Fun or Winning… Why do you compete in tennis?
Many tennis players make a strong delineation between “competitive” tennis and “recreational” tennis. For example, some athletes will describe themselves as “a competitive tennis player” with emphasis on the word “COMPETITIVE”. The subtle indication is that REC tennis is played for fun and competitive tennis is solely about winning.
Is it really true that having fun and winning are mutually exclusive? To achieve success in tennis, do you need to have an “all work and no play” mentality?
There is a problem when you view tennis in this manner. When your sole motivation to play tennis is to win, you feel a greater sense of pressure which can lead to poor play, more mistakes, increased stress, injuries and burnout. This ‘Must Win’ approach to tennis places greater significance on every set. Every match loss becomes a devastating blow to your sense of self, your confidence and your level of enjoyment.
The reality is that you can “have your cake and eat it too.” Not only is it possible to have fun and push yourself to win, it’s necessary if you are to achieve as much as you can in tennis.
The having fun approach does not mean that you do not want to win or you won’t work your tail off to give yourself the best opportunity for victory. Having fun is a matter of focusing on the challenge in front of you and not the “need to win”. After all, tennis is a “game” and not life-or-death.
One event that highlights the combination of fun and competition is the Laver Cup. The Laver Cup is an annual indoor event that was created in 2017 and pits Team Europe vs. Team World.
Each team has six players and there are 12 matches played over three days (nine singles and three doubles). Each match win on Day 1 is worth one point… Each match win on Day 2 is worth two points… And each match win on Day 3 is worth three points. The winner of the tournament is the first team to capture 13 points.
The 2019 Laver Cup was won by Team Europe, 13-11 over Team World.
Before the start of the tournament, Roger Federer talked about how excited he was to play in such a tournament that is both competitive and fun.
FEDERER: “It’s definitely going to be one of those weeks I will forever remember. I have played in some incredible matches, arenas, places, but I think this is going to be going down for me as a very emotional, cool weekend… I hope the fans are going to have the best time. I know we will give it all we have. It’s incredibly exciting to be here right now.”
John Isner echoed Federer’s sentiment regarding the overall tone of the tournament.
ISNER: “That’s what we enjoy about [this tournament], because we are trying to beat each other 95% of the time during the course of the year. This event is much different. All of us get along. We really do. I’m not just saying that. We are very good friends and we have a lot of fun with this. It’s just so much fun to compete in this environment.”
The fun is in the challenge. Focusing on only winning will drain your motivation and passion for tennis. When you are focused on the challenge inherent in the game you will be energized mentally and physically which, in the end, produces the best results.
Tardio Tip: Keeping the Fun Alive in Tennis
If you see the fun, you increase the likelihood of adding fun to your matches. This is where imagery can be of benefit.
Spend 5-10 minutes each day visualizing being on top of your game and having fun. Every now and then, you can visualize yourself down in the match and challenging yourself to make a comeback, all the while having fun in the process.
Tennis should not be a miserable experience. Infusing a bit of fun can reignite some passion back into the sport and fuel your play on the court.
Related Article: How Much is Your ‘Have to Win’ Mindset Impacting You?
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