In his Hall of Fame induction speech, one of the most famous (and open) recovering tennis players Andre Agassi explains:
"Tennis is a lonely sport, probably the most lonely. You're out there with no team, no coach and no place to hide. That's why tennis players not only talk to themselves but answer. And yet all that loneliness eventually teaches you to stand alone. The high standards that tennis imposes on us, the self reliance it demands of us, that's the reason why tennis has produced so many of life's great game changers."
Anyone who has played competitive tennis can understand exactly what he means — why this sport is all at once terrifying, exhilarating, lonely, and incredibly rewarding. Following up on our 15 Signs You're A Recovering Swimmer piece, we bring you our tennis version, penned by a recovering tennis player on the MBG team, Christina Liva.
Here are some signs that you, too, are a recovering competitive tennis player:
1. Your legs never get cold.
Because you’ve walked everywhere at all times of the day every season in a tennis skirt or shorts.
2. “Love” is not a good thing.
Neither is a “bagel” (which, in tennis speak, means zero).
3. You still turn your back and mutter to yourself when times get tough.
Only you miss fiddling with the strings.
4. Bikini tan lines don’t phase you.
Because you’re used to ones from the ankle down and mid-thigh up.
5. One of your arms is slightly bigger than the other.
And for us girls, this also goes for our girls.
6. You know that Continental, Eastern and Full Western are not breakfast options.
They're grips. And you probably have a strong opinion on which one is best.
7. You can’t bring yourself to play for fun.
Even 15 years later. Winning will always matter. And even if you could keep up a rally, you'd be terrified of serving (you know it's the first thing to go).
8. You have the largest calves of anyone you know.
And are proud of it.
9. You’d still rather do suicide drills than run long distances.
It’s the calves.
10. The best smell in the world is a just opened can of tennis balls.
And the sound of the can opening also brings you to a pretty happy place.
11. A “tennis parent” is the most terrifying creature on the planet.
They are the only people that care about winning more than you do. (Shudder).
12. You have slightly less respect for team sports.
Those guys will never know the terror of standing on a court alone, with no one to share the weight of your mistakes. (But, hey, they’re probably a great idea for kids!)
13. Playing for your varsity high school team was practice for real tournaments.
And you thought it was really cute that everyone else on the team took it seriously.
14. You retired before you could legally drink.
If you weren't going pro, (and once you got into college), what was the point?
15. Shaking hands will never feel friendly.
The majority of your handshakes have either been while gloating or on the brink of tears.
16. You know what “mental toughness” really means.
And how, despite your talent, it’s the mental game that wins or loses the match — in tennis and in life.
17. You understand why Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf do not have a tennis court on their property.
While you will forever be grateful for what tennis has taught and given you, you're probably happy those intense days are behind you. But you’ll still argue that tennis is the best / most legit sport out there — as Andre says, you really do learn to stand on your own, for better or worse.
18. You believe that the only person you can truly rely on is yourself.
And maybe your doubles partner.