The first major (aka: the Australian Open) gets underway on television in the USA on Sunday, January 13th. As I get prepared for another tennis season, the qualifying rounds of a major remind me that “most tennis players play tennis because they are passionate about the sport”. That would seem intuitive; however, take a look at a few players that lack passion for the sport and broadcast it by showing poor sportsmanship. You know the ones; they tank matches, play with little regard for the fans, and behave poorly on the court.
Then you look at someone like Sabine Lisicki, once ranked as high as number twelve, who is willing to go through the qualifying rounds to give herself an opportunity to compete on the tennis court in the main draw. Unfortunately, she lost in the first round. Yanina Wickmayer, another former top twenty player, also finds herself in the unenviable position of going through qualies at the Australian Open for a chance to play in the main draw. Alas, like Lisicki, she also lost in the first round. American Lauren Davis continues to struggle to regain the form that once saw her ranked as high as twenty-six; she also lost in the first round of qualifying to a player ranked almost fifty places below her.
Varvara Lepchenko, another American ranked outside the top hundred finds herself battling at the age of thirty-two in the qualifying rounds of a major. She had to go three sets to get past her opponent to get to the second round. While one would assume things would be easier for her in the next round with her opponent being ranked two-hundred and eighteen; one should never make assumptions.
Donald Young, at twenty-nine is currently ranked two-hundred and thirty two. Once ranked as high as thirty-eight he is fighting in the qualifying rounds to try and get back to the main draw of a major. Why? Despite never winning a title, he played well enough to make it to two finals so he knows what he is capable of and going far enough in a main draw can give a player significant ranking points to turn their season, if not their career around.
These players who fight for an opportunity to play in the main draw are passionate about the sport and perhaps because things have not come easy for them, they are more appreciative of these opportunities. Yet, as passionate as they are, at what point do they call it quits? Players who are in their mid-twenties still have a chance to make adjustment to their games; however, time is running out for them as well.
Although we see more players playing in their thirties, not all are able to still play quality tennis consistently enough to win titles. As with every sport after a certain age, the body does not respond as you would like. Your response is slower and it takes longer to recover. So again, at what point do the diminishing returns begin to take more of a psychological as well as physical toll and you decide to walk away?
The question then becomes, what is motivating you to keep going? When the younger players are defeating you more frequently and more easily; when you are no longer winning titles; when everyone you started with have retired and moved on to other pursuits; why do some persist in still fighting on the tennis court to win another match?
Perhaps the answer is simply “a passion for the game”.
SOURCE OF IMAGE: serveandrally original