What makes tennis so great – Quotes from the best

Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals Credit: Alamy

Tennis captivates millions across the globe and has grown game that inspires and entertains year-round.

The game evolved a lot in the second half of the 20th century and even today continues to change.

Tennis requires of its participants a fine balance of power and precision and that balance is also the subject of some of the game’s great debates.

So what makes tennis a great sport?

Everyone might have a slightly different answer for this but perhaps the best people to ask are those who excelled at the sport.

Seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe believes that tennis is a great sport because it isn’t on the clock and therefore no matter what position a player finds themselves in, the match isn’t over until it’s been won.

That setup allows the great champions to find a way to win even when they have started badly.

“What is the single most important quality of a tennis champion? I would have to say desire, staying in there and winning matches when you are not playing that well,” McEnroe said.

Andre Agassi was someone inspired by the never say die attitude of McEnroe and employed a similar self-belief.

“The great part about tennis is you can’t run out the clock…. As long as we were still playing, I had a chance,” Andre Agassi famously said.

The sport of tennis is a contest between either two singles players or a doubles team but there is no physical clash between opponents.

Rather it is all about staying focused on the ball and playing your shots as Roger Federer points out.

“I told myself to play free. You play the ball. You don’t play the opponent. Be free in your head. Be free in your shots. Go for it. The brave will be rewarded here.”

Tennis is physically taxing but it is perhaps even tougher on players mentally than it is physically.

Players often need to hold a strong philosophy in order to get ahead in the game.

As Arthur Ashe said: “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

Grand Slam king of yesteryear Rod Laver says its all about staying in the moment.

“The next point — that’s all you must think about,” he says.

Tennis has many great winners but all of them have tasted defeat in spades as well.

“If you don’t lose, you cannot enjoy the victories. So I have to accept both things,” Rafael Nadal says.

The great players also know that when all is said and done there is comradery to be had with your opponent.

“When the last point is done, we are humans. Give your opponent a hug and say, ‘great fight,’ and that’s all,” Novak Djokovic says about sportsmanship.

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