of them and it’s like you’re starting all over again - now with knowledge.
The next tournament, the next town/city, state, country. Booking flights, transportation, accommodations, practice times, partners, equipment, clothing...all can be daunting.
This gypsie-like lonely existence called the tour can be tough to sustain, even if you’re good enough to hang.
How much do you care and why? What’s your motivation - how bad to you really want it ...because there are no guarantees.
This game of tennis is unsettling, not always fair - but definitely challenging.
It’s an aphrodisiac to thousands of players and enthralling to millions of fans and spectators.
The “Game of Kings”, lives on!
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.