It shouldn’t be hard to keep a New Year’s tennis resolution. Right?

by: Steve Tignor | January 01, 2019

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By now, you’re probably aware that New Year’s resolutions are easier to make than to carry out. According to one study, 80 percent of us give up on them by mid-February. Six weeks on a treadmill, it seems, is all we can handle before we throw in the towel—or throw it away entirely—and get back to the comfort of our couches and our nights with Netflix.

In theory, tennis-oriented vows shouldn’t be hard to keep. What’s to stop us from changing or improving our games in the new year? Yet this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Looking back at some of my past tennis resolutions reveals a mixed bag of winners and errors.

Learning a new stroke: This is a common dream among rec players, because it lets us to imagine that, like Roger Federer revamping his backhand at 35, we can discover new talents in ourselves. One winter, after watching a group of 12-year-olds nonchalantly knocking off swing volleys, I decided to try it myself. I had a topspin forehand; how hard could it be to take it out of the air?

Very, it turned out. I began with a whiff (or three), but even when I made contact, more of my shots hit the back curtain than landed in the court. In reality, this seemingly natural stroke required exquisite timing and, ideally, youthful energy. By March, I was back to my safe, simple bunt volley. I couldn’t get it to the back wall if I tried.

Playing a new opponent: This also sounds like a great idea. Off-court, you get to socialize with someone new; on court, you’re forced to adapt to a different style. A few years ago, I thought I had found an ideal new partner; his explosive power forced me to speed up my reaction time. There was just one problem: He was also explosively intense. During a warm-up game to 11, I spotted him clenching his first, Maria Sharapova-style, after I made an error. By the time we were into a match, he had started muttering “You can’t lose to this guy!” during changeovers. I went back to my old, easier-going opponents.

Beating a better player: Resolving to turn the tables on one of your tormentors offers two obvious benefits—a clear goal and, if that goal is reached, an agreeable result. This turned out to be the resolution that I stayed with the longest, and which helped my game the most. Through spring and summer, I crept closer to a player I had rarely defeated before. Having given myself 12 months to reach my goal, I could focus on steady improvement rather than immediate triumph. I also knew exactly which weaknesses I needed to shore up. By September, I had my win—one win, never repeated, but a win nonetheless.

What’s my tennis resolution for 2019? Looking back at that victory and others, I realize that it isn’t the wins that provide the most satisfaction, it’s the effort that goes into them. Running, competing, sweating, strategizing, pummeling a yellow ball: It’s an effort that has as many benefits off-court as it does on. You know you’ve made it when you feel less stressed, when you sleep more deeply, when you’re more alert at work, when you can enjoy your nights with Netflix without guilt. I’m resolving to feel that way more often in 2019. Playing tennis is the only way I know how.


This Week on Tennis Channel Plus:

Hopman Cup (Sat - Sat 12.29 - 1.5)
•    Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber headline the Hopman Cup. Watch live coverage on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Saturday 12/29 at 9:00pm ET.

ATP/WTA Brisbane (Sun - Sun 12.30 - 1.6)
•    Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens open their 2019 seasons in Brisbane. Live coverage from three courts begins on Tennis Channel Plus on Sunday 12/30 at 8:00pm ET.

WTA Auckland (Sun - Sun 12.30 - 1.6)
•    Catch the action from the ASB Classic including Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki. Live coverage begins on Tennis Channel Plus on Sunday 12/30 at 8:00pm ET.

WTA Shenzhen (Sat - Sat 12.29 - 1.5)
•    Watch first to last ball action from the Shenzhen Open featuring Maria Sharapova and Jelena Ostapenko beginning Saturday 12/29 at 11:00pm ET.

ATP Pune (Mon - Sat 12.31 - 1.5)
•    Watch Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic and Hyeon Chung live from Pune starting Monday 12/31 at 6:30am ET.

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