PERSONALITY AND THE TENNIS CHAMPIONS – Allen Fox Tennis

“Is the personality and success of a tennis player related in any way?” This question has been asked quite often. In fact, it has always raised debate among analysts, critics, coaches and the normal person. Some people are of the opinion that the character of the player goes a long way in dictating how well he/she plays. On the other hand, some people say that it contributes only a small fraction.
Finding the right answer will help mold the next generation of tennis players in much easier manner. A parent, trainer or coach will know if a beginner is poised to become a great player or not.
According to IBM Watson, a firm that for many decades has been researching player personality and performance, many players do share many character traits. For instance, Andre Agassi, Serena Williams, and Martina Navratilova are the best returners tennis has ever seen. One common trait amongst them is that they are all very thoughtful and introspective. They normally don’t play to the crowd and have a selfless nature. This has also been observed in Petra Kvitova and Jana Novotna, who are also great returners. They maintain their calm even when under pressure and never seem to show emotions.
Having an altruistic nature makes the player not only reliable but also more driven compared to other players. But, this character seems to vary with gender as women players tend to be more agreeable than their male counterparts. A good case in point is between Serena Williams and Andy Murray, who both are great returners but Serena seems to be calmer even when on a losing edge. This can’t be said about Andy, who has been described by some media as being aloof, grumpy, sour or even ill-tempered after a loss.
In a study on elite tennis players, it was observed that players who choose to avoid closeness in relationships were more successful. They are more focused, didn’t easily get distracted by the crowd, and can easily change the pace of the game. Self-sufficiency, discomfort, and autonomy drive a player to perform better and are also more resilient. An extrovert, on the other hand, was easily swayed by emotions or the crowd. Having changed her citizenship, Martina Navratilova faced a home opponent who was enjoying lots of home support. Nevertheless, considering she was more of an introvert, she maintained her game and the negative environment didn’t really affect her much.
Reasons, why introverts seem to perform better, was because the game as described by Andre Agassi is very lonely. You have to make a decision by yourself and you can’t afford to dance to the environment. A player who remains calm makes quick decisions, and can handle pressure is more likely to succeed since he can vary the momentum to suit his/her play. This is critical particularly when playing away from the home support. An individual who feels uncomfortable around other people is more likely to succeed compared to one who loves the crowd. This possibly explains why Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal perform well.
Sources:
1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tennis/player-qualities/childs-personality-wimbledon-champion/
2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/sep/04/rafael-nadal-my-story-review
3. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-raj-persaud/andy-murray-psychology_b_3559480.html
4. https://www.amazon.com/Champions-Mind-Lessons-Life-Tennis/dp/030738330X

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