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  1. #1
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    Tennis Champions, Are They Born or Made?

    John Newcombe, former world tennis No 1 and former Australian Davis Cup captain, once said that the top Australian players of his era believed that it was their destiny to become tennis champions.

    Boris Becker told me that two weeks before achieving his first Wimbledon title (in 1985 when seventeen years old), he felt as if it were predetermined.

    As a seventeen year old, Ivan Lendl, who, prior to Pete Sampras, held the No 1 spot longer than any other player in history, was convinced that he would turn himself into the best player in the world. He would even tell you so.

    When asked by the media about his chances of winning his first US Open title (in 1975), Jimmy Connors' response was: "There are 127 losers in the draw -- and me!" Jimmy won.

    What these former greats had in common was an unshakeable certainty that they would win. It is a trait that is shared by all top sports people.

    But a question that has always fascinated me is: Are such champions born, or are they made?

    Were Newcombe, Becker, Lendl and Connors born to rule the tennis world? Or did they become champions because of the choices they made? Was their success predetermined, as suggested by Newcombe and Becker? Or was it a result of a single-minded dedication to making themselves the very best, as implied by Lendl and Connors?

    Are champions a product of "nature", or of "nurture"?

    To be a true champion at tennis or any other sport requires very special qualities. These qualities or attributes can be divided into two categories -- the physical and the mental. It is my contention that physical attributes are predominantly a product of chance. They are determined genetically.
    For instance, some people are born with a body structure conducive to speed, others to strength, and so on. In this sense, a very large proportion of the population are excluded, from birth, from ever winning an Olympic gold medal as a sprinter or a weightlifter.
    It is the same with tennis. The physical attributes that are required to become a champion player are such things as good hand-eye coordination, quick reflexes, and leg-speed. Without question, these attributes can be developed to their fullest potential with hard work and effective training methods.
    But most people are excluded from becoming the best tennis player in the world, no matter how much time they spend attempting to reach their physical ceiling of potential.

    Does this mean, then, that champions are born? Were Newcombe, Becker, Lendl and Connors so physically superior to everyone else that becoming the best was just a mere formality?

    Certainly not. All four were exceptionally gifted physically, but in my view, there were other players of the same eras who were more gifted than they were.


    What separated them from everyone else were their mental attributes . . .


    their will to win,

    their determination,

    their perseverance,

    their ability to remain calm under pressure,

    their ability to bounce back from disappointments,

    and the belief that they deserved to win . . .

    . . . all attributes that not one of us is born with, but that each one of us has the power to develop. The only choice is whether we want to.

    It is in this sense that, given the necessary or essential physical attributes as a starting point, all champions are not only made -- they are self-made.



    Thank You Chris from TennisW,

    Review by Chris Lewis, 1983 Wimbledon finalist and owner of Tennis Experts, the online tennis equipment specialists.
    http://www.expert-tennis-tips.com

  2. #2
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    Given your Post was so thorough, I decided to keep this relatively short. I had a very involved conversation with my students about this very topic. We love the Feel Good Story of Achievement against all odds and yet the deck is often times stacked against some more than others as you've eloquently described.

    You can take any kid who is determined to succeed with a fair amount of physical attributes and teach him/her the technical aspects of the game well enough to win a few but then there are those like John McEnroe's unique volleying abilities, Andre Agassi's extraordinary tracking ability on service returns, Steffi Graf's agility and Monica Seles' grit & focus that no teacher can bring to the table

    Like wise you have Yo Yo Ma & Mstislav Rostropovich who are renown Cellist in a World filled with wonderful Cellist yet how is that one who is proficient in reading and translating music to the Cello can play the very piece that was played by these two greats and it lacks something that they bring to the Work? You're playing the same Notes, holding them for the same amount of time & space, your instrument is of excellent quality and you feel the music you are performing but when compared to Yo You Ma or Mstislav Rostropovich, you don't measure up.

    I leave myself open for much disagreement yet I tend to believe greatness is but for a chosen few. On this Forum, I've written about the difference between a Great Tennis Player and a Championship Quality Tennis Player although it was left with no reply. I hope your Thread receives the attention this topic deserves because as I see it, it's a very good topic for discussion.

    I thought it before and I believe it today as well. If for nothing else JT, you will not be left alone in your exploration, I'm with you.
    The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
    It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.

  3. #3
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    You can take any kid who is determined to succeed with a fair amount of physical attributes and teach him/her the technical aspects of the game well enough to win a few but then there are those like John McEnroe's unique volleying abilities, Andre Agassi's extraordinary tracking ability on service returns, Steffi Graf's agility and Monica Seles' grit & focus that no teacher can bring to the table
    I agree with this 100% Coach. This is true not just for tennis but for any sport.

    Please tell me from your experience, why do tennis parents think that if they change coaches their children will suddenly become the "x factor" player?
    Last edited by jtas; 02-03-2009 at 06:34 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtas View Post
    I agree with this 100% Coach. This is true not just for tennis but for any sport.

    Please tell me from your experience, why do tennis parents think that if they change coaches their children will suddenly become the "x factor" player?
    I believe it's very much the same as for Pro Players changing Coaches as well. New ideas, new approach much like my main man Ivan Lendl deciding that his long time relationship with Tony Roche had to change if he was to win the Wimbledon Championship. Ivan finally recognized that although Mr. Roche as I like to call him was one of the best in his day, at the Net, the game was 10 times more powerful than what he had ever faced.

    You can argue good technique is good enough but anybody can stick a clean volley when the ball is coming at you 65mph from a Continental grip but when you increase that mph to 85-90 from an extreme Western grip that's dipping down at break-neck speed, you must have other factors going in your favor like good footwork, good hand-eye coordination, great tracking ability and good instinctual ability to know where the pass might be going.

    Although it is believed that Roger Federer will never win the French Open if Rafa is on the opposite side of the Net, it must be understood that Federer is still the 2nd best Clay Court Player we have on Tour these days which still isn't a bad place to be.

    Sure 2nd Best doesn't get the girl but it's a comforting feeling knowing one slight mistake is all it might take for #1 to hand her over. Well Ivan Lendl never won Wimbledon as great as he became and although at one time he too was considered at least the 2nd Best Grass Court Player in the World but to echo Jtas' argument, I believe had Ivan been more of a natural rather than a designed talent, he most likely would have won a few of those Crowns.

    Off Topic Comment: Roger Federer can still hold his head very high in knowing that at this very moment, he is the holder of the 2nd Most Grand Slam Titles in Tennis History on the Men's side and there are only two players in the Open Era that have won on all four surfaces and to be quite honest, Andre Agassi is really the only guy who has all four on the surfaces comparable to what we have today, whereas Rod Laver, won when the US Open and the Australian Open was still played on Grass. Point is, apparently, it's not an easy feat to accomplish.
    The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
    It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.

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