There is nothing more beautiful than the sound of a tennis racket colliding perfectly with a ball in the right position at the right time. There are only a few things that come close to the sight of a beautiful serve or groundstroke.
Many constantly profess how boring tennis is and believe that tennis players have a lack of athleticism. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Tennis is a sport that requires more practice than any other. It is meticulous in such a way that one wrong foot position or a momentary lapse of aggression could ruin a shot, which could ruin a point, which could ruin a game, set, match. It is the most mentally challenging sport — one that requires complete concentration, sometimes for three-plus hours, whether it be in 100-degree weather or 50-degree weather. In my mind, at least, no athlete is mentally stronger than the tennis player.
I remember playing in high school and getting emotional to the point that it would destroy an entire match for me. If you lose that grip on your emotions for just a split second, all your hard work can be lost before even getting a chance to recover. It is so easy to fall into that trap of negativity and dig yourself into a deeper and deeper hole, where each time you make a mistake, your opponent just grows stronger and stronger.
I never realized how difficult it could be to keep my composure until I played tennis. There is no worse feeling than being down a set and realizing you will have to dig yourself out of that hole with two straight sets. But the good players don’t think like that. Instead, as you’ll hear time and time again, they somehow manage to put the daunting task to the back of their mind and take it one point at a time until they’ve found their rhythm again.
Watching Cal men’s tennis this season has reminded me why I played and enjoyed the game in high school. Every time Florian Lakat hits an ace or Andre Goransson slams a forehand, I’m reminded of the beauties of the sport I found in between its frustrating moments.
Besides the players, the game itself is also like no other. Even the scoring and the rules have an elegance and class. I admire the respect players show each other on the courts and the rules regarding trash talking. I like that each player is expected to be honorable when making calls about whether a ball is in or out. Everything about it is self-regulation and self-discipline.
Maybe it is because I’ve played tennis that I can see the fun and intense side to it while many who haven’t just hear weirdly incremented scores being called out and lose interest every time there is a long rally.
What most don’t know, though, is that many times, those rallies are some of the most important points. How do you think it feels to have hit the ball back and forth 20-plus times, putting everything you have into both the strength and position of each shot, only to end up losing that point? You put all of that work in for nothing, wasting energy and confidence in the process.
But once again, that is something tennis players must get past. They have to push through the lows and sustain the highs. There is no good tennis player who can’t keep their emotions in check.
And that is why I think tennis players should be given much more credit than they currently are. Cal’s tennis team is ranked No. 6 in the country, and a majority of the time, the stands are almost empty, while the unranked basketball team attracts enough people to fill the arena.
So, to all of the tennis doubters out there, come watch a Cal men’s tennis team home match and witness the No. 2 ranked pair of Lakat and Filip Bergevi hit winner after winner or junior Billy Griffith come back after losing the first set to win the match in three and tell me what’s boring about that.
Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]