I embraced a unique opportunity to do research for my novel by attending the recent Australian Tennis Open held in Melbourne from 14 to 27 January. I enjoyed the occasion, soaking up the festival like atmosphere and seeing some great tennis. The crowds, the activities, the queueing, the different food vendors and bars, running out when players changed ends for a toilet stop or to grab refreshments, then queueing again to get in and quickly taking your seat before the players began serving was all part of the fun. I felt that attending the tennis was itself like an Olympic event. It was fascinating to see how a player can be totally devastated or feel sublimely confident as I studied their emotions and responses to difficult games. I noticed that this attitude had a large bearing on their winning or losing the game. Tennis is very physical but, at the same time, such a mental game. Controlling the mind, the emotions and keeping the body moving at peak performance no matter what your opponent throws at you is a big challenge. Players who strategize through the game to make the most of the other player’s weaknesses and their own strengths are more likely to win the game.
My novel studies two twins who are up and coming Australian tennis players, their journey, their challenges and how they achieve their goals and overcome obstacles. I am using this device to take a close look at how mental health can affect a person, how strong mental discipline can make a difference in a person’s life, how a person reaches peak sporting ability and whether these techniques can be employed in other areas of life to gain success.
Short of becoming a professional tennis player myself, attending this great sporting event is the next best way of gaining an understanding of what a player experiences. I am also reading books written by famous tennis players and talking to current players and coaches as research to gain further understanding.
by Marna Smith