Someone recently asked me what makes tennis different than other individual lifetime sports like swimming, running, biking, or even bowling. I’ll share my answer to that question right here. I have a passionate and maybe biased answer but tennis does have two very unique properties over most sports.
First, I want you to think about tennis compared to those other sports I listed above. In most of those individual sports you are really competing against yourself or the clock. Runners, swimmers and bikers are in a race against others but really they are competing against the clock. In bowling there is not clock but really you are competing against yourself. In tennis when you walk out on the court against an opponent you are about to compete in combat. There is no clock and you are not competing against yourself. In fact, I like to think of it as civilized combat because your goal is to defeat your opponent without touching them.
Second, tennis has the most unique scoring system in the world. I say that not because of the 15, 30, 40, Deuce system, which by the way that comes from a clock dial. Originally they used an old broken clock to keep track of the score for spectators. One player had the hour hand and the other the minute hand. They would move the hands around the clock as points were won. Deuce was when it was tied at 40-40 and they would move the clock hands to the 50 mark for Ad-In and Ad-Out. Now moving past that little history lesson the scoring system is unique because in order to win you have to learn how to group points together. More specifically you have to learn how to win points in groups of 2’s and 3’s. It is incredibly unique and really makes a player utilize their mind along with their athletic ability. This is the exact reason why tennis is such a mental game. You are trying to win points in groups and your opponent is trying to do everything they can to stop that from happening and vice-versa.
There you have it tennis is a highly combative, mentally engaging, and athletically demanding sport. This is why it takes 10 plus years to really get good at the game because there are so many areas to develop. My good friend Coach Chuck Kriese has a saying, “Easy to pick up is easy to put down, hard to pick up is hard to put down.” I think that sums up best why you see people playing tennis and even attempting to master tennis for an entire lifetime.