It’s that time of year again — the hot and muggy dog days of August giving way to the crisp mornings of early September. For tennis fans, this means the US Open in Flushing, NY being played on the heels of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Just a few short weeks ago, I had the privilege of witnessing the world’s greatest tennis players in my virtual backyard at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. Between the stellar action on the courts and visits to the Graeters’ Food Tent for some black raspberry chocolate ice cream — and hopefully not eating it a la George Costanza — I had the opportunity to reflect on the ways in which the sport of tennis has helped my pickleball game.
Now to be totally honest — the tennis experience has been both a blessing and a curse. Afterall, there are tennis habits and techniques, especially with the volley, that are difficult to rid myself of. But having said that, it’s been a pretty painless transition — particularly as it relates to the following aspects that have been honed from my days on the tennis courts.
Court Sense / Court Awareness
Years of playing tennis have, no doubt, heightened my pickleball court sense — my ability to see the whole court and make good, quick decisions in a variety of situations. Where is the ball? Where am I on the court? Where is my opponent on the court? This is just a sampling of information that needs to be continually processed to enhance one’s court sense and court awareness — all while playing to your own strengths and exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses. Tennis has certainly helped.
It’s not always speed and quickness that will put one in the best position for each shot. Anticipation plays a critical role as well. Having that tennis background has helped with the ability to anticipate — watching your opponents’ feet, torso, shoulders and head — as well as being cognizant of the angle of their paddle face. Tennis has also helped in quickly recognizing tendencies — allowing one to anticipate your opponents’ next move before the ball is even struck.
Learning to win. Yup. I said it. Pickleball players have many different motivations for playing — exercise, camaraderie, health reasons — and, for some, competition. But winning is a learned skill. It’s only after grinding through momentum shifts, being on the receiving end of bad line calls and other gamesmanship attempts and not playing your best — but still coming out victorious — that you become match-tough. Having the experience to put your foot on the throat of your opponent when you’re ahead and can smell victory and to battle back when you’re behind and things aren’t going your way is central to being match-tough. Most tennis players have had these experiences.
What Say You?
When people think of others as having a tennis background they likely think of those players as having superior shot-making fundamentals. That may or may not be the case. It’s likely, however, that they have heightened court sense, uncanny anticipation and are match tough. Would love to hear your thoughts on any advantages you think tennis players may have in the game of pickleball. Please comment below. See you on the courts!
Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.