February 20, 2017
When we think of competing, we often of the word "against." We are trying to beat our opponent, which indicates there is a clear winner and loser. This is not only an unhealthy way of looking at competition but it also doesn't allow you to play your best tennis when playing.
Let's look into this a bit more.
The Reason Behind the Handshake
We have seen the above situations before. On the left, a more common scene than what you see on right. But the question to ask is what is the point of the tradition that you embrace your opponent in tennis at the end of the match, most traditionally with a handshake? The original meaning of the word "competition" in the Greek, "competere", literally means to "strive with." In other words, sport was designed for competitors to bring out the best in each other as they are "competing." The main outcome is not a win or loss but rather the fact that both are better for having competed against one another.
Think about that.
You are not playing to win but to better your opponent.
For me, this puts tennis in a whole different lens. It means that I am not practicing to just improve myself but to prepare me to give what I can in my matches to bring out the best in my opponent. Using this as a filter for my tennis preparation and matches allows me to have a better respect for myself and my future opponents. To ensure that I'm able to challenge my opponent so they are able to push themselves during our match, I have to make my practices effective and efficient. During my match, I'm not being critical of myself but rather what I can do to ensure my opponent feels challenged and capable of playing their hardest. I don't see my "opponent" as "opposing" me at all. He or she is not my foe but rather someone I need to help me improve. My opponent will expose my weaknesses that I need to work on and push me to play with my best effort. Without my opponent, I cannot get better. Without my opponent, I cannot see how good I've become.
With this mindset, you are free to play your best knowing that it is your obligation to your opponent. There is no time for moping or getting frustrated with yourself. Your job is to present the biggest obstacle for the person on the other side of the net.
With this understanding, I can start to understand why players react the way they do after a great point even when they are on the losing end. See below on what Roddick does (jokingly) after Federer hits one of the greatest shots you will see. Federer is a comrade to him on the court. Even though they are playing to beat each other they are also striving to do their best at the same time. This means that they will be at the losing end of points as well as on the winning end. If they give their opponent the opportunity to raise their game to their highest level, then they have done their job as a competitor.
I had a request for some volley drills so here is one below. Also, don't forget to share or subscribe if you haven't already! Thanks for reading....enjoy your tennis!