Architect and sculptor Gautam Bhatia tells us about the 5 qualities that tennis players must learn, to play their best. 

One of the real measures of a great sport is the rigour with which all five conditions that test the human body – its physical and mental capacity – come into play. A game like tennis tests all of the 5 S’s : Skill, Stamina, Speed, Strength and Spirit.

#1 Skill : It goes without saying that tennis requires skills that are tougher to acquire than most other racquet sports. The hours of practice put in by professional players – on backhands, forehands, serve, on spin, drive and delivery, makes it a complex combination of skills that are acquired over time, and with perseverance.

Any sport that gives you two chances of getting your serve in play is obviously difficult. So practice …

#2 Stamina : A two hour long match played at a competitive level requires a high level of fitness. A player like Nadal can spend 5 hours on court in continuous play without tiring.

Such stamina is built over continuous stretches of play. Running is the best form of exercise to increase your stamina.

Two young male players at tennis court

#3 Speed : Tennis requires speed in short bursts. But in long rallies, the court coverage for good players can be as high as 70-80 metres in a single point.

Running sideways, lurching, sudden stops and starts may jolt your bones and muscles, therefore train by first doing similar movements off the court.

#4 Strength : The urge to hit the ball hard and with sheer bodily force is common to most players. A forceful shot well placed often ends a point. The power game is not only great for the player but is a thrill for the spectator. Nadal’s power is often contrasted with Federer’s finesse.

Both achieve victories in their own way; but the sheer muscle strength of Nadal’s – combined with a loud grunt – comes both from nutrition and weight training.

#5 Spirit : Spirit is an elusive, but essential ingredient of all sport. What experts call ‘ being in the zone.’ The very essence of play takes you beyond daily routine, and for a short while suspends you in timeless time.

The aloneness of tennis is a sort of physical meditation – what Osho termed ‘Zennis ‘. Just you in a private connection with racquet and ball between a white rectangle. On the court it leaves you free, unburdened and without a care in the world.

Gautam Bhatia played collegiate level tennis in the US