Although there is no precise formula when it comes to the development of elite players, the following elements will greatly influence your ability to reach the top.
Passion. Tennis is an incredibly demanding sport and requires a total commitment. If you are not passionate about the game you will find it extremely difficult to approach the game with the necessary intensity to do everything that is required for you to reach your potential.
Extraordinary Athletic Ability. Although everyone can become a better athlete through hard work, those that are naturally stronger, faster and more coordinated definitely have an advantage. Given the same amount of work and intensity, superb natural athletes will usually maintain the edge.
Mental Toughness. Competitive tennis is a game that not only taxes the body but puts tremendous pressure on the mind. Players are constantly experiencing stress and defeat. If you are not willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations over and over or have a hard time dealing with adversity you do not have much of a chance.
The Right Size. As the sport becomes more professionalized, the athletic demands continue to increase and players get bigger, stronger and faster. In today’s game, size is becoming a determinant factor and smaller players are slowly being pushed out.
Physical Resiliency. Today’s matches are true battles, and the physical demands of the sport are immense. Only those players able to withstand the constant wear and tear will be able to reach their potential. There is no room for fragile bodies.
Supporting Parents. No one gets to the top alone. Tennis requires a family commitment. In a way it is a team sport. At least one of the parents needs to be willing to sacrifice a great deal of time, energy and resources to support the player.
Effective Coaching. The road to the top is not straightforward. There is no recipe and every player is different. No player will get to the top without optimizing their game through every one of the development stages, and in order to do so, they need to find coaches that can provide adequate guidance through each phase.
Appropriate Competition. Regardless of ability and coaching, the only way to become a successful player is by learning to compete and that requires constant, appropriate competition. Players have to have the opportunity to play enough challenging matches to mature. No matches – no players.
Money. Unfortunately tennis is very expensive. Someone has to pay the bill. It may be the federation, a sponsor or the family, but if you do not have the resources to ensure the same coaching, tournament and practice opportunities as the competition, your chances of succeeding at the upper levels of the game will be drastically reduced.
Luck. I just touched upon nine factors that greatly influence the odds of a player reaching the top of the game. All are equally important and critical. Any problem or deficiency in any of these areas will very likely prevent a player from making a living on the pro tour. If you are able to positively check off all these factors, you should consider yourself extremely lucky.