Dear Tennis Fanatics of the East! My name is Luke Jensen and Long Island Tennis Magazine has given me the opportunity to write a column on anything on my mind. So look out! Back in the 1990s, my brother Murphy and I played on the ATP Tour. We played our best tennis out on Exit 52 on the LIE in Commack, N.Y. The sad thing was that we also spent too much time at Jones Beach, so by the time we had to win at the U.S. Open the following week, we were played and partied out!
In “The Jensen Zone,” I’m going to be covering a number of different areas, from pro tour news and gossip, along with instruction to make you better players. These days, I coach the women’s tennis team at Syracuse University, so I’m a fellow New Yorker!
Look for my column in the future, and I hope you enjoy a perspective from my 20 years of playing on the pro tour and my 17 years of working as a tennis analyst for ESPN. Here we go with my first installment of “The Jensen Zone!”
Everyone should live and compete with this understanding in victory and defeat:
“It is nice to be important, but more important to be nice.”
I wanted to begin with that simple quote by Roger the Great. It speaks volumes about who he is as a person and as a competitor. Just the way he conducts himself on and off the court is an inspiration to millions of tennis fans. My brother Murphy and I have known him since he was a ballboy at the Basel ATP event played in Roger’s hometown of Basel, Switzerland. It was easy to remember him, because every year, the tournament would have him hit balls with Andre Agassi or some top player between the feature matches on stadium court.
He played so much like the number one player in the world in those years, Pete Sampras. Murphy and I always thought it was funny that the tournament would bring this poor little ballboy out to showcase his talents, then right after a standing applause, tell the kid to go back to his ballboy duties at the net! Roger would have that shy smile like he still has today. Knowing Roger for so many years and seeing how his career has gone way beyond
even his greatest expectations, there is something very simple, true and genuine about him. None of the fame and fortune has spoiled a kind soul that cares about treating others the way he wants to be treated. It is as simple as that. I have seen him in many different situations where others have failed the test of character, but Roger aces the “Keeping Things in Perspective” test.
I use film study constantly with my players at Syracuse University to improve stroke production and tactical play. But the very first thing I show them every year are the great examples of grace under pressure from Roger and Rafael Nadal. I show the trophy presentations of the 2008 Wimbledon, where Roger lost his title to Rafa in the greatest match ever played. I show other trophy presentations where Roger has lost. I want my players to learn how to handle defeat before we can handle the trophy in victory. It is at these very tough times, in my opinion, where Roger is truly a champion.
The last few years, Roger has been playing tennis at a super nova level. I was at the right time in my ESPN career to be a sidelinecorrespondent for many of his Grand Slam wins. What will stand out most to me and the lesson I take away from all of his victories is that when he did finish second, I could see that simple and brave quality his parents instilled in him all of those years ago.
“Its nice to be important, but more important to be nice.“
If I can instill that kind of character into the players I mentor, I know I will have prepared them for the times when character is needed and not winners for victory.
Go for the lines my tennis friends …
Raised in Ludington, Mich., Luke Jensen’s resume includes 10 ATP Tour doubles titles. He was also a member of the U.S. Davis Cup teams that reached the finals in 1991 and won in 1992. His ambidextrous play, including his ability to serve the ball with either hand at 130 mph, earned him the nickname “Dual Hand Luke.” Luke is currently director of racket sports at West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. He may be reached by phone at (315) 403-0752 or e-mail LukeJensen84@yahoo.com.