Off the court: What tennis can teach us about individual talent

The Australian Open returns to Melbourne in 2015 from 19 January to 1 February.

Although the crowd’s attention will be firmly fixed on how the world’s best play on the court, we think there’s plenty to learn from their actions off it.

Hard work and determination pay off

It’s beyond doubt that the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova wouldn’t be where they are without sacrifices, including endless hours spent training. Talent is the essential ingredient to start, but theirs has been refined by hard work and many years of practice.

Identify what you are good at, work hard at it, surround yourself with people that will support your growth and you may well become the best in your field.

The game is just as important as the result

It’s a sporting take on the old saying: “It’s the journey, not just the destination.” Everybody likes to win, but there’s something to be said for a ‘good game’ – one in which all parties played hard and gave it their all. Win or lose, people tend to respect that you did the best you could. Practise this mindset at work and it’s bound to pay off with a win in the long run.

Be your brand

Talent may be what gets them on the court and keeps them in the game, but it’s business smarts that sees some tennis players earn as much (or more) from their sponsorship deals as they do playing tennis.

Serena Williams, who currently ranks as the world’s number one women’s singles player, earned US$22 million in the year to June 2014. Of this, US$11 million came from winnings and salary, with the other $11 million made from deals with brands including Nike, Gatorade and Wilson.

The lesson? Consider yourself a brand. Choose what you put your name to carefully. Try to work for and collaborate with people and businesses whose ethics you respect. Own your name and how it’s represented – whether it’s your work, a personal website or social media. It may well be your future currency.

And perhaps the biggest takeaway we gain from tennis players is how doing what you love can lead you to great things.

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