September 12, 2019
Tennis, while a very complex sport that combines many factors, can be simple at times. None simpler than a kid picking up a racquet for the first time and falling in love with the game. For Michael Strauss, an avid USTA Tournament player from Chevy Chase, Md., that simplicity is what helped him begin his endearment for tennis.
When he was a kid, Strauss’ father would take him to the courts, put a racquet in his hand and hit. No fancy drills, just the simple back-and-forth hitting between a father and his son.
Since then, tennis has proven to be a way for him to be competitive, fit and above all, play the game he’s grown to love.
Strauss has competed in three Category One tournaments and notched wins in each main draw before ultimately falling to a seeded player. He says, despite the eventual losses, posting wins gave him the assurance he could compete with the nation’s top players.ADVERTISEMENT
To hang with the nation’s elite, one must practice and be ready for whatever a player can throw at his or her opponent. For Strauss, his preparation is simple: Just go out, play and hope for the best.
What separates tennis from many sports is its dependence on the player. While each sport requires the players to be able to compete, playing singles matches in tournaments calls on the person to rely on himself only. Strauss notes how important mental toughness is to the success of a player.
“I tend to get down on myself and yet I am able to channel that frustration and play more focused from behind,” Strauss said. “To me, tennis is somewhat like college basketball. Each player will make a ‘run’ in a match, and you need to adjust and have the physical and mental capacity to weather those runs from your opponent and have the confidence that you can respond.”
Despite the overall toughness it requires, tennis provides great memories for Strauss. His favorite is playing with his dad, both as a kid and an adult. He says he feels very fortunate to go out and play the game that he loves several times a week.
“It's part of who I am. I have made some great friends in the tennis community. Playing keeps me physically fit and I love the game even when I feel totally frustrated on the court,” Strauss said. “I am somewhat of a tennis masochist in the sense that I get down on myself too easily and feel like I should never make unforced errors … I hate losing more than I like winning, though I am starting to mellow just a bit with age. Also, sometimes I feel more relief from winning than joy. Despite all this, I wouldn't change a thing.”
Strauss describes tennis as an obsession. The only goal he sets is to keep trying to improve his game. USTA Tournaments have been one of the ways he continually puts work in and the results are apparent. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section Men’s 60s and ended the 2018 championship year in the No. 1 spot in Men’s 60 Singles.
With the mindset of looking to consistently improve while holding one to the highest standard, Strauss sets an example of how players should develop in the world of tennis.
If you are ready to take your game further, USTA Tournaments in the Mid-Atlantic Section are a great way to challenge yourself and see how far you can go. Two level-based tournaments are coming up for you to try: the Fall NTRP Championship Tournament, Sept. Sept. 27 - 29 and the 50 & Over NTRP Tournament Qualifier Oct. 19-20. Win these tournaments and you can earn a spot in the 2020 NTRP Nationals!
Special thanks to Noah Zeigler, USTA Mid-Atlantic summer intern for writing this article.