If there is any young tennis player out there under any illusions at just how tough it is to become a professional tennis player then look no further than a result just this week. Before I get to that result I wrote a chapter on August 24 of this year regarding a qualifying match in the US Open.
A Japanese player by the name of Tatsuma Ito won his first round qualifying match but hit a rather remarkable 46 unforced errors in the process. This I believe could just have been a turning point in his career, for the following reasons.
In Ito's next match which he won comfortably he made just 16 unforced errors followed by a ridiculous 2 mistakes in his next, how the mindset can change from one match to another. Whether it was a case of making the most of his 'get out of jail free card' in his first match or simply a long hard look at what on earth he was producing as a pro in his next is unclear. Only Tatsuma knows, however as per usual my theories flow.
Have a look at what Tatsuma Ito has earned in 2014 up until his second round showing at this year's US Open. $105,000, that's not a lot of cash for a pro tennis player who needs around two grand a week to pay for expenses and travel. The US Open netted him $60,000 for his second round loss. What would a pay cheque like 60 grand do for a player's mindset ? All of a sudden you aren't playing for your life so to speak, you are playing like a top tenner, no pressure on what you are going to pick up that week, a feeling of freedom within yourself and your game.
If ever there was perhaps some substance to this theory then look no further than this week's Japan Open where Ito received a Wild Card into the main draw. It wasn't a great draw though as he drew top seeded Stan Wawrinka, Fed's mate from Switzerland. Ito however played with a flair that threw his ranking of 103 out the window as he belted Stan in two sets.
Unfortunately Tatsuma could not go on with it in his second match and lost in straight sets to veteran Benjamin Becker. I would imagine though that Ito would have picked up around $25,000 US dollars for a round of 16 showing in a small 32 man field. Ito's bank account is looking healthier by the week.
So how tough is Professional Tennis ? When a guy ranked outside the top 100 beats a player in the top 5 it shows that there is very little separating the boys from the men. It may be an extra slice of fruit for brekky, an extra hour's sleep the night before or an extra 100 metre sprint in training a week before the tournament.
Unique game is tennis and unique are players who can keep winning each week when you take into account the physical similarities and technique brilliance of most players inside the top 200.
It's a game that requires perhaps a strong mind more than anything else, many theories but it's what makes tennis at times a mystery of sorts when trying to work out a player's form fluctuations. I am sure that's what makes many a player and coach alike scratch their heads in frustration, funny game tennis......