Some Tennis 'educations' aren't necessarily on a Tennis court , some are learnt from others simply through talking about the game , when I was 16 I vividly remember one that has stuck in my mind.
It was probably six months into my Queensland stint when I travelled to Grafton NSW to play a Tournament , a beautiful little town with a fantastic Tennis Club, clay and synthetic courts .
Just prior to leaving Western Australia I played my buddy Mark Heather , a highly ranked Perth player and he belted me 6-1,6-1 in the State Championships , he then moved to Brisbane and trained at Coops also. My mindset changed somewhat when I was drawn to play Mark on the clay , I knew the slower surface suited my playing style better than the quicker hard courts in Perth. From memory Mark was seeded fairly high at Grafton, but I had no fear on this occasion. We played in the round of 16 in the Men's Open singles and after losing a close first set 4-6 I lead 4-2 in the second and remember having a point to level at 5-5 in the second before losing 4-6 again , this was 'my' surface. The slower pace gave me all the time I needed to sit back and hit the groundstrokes , as clay does , but it's a 'young man's' surface , you need to be fit .From memory that weekend I played over 15 matches as it was possible to play as many as 4 events so I played 3 singles events plus a doubles, and I went far in each event. If the Coops training facility was on clay courts I believe my results would've been far better, some surfaces you excel on .
On the way back to Brisbane I was lucky enough to gain a lift with 'Steady'(Justin Stead) who won the Mixed Open Event and lost in the final of the Men's Open singles , Steady had a great Tournament . Now here was a guy who everyone looked up to at Coops , his work ethic on and off court (in the gym) was second to none and I for one had a lot of respect for Steady. He and his good friend Mark Heather who I mentioned earlier in fact went to the same University in the US and played College Tennis together in later years .So to my 'education'; Playing good and great players will make you lift your own standard but Steady had an 'aura' about him , when he talked , you listened, such was his knowledge and philosophical view on the game. In all reality I probably took a lot of my theories and philosophies on the game from talking to 'guru's' like Justin and used them to my advantage , in playing and Coaching. I talked in another chapter regarding Steady and the hit I had with him that I regarded as a highlight of my time at Coops, but this trip in particular was probably what really taught me what was important , not just on court but in life. Justin talked in length on his outlook on the game and his realistic evaluation of his own ability , which isn't given enough credit . While most of the guys who trained at Coops were hell bent on trying to make it onto the Pro Tour as teenagers Steady talked about waiting for his body and mind to mature before he even contemplated taking on the big guns. I recall him vividly saying that he wasn't expecting to do anything with his game until he was at least 22 or 23 , that realistic outlook has so much credibility now days . Only the one in a millions like Nadal make it as successful teenagers , in reality most Professional Tennis players don't win regularly until they are well into their twenties , the body needs time to mature .
Steady didn't quite make it on the Pro Tour yet he made it in life , he successfully runs a huge Business in London and he sent me an email just the other night . Whilst he doesn't gloat remotely about himself , he casually mentioned that he went out to dinner with a friend of his by the name of Pat Cash , Australian Tennis Legend. Steady was always going to 'make it' in life , he had that ability to get the best out of himself and others for that matter. He now mixes it with the best in his chosen profession and I expected nothing less from him . Tennis is one of those sports , if you mix with the best , on and off court , it will only make you better.......