In July, August, and September of this month, we’ll be looking at some professional tennis players who overcame adversity to achieve greatness. As we explore each player’s story, we’ll identify three key characteristics that helped them achieve significant personal and professional growth.
As you continue to develop the skills of your junior tennis player, consider using these player stories and characteristics as ways to educate, motivate, and inspire.
Martina Navratilova: Her Story
Martina Navratilova is argued by many to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time, winning 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles championships, and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles. But that’s not all. In a competitive tennis career that spanned four decades (1973 –2003), the native Czechoslovakian also won nine Wimbledon singles championships. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Related: Martina’s Story
Navratilova may be a living tennis legend, but her road to victory was not easily traveled. As one of the first openly gay sports figures in the world—in the entire world—she was subject to negative stereotypes and hateful prejudices. While Navratilova was stripped of millions of dollars in endorsements due to her sexual orientation, she never forfeited her integrity.
Committed to living an open and honest life, Navratilova couldn’t be stopped. In 2006, the fearless figure became the oldest player to win at Wimbledon at 46 years old. Forty-six! Later that summer, Navratilova took home a doubles championship at the U.S. Open. She refused to quit.
Related: Martina Navratilova Biography
Here are other interesting facts about Martina Navratilova that might resonate with today’s junior tennis player, parents, or coaches. Martina Navratilova:
- Started practicing at just four years old
- Was playing regularly at 7 years old
- Had an estranged relationship with her father
- Was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 (and beat it just six months later)
- Debuted on Dancing with the Stars in 2012
Throughout her incredible career and post-tennis life, Martina Navratilova was no stranger to competition. After she battled for wins on the court, she fought for her own personal freedoms. After she retired, she fought for her life. Today, Martina Navratilova is widely recognized as an athletic icon. What’s more, she’s one of the single greatest sports role models alive.
What can we learn from Martina Navratilova’s story? Here are three characteristics she has embodied that. We encourage you to use these as talking points when encouraging your junior tennis players.
Practice early and often. Refuse to make excuses. Take ownership of who you are, what you’re worth, and where you want to go. In sports, as in life, you must have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish in order to achieve it. Whether it’s on the court or in the classroom, you’ve got to look inward, not outward. It’s up to you to be great. Are you up for the challenge?
Be proud of who you are and take pride in everything you do. Rivals will always find a way to belittle you, or get the best of you, or make you think less of yourself. In simpler terms, “haters are going to hate.” Let them. The better you are—as a person and as a player—the worse it will get. Use this as fuel to fire your most calculated on-court attacks and empower your most triumphant victories.
One tennis player never singlehandedly won a doubles championship. In order to improve as a player and a teammate, you must learn how to work well with others. You’ve got to communicate. You’ve got to share the same passion for the game. You’ve got to challenge each other to push each other to the outer limits of your potential.
For more good ways to help your young athlete stay engaged in the sport they love, check out our some of our other blogs!
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