Anyone who enters professional tennis knows that you have to be an extremely dedicated, highly-skilled, hardworking individual. A nice dose of natural talent is also very helpful. But reading through tennis websites, fan forum posts, sports magazine comment sections, and Twitter feeds, we here at Tennis Inside Out have discovered there’s so much more to becoming the perfect tennis player. Let us share with you all that we’ve learned about the required elements:
1. You must win every point in every game in every match. No excuses! Backhand down the line goes wide? Loser. Drop shot falls short? Moron. Get it together. Sure, Rafael Nadal said in his autobiography that thinking you can win every point is madness, but that’s just sour grapes. Eleven Slams? Pffftt. You’ve been in, what, 34 Slams? That should be 34 Slam titles.
2. You must be a gracious winner. But not too gracious, everyone will think you’re a pussy. If you bageled the opponent, it’s okay to say you played well, but don’t pat yourself on the back too much. Then we’ll call you out for being an arrogant asshole. So, you know, be the Goldilocks of winning gracefully. Get it just right, every time.
3. You must be a gracious loser. Even if the guy made “Yo Mama” comments under his breath the whole match and tried to decapitate you with a 100 mph forehand when you were standing one foot from the net, you’ve got to shake his hand like a gentleman. If you’re friends off the court, you have to grin and pat him on the back, even if he just prevented you from completing your first legitimate title run in 3 years–and made you feel like an idiot for the 16th time in front of thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers. And you women who are friends? You have to hug and air kiss, otherwise you’re just being a total bitch.
4. You must always lose to the more popular player, especially if he’s from your own country. But for goodness’ sake, make it a good match. We want you to try your hardest, pull out all your best shots, and totally exert yourself. Then lose. And don’t get discouraged for one minute, because then you’ll be labeled a total choke artist and useless minion. So, make sure you roll over, but don’t look like you’re rolling over. As Han Solo might say, “roll casually.”
Oh, and don’t forget to smile appreciatively at the net and let everyone know that you tried your best, and it was an honor to get whooped by the better player. But don’t act too gracious, ’cause you know…see #2.
5. Don’t make any noise when you’re playing. Well, if you’re a guy, it’s probably okay, because that’s from effort. Try to make it a mildly sexual noise, so we can enjoy it more. It helps if you’re hot, especially if you’re a girl. Definitely make sure it’s a sexual noise then, because that’s the only noise guys can handle you making. A woman with a barbaric roar? Oh no, we can’t have that. Next, women will want equal pay! What’s the world coming to?
6. Never retire from a match. Unless you rolled your ankle and we can see it’s only hanging by a thread of bone and half a tendon, there’s no reason to quit. Searing pain in your shoulder? Forget it. It probably won’t require surgery, and maybe you won’t make it worse, causing permanent damage. Stop being a wimp. Cramping? Grin and bear it. Caught the stomach flu and feel like you’re going to vomit? Let it all out in the corner over there, the ball kids will get it. And the cameras will make sure it makes it to the sports clip shows and eternal preservation on YouTube. You’ll be a “viral” hit, get it?
7. Speak and write perfect English. Sure, maybe you were born in Spain, live in Spain, and spend all of your time off in Spain. That’s a lame excuse. You’ve been playing pro tennis for four years, and surely amidst all that training and practicing and traveling the world you’ve got time to master another language. Don’t make any mistakes, either, because if you use the wrong word there will be at least one hundred articles all over the Web tomorrow about how you said Andy had a “weird smell.” Oh, you meant “unique smile”? Well, too bad. You’re now always gonna be that jerk with a “sensitive nose.”
8. For men, have a hot girlfriend or wife (even if you like guys). If she doesn’t look the same as every other hot model the other guys have, we’re going to make fun of you. We’ll make disparaging remarks about her, and consider you a totally pathetic excuse for a man who couldn’t get a hot wife. Or, maybe we’ll just say horrible things about her while feeling sorry for your wasted hotness. We’ll also express a wish that you’re cheating on her, so at least you get something good once in awhile.
For women, best not to have a boyfriend or husband unless he’s your coach. That’s the only relationship that will work, where the dude’s in charge and furthering your tennis career. If you start dating someone special, you better keep winning. Otherwise we will blame all of your tennis faults on your ridiculous desire to have a life. And seriously, aren’t all girl players secret lesbians anyway? You can let us know when you retire from the sport.
9. Don’t get fat. This goes for all of you, but the gals especially. Sure, Nike makes your dress two sizes too small and six inches too short, and there’s that weird biological fact that women aren’t supposed to have the same flat stomach as an 18-year-old boy. That’s no excuse. We don’t want to see anything but bone structure. You should have 0% body fat and a tiny fist to clench against your tiny thigh.
Don’t worry, boys and girls, if you think you’re fine but really aren’t. Everyone will let you know. Even if you don’t read TennisPlayaHaterzz.com, the journalists and commentators will help you out. Just listen for key words like “improving health” and “focusing on fitness,” which, when carefully translated, means “OMG you cow!!”
10. Accommodate our pathological need for autographs. After all, we haven’t seen the last 7 games of your matches in five years because we always leave early to stake out the player’s entrance to the stadium. Clearly we love tennis and that kind of dedication should be rewarded. Maybe the 50th time you sign a hat for us you’ll actually put in all the letters to your last name.
Even if we trample two disabled people, elbow a pregnant woman in the face, and drop the t-shirt we want signed directly onto your head, you have to be gracious. Definitely pay special attention to our 6-year-old daughter, whom we shoved into a crowd of strangers to get the autograph that she could care less about and that we’re hoping to sell on eBay. Don’t mind that she’s been bouncing that $75 giant tennis ball in every puddle on the way here, and that she dropped it in that flooded stall in the bathroom before shoving it into your hands. A few germs never hurt anyone!
Bonus points: Always do a shirt change on court, in front of a camera. Well, that is if you’re handsome, popular, and/or totally ripped. Definitely best if you meet at least two out of three of those criteria. None of this comfort break stuff, or waiting until we’re all snerking over the Kiss Cam and totally distracted from the nudity on court. We want to see some skin, so we can hoot and holler like we’re at a strip club.
How many criteria did you meet? Let us know! Scores range from: 1 out of 10: “Time to take up golf!” all the way up to 10 out of 10 + bonus: “Congratulations! You are as mythical as a unicorn!”