50 Years, 50 Heroes: Tim Mayotte, 1986

by: Steve Tignor | December 06, 2018

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For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and TENNIS.com—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

Driven by a “paranoia about mediocrity,” Mayotte gives nothing less than 100 percent to his tennis, even if it is only a practice session.  Like everything else in his life, tennis has a specific place, and when it comes time to play or practice, his ability to focus on the task at hand is extraordinary. - Louise Ackerman / July 1986

“When I retired at 32, I didn’t know anything about tennis,” Tim Mayotte says.

It may be a surprise to hear these words come from a player once ranked as high as No. 7. But it was only when he stopped playing, in 1992, that Mayotte’s tennis education began. Where he once set a standard for sportsmanship and thoughtfulness during the bad-boy era of U.S. tennis, the man known as Gentleman Tim is now hoping to bring a higher standard to U.S. tennis coaching during an era of European domination.

“It isn’t just about teaching American players better fundamentals,” Mayotte says. “It’s about teaching coaches those fundamentals. We don’t have the same standards for our coaches that other countries have.”

Now 58, Mayotte likes the direction the USTA has taken in recent years—“Martin has widened the net,” he says of head of player development Martin Blackman’s attempts to attract a more diverse group of young athletes. Mayotte would like the next step to be the creation of a tennis-coaching university, with a standard curriculum and uniform approach to teaching the modern game.

Until that happens, Mayotte is happy running a junior tennis academy at the Thoreau Club outside of Boston. He’s hoping to get his own ideas about technical instruction across in a book he calls “The Framework.” In it, Mayotte aims to bring a broader, more holistic approach to technical instruction, with modern-art illustrations.

“Too often we focus on a player’s swing in isolation, and don’t connect it with their movement,” Mayotte says. “We have a fetish for Federer’s forehand swing, but as far as what you can learn from it alone, it’s useless. You need to look at everything, from split-step to follow-through. The best players are the best because they’re so quick off the mark, and they integrate everything so well.”

For any American players or coaches who “don’t know anything about tennis,” the way Mayotte once did, “The Framework” may eventually be the place to start learning.

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