Having respect for your sport is the most important requirement for becoming a good tennis player. The relationship between respect and value exists in every sport, but especially in individual sports like tennis. In fact, the amount of respect you have for your opponents, your coaches and yourself determines how much value you place on the sport as a whole. A player who does not respect their opponents enough will never gain any value from beating them. The same goes for a player who doesn’t respect their coach’s advice. Without respect for your coach, you will not value their words, and therefore, won’t follow them.
In order to gain value from beating an opponent, you have to respect that person and believe that they are a quality player. The more you respect that person and their skills, the more value you will receive if you are able to beat them. The less you respect that opponent, the less value you will gain from the same win. Ultimately, if you want to become a top player and continue to improve, you have to appreciate who you are beating along the way. If you respect the opponents you have beaten, you will value those wins and begin to gain confidence and believe in yourself even more.
In addition to respecting your opponents, you also have to respect your coaches. If you perceive your coach to be highly qualified and knowledgeable expert in your sport, you will value their words and benefit from them. If you believe in the capabilities of your coach, you will trust their advice, follow it and work harder because you think it will work. Of course, the opposite also holds true: Without respect for your coach, you are essentially alone on the court without any help or support because you fail to accept what your coach is telling you.
As tennis players, we are all very familiar with the term “cheap shot,” usually referring to an unfortunate bounce or circumstance where a player hits a lesser-quality shot in order to win the point. In my opinion, every legal shot that abides by the rules of tennis should be respected as legitimate and perceived the same way. As long as your opponent didn’t break any rules when they hit the ball, it is your challenge to figure out how to return the ball. By labeling a shot as “cheap,” or “lucky,” it shows a lack of respect for your opponent and a lack of respect for the game.
Finally, it is essential that all tennis players respect the game itself. Tennis is a difficult sport that presents many challenges. However, when someone is able to overcome those challenges, their sense of value is enhanced.
One example that all players can relate to is competing in windy conditions. Players who have respect for the game perceive the wind as part of the sport and are able to not only embrace the additional challenge, but also gain more in the end if they are able to overcome it. The same can be said of any condition that makes the game more difficult. The greater the difficulty you can overcome, the greater the reward.
Players gain confidence and value from doing things well on the tennis court. Whether that be hitting a good shot, beating a strong opponent or just simply giving 100 percent effort. The first step to improving on the court is to respect all of the challenges and obstacles in front of you. The next step is to perceive those challenges as opportunities to improve and grow as a player. Ultimately, your perception and attitude are what make the difference in how much you gain out on the court.
Jimmy Delevante is a USPTA-certified teaching professional and a National High-Performance Coach. He is the director of tennis at the Suffolk County Junior Tennis League Training Center, a former ATP professional tennis player, and master pro at Sportime Kings Park.