I love the challenge I get from tennis. I love the direct correlation between your effort and your results. That’s the same at every level – from juniors, to now competing with the best players in the world. It’s that competition that pushes me forward.
There’s also a huge correlation between your physical and mental strength. When you’re strong physically, you have the mental strength to know you can keep playing, no matter how long the match lasts. If you know you’re in good shape, you have more confidence and freedom. The reverse is also true. If you’re mentally strong, if you keep feeding yourself good, positive information, then you move better, you trust yourself more.
I turned pro in 2007, aged 21. But I first started playing when I was about six, my younger brother and I were coached by our dad. Growing up in South Africa, we were quite far from the tennis scene and that helped us develop a strong work ethic. By the time I was 17, I was abroad a couple of months of the year, playing in tournaments alongside the best players in the world. Then I went from juniors to the University of Illinois for two and a half years. That was a great place to work on my game and establish a base. It gave me a really good platform to play pro events.
Growing up, Pete Sampras was my hero. I really looked up to his success, his consistency, his professionalism. And his desire to win. No surprise he held the Grand Slams record for so long.
Right-handed, two-handed backhand
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