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Tennis.com Podcast featuring Roger Smith: From the Bahamas with a dream
Roger Smith saw tennis as his path to a better life. His story proves how correct his vision was.
Published Oct 17, 2023
If you want to understand why tennis is a global game, you don’t need to look much further than the most recent guest on the Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray. Roger Smith grew up in the Bahamas from humble beginnings, hoping to make it in a world that wasn’t advantageous to him as his life began. But a chance introduction to a game with balls and a racquet put in motion one of the most improbable stories of elevation and self-improvement.
There were many stops along the path, with obstacles and deterrents that would cause most people to abort their plans. Smith trekked on, getting a college education and becoming a pioneer in the process of achieving tennis excellence. He explained on this episode why passion is everything, and adversity is only temporary.
Smith doesn’t hide from how little he had as a child, but he never once used it as excuse, even before tennis came into the picture.
“I knew there was something bigger and better out there for me. I didn’t know what it was at the time,” he recalled. When he found the game that changed his life, it awoke a passion that few others in the sport possessed.
“It was just me and the wall, self-taught. And everybody that would hit with me, man I wanted to go all day. They would hit for ten minutes and quit.”
Despite zero formal training, Smith became an excellent young player and caught the attention of those who could guide him to the next level. From high school in Florida to becoming an all-American at Ohio State, the Bahamian kept relying on his will to succeed to advance up the ranks.
It was just me and the wall, self-taught. And everybody that would hit with me, man I wanted to go all day. They would hit for ten minutes and quit. Roger Smith on Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray
When Smith left Ohio State as an All-American, the real work was only beginning. He had to scratch and claw his way to the professional level, grinding every step of the way to raise his living and make a living. And he loved every second of it. Smith had found his passion, his purpose in life, and his reason for getting out of bed in the morning.
The opportunity to compete at the elite level of sport brought out the best in him on several occasions, but none more evident than in Stratton Mountain, Vermont, in 1988. Smith took the court against world No. 1 Ivan Lendl and sent shockwaves through the tennis world by pulling off the monstrous upset.
“I start the match, and I go up 5-0 in ten minutes,” he recalled. He had doubts that he could pull off the upset, having to use every last resolve of mental strength to get past the finish line. “I missed an overhead (on match point), and he said, ‘Man what’s wrong with you. I can’t win the match, and you don’t want to win the match!’ But what he did was he loosened me up.”
The final score read 6-2, 6-3, and Smith had notched a win over the best player on Earth that seemed improbable to everyone, except the man he saw in the mirror.
Smith knows his story is unique, and he’s doing his best to use it to show future that they too can find greatness in whatever they choose, provided that they have the right mindset.
“You’ve got to get away from results, you’ve got to away from expectations, you’ve got to get away from what people think about you,” he explained his teaching philosophy. “Winning, losing, how perfect you play, you don’t have complete control of that. You have complete control of your attitude, your effort, those kind of things. And once you connect your purpose, you can push beyond. And once you stay connected, that’s what’s going to get you across the finish line.”
Smith is a one of one, a true tennis original who showed the true global pull of the game he has dedicated his life to. In this podcast he opens up about his favorite players in the current game, the famous advice Richard Williams gave him, and how his own son became a standout coach.
Every dream is worth chasing. If you don’t believe me, you can always study the story of tennis player Roger Smith.