Saturday, 7 January 2017


 Wrote this a while back, don't believe I posted it. It typifies what I think of the dress sense of today's tennis players and in particular the juniors who like to 'dazzle' the opposition with their clothes......


I have never been a huge fan of bright tennis clothes and in particular 'loud' shoes. I believe it is asking for trouble. When I was a kid I used to practice occasionally in Perth with one of the State's top ranked juniors Damian Hampson who had a few funny habits, one in particular was his dress sense. 'Hampo' basically did not own any dress sense whatsoever but he could play the game remarkably well.
I remember drawing him first round at a State Closed Championship at the Reabold Tennis Club in 1985, he was seeded 3, our friendship was put aside for three sets. Despite leading him 6-4, 2-0 I found a way to lose to a higher ranked player who I could match it with for a certain period of time before falling away. Lack of self belief.
Back to Hampo's clothing.
Here was a guy with a ranking inside the State's top three best players yet you wouldn't have picked his tennis talent by looking at him. Hampo would turn up wearing a pair of socks that looked as though he had been gardening in and a pair of worn Dunlop Volley shoes. He would also wear a pair of shorts and a shirt that lacked any colour or style. Hampo in a word was 'untidy'.
I did however like his 'style' that gave the opposition a false sense of security if you did not know his tennis ability. 'Was he here as a tennis player or has he just cruised by on his BMX bike for a look at the tennis' ?! Hampo was a guy who was not interested in dazzling the opposition with his fashion sense, it was all about his game.
It's funny when you see the young players now days walking through the gates for a junior tennis tournament with a bag big enough to sleep in and a pair of shoes that have arrogance written all over them. I was never a fan of that sort of clothing or equipment and even though Hampo 'inspired' me to dress down I suppose I was always going to be a player who was far from interested in dressing to impress.
I vividly recall my first tennis bag, a Donnay brand that was too small to fit my racket in so I would walk out on court with the handle sticking out of the end of it. Along with my less than glamorous way of dressing I would say that I was simply trying to be known as a good tennis player, not a fashion model.
I would always wear my black V neck jumper in the warm up as my hero Mats Wilander did when I first saw him walk out onto court at the Italian Open in 1982. That's the thing that first struck me about Mats, he was not fashion conscious, he was simply letting his racket do the talking. I liked that idea.
I also developed a habit of wearing dark clothes, black shorts and either a brown or black shirt along with black socks complete with a pair of shoes that were not a real popular brand. I felt that if I was to go out on court dressed like my buddy Hampo then perhaps it would give my opponents NOTHING from the initial greeting. Perhaps they would think "this one is going to be easy, he doesn't even wear tennis clothes".
No matter what I was thinking about my dress sense or lack of it I felt comfortable with it and being comfortable right from the start in tennis is the most important thing. People who wear loud gear basically put a lot of pressure on themselves before they even hit a ball. I would recommend to any player of any age to dress down as opposed to up as it puts any perceived pressure back onto the opposition. 'Loud' clothes generally require a game to match.
As I got older I would even turn up to a tournament wearing beach sandals! I would wear them until about ten minutes prior to my first match before changing into my tennis shoes. Why ? Well it wasn't through arrogance, it was more about my mindset that needed to be relaxed before I commenced play.
If I felt as though I was on my way to the beach for a leisurely day of relaxing as opposed to a series of intense matches I would feel a sense of calm as opposed to nerves or anxiety.
Yes I have always done things a little differently however tennis is an individual sport and not one that should be likened to playing 'follow the leader'.
Be your own player and find things that relax you as opposed to raising the level of nerves too high before a match. Be an individual....

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