Tennis certainly is a global game, but we don't always consider the plight of those who aren't in hotbeds of the sport. But the journey can be fulfilling, and the roots of a successful player can consistently be traced back to where they first picked up a racket and enjoyed the feeling. Mark Knowles knows all about chasing athletic dreams, and he joined the Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray to discuss how a he made his mark on the game from the Bahamas & beyond.
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Bred For Greatness In The Bahamas: The Mark Knowles Story
The former No. 1 doubles player in the world joins the Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray to discuss wins & losses in the game, coaching, & why he'll always rep the his homeland.
Published Aug 07, 2022
Knowles can trace his origin story across the pond. His mother is English & played professionally, and made her way to the Bahamas where she got married and had a son.
"They ran a tennis club & a nice a junior program," Knowles said reflecting on his childhood. "I would literally just be in the pro shop hanging out when I was too small to walk. Then the minute I could walk, I would venture down the courts and just hit tennis balls against the wall all day."
He found his solace ripping those groundstrokes, and he kept working on his craft as he got older. In the 1980s he caught the eye of one Nick Bollettieri, and he made the decision to train at arguably the most famous academy in the US.
The wall & local competition was replaced by names like Andre Agassi & Jim Courier, who would go on to Hall of Fame careers. They were just peers at the time, but each would make a lasting impression on the young Bahamian.
"It was a super competitive world at Bolletttieri's back then, and we were all a little crazy," Knowles recounted pf the many times the group members would smash their rackets in a losing effort. "All of a sudden one day Jim was like, "I'm done with this. I'm never going to lose another match because of my attitude or my approach to the game."
He meant those words, and put them in use en route to four major titles and the #1 ranking. Knowles took note, and worked on his mental game as much as his technique. A pro career was waiting for him too, just not the one he had envisioned.
While singles success unfortunately did not happen for Knowles, in doubles he simply became the very best. He won three major titles and reached the number one ranking. But like all competitors, he admits he still thinks about the eight other major finals he played & fell short in. He transitioned to coaching effortlessly as well, working with players such as Mardy Fish & Milos Raonic to tremendous results.
Yet in spite of his coaching prowess he remains firmly against mid-match coaching, using his own shortcomings as an example as to why that's the case.
"If you would have given me coaching, I would have done much better," Knowles said as he referenced his inability at times to stay in the moment. "Serena Williams, she goes where others can't on their own."
It's a fascinating argument & reinforces the shared belief by many that in a sport so mentally challenging, we should reward those who are able to independently find solutions. After a lengthy tennis career that stretched across several decades, there was still one honor that stood above the rest for Knowles. He represented the Bahamas in five Olympic Games, and nothing makes him more proud. He even revealed on the podcast that Great Britain made a serious push to get him to switch allegiances, but it was no use.
"It wasn't about money for me," he recalled. "My Bahamian people are the greatest people, and playing for the Bahamas has been the greatest joy of my life." There's no breaking the bond that Knowles has with his homeland, and there's no minimizing what it means to him to have those roots in his DNA.
This podcast is an inside look at someone who truly proved that the reach of tennis can be found everywhere, you just have to look hard enough to find it.