The former British Number One reveals how he overcame the pressure of competing, why preparation is key and how tennis can teach you skills for life.
Raise Your Game: How did you first get involved in tennis?
Tim Henman: I got into tennis through my family. My grandparents both played at Wimbledon a long time ago, but that wasn't why I played the game. I played the game because I loved it. It was my hobby from the age of three when I started playing, until I stopped at the age of 33.
Timothy Henry Henman
6 September 1974
- Won 15 career ATP titles (11 in singles and 4 in doubles).
- Winner of the Paris Masters (2003)
- Appointed OBE (2003)
- Silver - Men's doubles, Atlanta Olympics (1996)
RYG: How important is it for young people to find an activity that they are passionate about?
TH: When you're talking about playing sport at the highest level, if you don't enjoy it it's going to be very hard to put in the right amount of time, dedication and training. Whatever industry you're working in, if you're enjoying it there's a fair chance you're going to do a better job.
An active lifestyle is something the younger generation are getting away from because there's more of an emphasis on computers. They're great fun, but I think it's important that we maintain a healthy, energetic, outdoor lifestyle.
Tennis is a great game and a great way of life. It's a very healthy outdoor activity and it's a lot of fun so the more kids that are playing tennis, the better for everyone.
RYG: What can young people learn from tennis?
TH: There are lots of different aspects to it. There's the physical side which helps keep you in shape, but there's also the mental side of learning to compete and dealing with setbacks, nerves and pressure on the court. They're all important lessons that you can learn to improve yourself as an individual.
RYG: How did you cope with the pressure of a big event like Wimbledon?
TH: Pressure is all self-inflicted. It's only what your mind tells you. If you go into Wimbledon thinking about the 15,000 people watching you on centre court, the 10,000 people on Henman Hill and the 15,000,000 on TV, you're immediately painting a picture that adds a lot of pressure, but if you go out there with the thought that it's your favourite court, it's your home tournament, you've had a lot of great results here, you're feeling good about the game, you've prepared well and you've practiced well, you've got a totally different picture. It's very important that you understand how the mind works.
RYG: How important is it to get your preparation right?
TH: It's vital. If you haven't prepared and you've cut corners, you'll get found out because the competition is too good. It's the old saying, 'Fail to prepare, prepare to fail'.
RYG: What sacrifices did you make to get to the top in tennis?
TH: There are sacrifices that you have to make and there are things that you're going to miss out on like staying out late and going to parties. When I got older, the travelling and being away from my family was not something I enjoyed so much, but when I look back and reflect on the positives and the negatives, I would say it was 99.99% positive. If you're prepared to make those sacrifices and give it your all, it's amazing what you can achieve.
I had a problem with my elbow when I was young. The bones were still soft and the muscles were a lot more developed and it pulled a piece of bone away. I think that was a good learning process for me. I had to appreciate that my body was really important and I had to look after it because if I was injured, I couldn't do what I loved to do and that was play tennis.
RYG: What advice would you give to any young people looking to become the next Tim Henman?
TH: Get out there, give it 100% and enjoy it. With dreams and aspirations, dedication and commitment, it's amazing how far it can take you.
If you have a passion, you've got to apply yourself and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it.
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