How to become a tennis star

Stroll past any municipal tennis court around this time of year and it may seem a little busier than usual. The appeal of lifting one of the Wimbledon titles may never be stronger than during the fortnight the sporting world’s attention swivels towards SW19.

But if you’re serious about one day joining the ranks of Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Angelique Kerber or Novak Djokovic, you have to be prepared to put a lot of work in to the task. That’s the advice from some legends of the game who now go behind the commentator’s mic at Wimbledon each year after careers on court which saw them impress the planet with their skill and ability.

BBC Bitesize spoke to Boris Becker, Tracy Austin, Tim Henman and Annabel Croft to get their advice for tomorrow's stars.

Boris Becker, Tracy Austin, Tim Henman and Annabel Croft with their advice for tomorrow's stars.

Boris Becker arrived at Wimbledon in 1985 as an unseeded 17-year-old. He went on to win the men’s singles title, a first for a German player and his record as the youngest ever person to take that particular trophy stands today.

He said: “I play tennis because I love to compete, I love to play, I love to travel, I love to see different cultures and I think that was the reason.”

Adding: “It’s a job, of course you’re going to get paid but it’s the love and the passion for the game that made me successful.”

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Tim Henman had the nation behind him as he regularly made the latter stages of the major tournaments. His advice?: “Surround yourself with the right people and work hard because what you put in you will get out. If you give your best, enjoy yourself, then it can be an amazing journey.”

America’s Tracy Austin won the mixed doubles Wimbledon title in 1980 with her brother John and is a firm believer that tennis is ‘a sport of a lifetime’. Tracy, who twice reached the semi-finals at SW19, said tennis “teaches you good character traits because you have to be a good sport”.

She continued: “I always tell kids, don’t start to be a world champion, don’t start to be a pro, start to play local leagues, to play high school tennis, possibly even college tennis - which we have in the States.”

The sport of a lifetime does give successful players a career beyond their playing days as they become commentators and pundits. Former British number one Annabel Croft, who won the Wimbledon girls’ tournament in 1984, remains a familiar face on our screens despite retiring more than 30 years ago.

Boris Becker at Wimbledon in 1990.
Former British number one Annabel Croft is as disciplined with her broadcasting as her tennis.

Broadcasting is a role she takes just as seriously: “Even as a broadcaster here, you’re always trying to prepare for the matches that you’re doing and looking into extra facts… my advice would be if a young player wants to go and make it onto the tour is to really apply yourself and work as hard as you possibly can.”

Wimbledon 2019 runs until Sunday, July 14 with full coverage on BBC television and online.

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