Tennis brings to mind players with great coordination, toned muscles and
exceptional endurance. But there is more to it.
"Tennis is a mental game," says Patrick Mulroy. "When you are in a tournament
setting, you naturally put pressure on yourself by thinking about it. If you
can forget you are in a tournament and just play as if you are playing friendly,
you will find great success."
Success means different things to different people, of course. "Becoming
good enough to be a professional is something that you really cannot predict,"
says Carol Hartmann. She is a high school tennis coach. "You have to let the
player develop and see if there is enough inner desire, skill and determination
to play and compete that much."
It's hard to recommend a particular age that is best to start if you want
to compete. "The earlier the better," says Hartmann.
Points go from 15, 30 and 40, to game, unless there's a tie. In a set,
the first player (or doubles team) who wins six games by a margin of two prevails.
(For more about tennis rules, see the U.S. Tennis Association website.) Then
comes the money, if you are lucky enough to be in a major tournament.
There are four tournaments that comprise the Grand Slam: the U.S. Open,
Wimbledon and the French and Australian Opens. Grand Slam champions are those
who win all four events in one calendar year.
Ultra-lightweight rackets are making it easy to go into tennis. New design
technology and titanium frames are creating rackets that are lighter and easier
to control. More advanced players, who use heavier rackets for more power,
are now taking advantage of titanium, too.
Equipment choices are endless, and rackets can be pricey. Expect to spend
at least $50 to $100. You can easily spend $200.
Some players can go crazy buying all the latest equipment. But when you're
just starting, resist the urge to overspend. "Don't worry about what kind
of racket another player has," says Rick Johnson. "I have a friend who still
plays with a wooden racket, and he gives me a great game!"
"Fitness is important. My experience was easier because I was active in
other sports," says Mulroy.
"The training is the most difficult part. One must be well-conditioned
in order to play a good game. To get to that point, there is [a lot of] work,"
says Renee Robley. "But once you have reached that peak and are playing to
the best of your ability, the fun steps in. Especially if you are winning."
If you're interested in a career in tennis, you don't have to pin all your
hopes on the big time. You can become a coach or a certified instructor. Visit
some of the association websites to learn about becoming an instructor. You
can also train to become a racket stringer.
"Find a public court where you are going to meet other kids who are just
playing it for fun, too," advises Robley. "Don't go to a big academy like
I did. They just push the competitive side of the game. Later on, you don't
see the fun anymore, you just see the pressure. Enjoy the game first, and
then decide that you want to take it seriously."
Mulroy also suggests starting out recreationally, but he recommends a coach
if you can afford it. He couldn't when he was learning. He "substituted with
hours of playing time and watching the pros on television. Who better to watch
than the pros?"
If you do want instruction, you can find some locally at a tennis club
or through one of the association websites below.
Finally, Hartmann advises, "Having an all-court game is something you should
develop. Practice all the strokes. The best advice I can give for improvement
is to play a lot--lots of matches and tournaments. Also, professional instruction
and guidance are critical to shaping the proper strokes and game plans."
U.S. Tennis Association (USTA)
U.S. Professional Tennis Association (USPTA)
Complete Idiot's Guide to Tennis
Trish Faulkner et al
The Inner Game of Tennis,
Timothy W. Gallwey
Check out the tennis coverage
Search for information about players and competitions