As Wimbledon 2018 fever starts to build, tennis legend and Wimbledon commentator Tim Henman talks to School Notices about his early years on the circuit and his inspiring journey to the top. Here’s what The Dragon School and Reed’s School alumni had to say…
How did you get into tennis?
My mum and dad played as well as my two older brothers, so I started playing with my family.
When did you know you wanted a professional career in tennis?
My mum took me to Wimbledon for the first time when I was six and I saw Bjorn Borg play. That was when I made my one and only career decision.
Who inspired you?
Firstly, my dad. He played a lot of different sports to a good standard and is still the most competitive man I know. Borg and Stefan Edberg were my tennis heroes.
When did you realise you had serious talent?
I won my first tournament when I was eight, which was a county event. Then I won my regional final but lost in the national final.
What was it like being a junior on the circuit?
I really enjoyed playing junior tournaments and had lots of friends on the circuit.
As a junior, how did you mentally prepare for matches?
I tried to think about my game plan and the way I wanted to play. It’s important to focus on the process not the outcome.
How many hours of training did you practice a day?
From the age of 11, I played two hours of tennis and did 30 minutes of fitness training every day, six days a week during term time. In the school holidays, I played even more. I left school at 16 to play full time tennis.
“You learn more from your losses than your wins. Use it as motivation to get better”
Did you have any superstitions or follow any rituals before getting on to the court?
For my first few years playing at Wimbledon I always showered in the same shower, but then they redeveloped the changing rooms.
Can you share some strategies for coping with the pressure on court?
Pressure is all self-inflicted, so remember to play one point at a time and focus on the process.
How did you keep your cool when umpire decisions didn’t go your way?
I knew that getting frustrated would not help my performance.
What advice do you have for young players when it comes to dealing with defeat?
You learn more from your losses than your wins. Use it as motivation to get better.
Enjoy the moment, but remember to analyse the things you could have done better.
Psychological warfare is rife in tennis. What’s the best way to handle gamesmanship?
In an individual sport it’s important to control things you can control, i.e. your preparation and performance. You can’t control what your opponent is doing so don’t be distracted by it.
How involved do you get in your own children’s tennis?
Not a huge amount. They all play at school and enjoy the game but none of them have aspirations to play the game professionally.
What are your top tips for tennis parents?
Be supportive but don’t go over the top.
Is it quality or quantity when it comes to children’s practice?
Does a child have to have natural talent to succeed?
I think natural talent helps but dedication and application are very important as well.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a tennis court, what’s the best way to develop a child’s game at home?
A great way to practice is against a wall, it never misses!
How do you go about choosing a suitable racket?
When you’re young, height and strength dictates the racket you should use. It’s also important to get the grip size right.
What’s the best route into the game today?
Through a local club where you can hopefully play with friends and have fun.
The Tim Henman Foundation delivers programmes to better the lives of vulnerable young people by focusing on education and health. The Foundation raises young people’s aspirations by giving them access to new skills and opportunities and providing them with the best and most sympathetic learning environment.
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