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Maintaining Perspective

Q. I've been playing for three years and I've gotten to the point of frustration with my game that I want to take a break from tennis or maybe just quit altogether. Is this normal?

A. Frustration is pretty normal. Playing perfect tennis is an elusive quest. Arthur Ashe always said that in tennis, you are competing against yourself more than an opponent.

If you become so agitated that you feel like you need to take some time away from the sport, then that is unfortunate. Try to maintain perspective. Have some fun and enjoy the exercise. Not being able to play is worse than occasionally losing.

Q. My high school team is holding a 66 match win streak but we haven’t won a state title yet!! How can we get over that hump?

A. Win the last match of the season. If you do that, then you will have won the State title.

More seriously, I would urge you to focus more on “performance-based goals” (such as improving specific areas of your game) as opposed to an “outcome goal.” In the end, you actually have control over your own performance, but not on whether or not you win. If we had full control over winning, nobody would EVER choose to lose.

Good luck this spring season.

Q. I think Roger Federer turned pro in 1999, but it took a few years for him to put everything together. Why? Did he have too many choices? Needed confidence? Maturity? Some players have so much talent, but never put it together. Please comment.

A. Roger Federer turned professional in 1998, the same year that he finished as the world’s top-ranked junior player. It is a big jump from the junior ranks to the ATP Tour, and his ascent was fairly rapid.

I am not sure what kept Federer from reaching his full potential earlier. You suggest that he had too many choices (thus complicating his shot selection process), needed to develop more confidence, or that he simply needed to mature. It is probably a combination of all of these factors and probably some others as well. Indeed, these intangible factors contribute to preventing many players from ever fulfilling their potential.

Researchers have studied the long-term development of people who become masters of their craft. They have found that it typically takes a minimum of ten years and/or 10,000 hours of practice, training and (in the case of sports) competition. Federer became the world’s #1 player on February 2, 2004 at the age of 23, so this seems about right in his case.

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