2020 Tennis Reflections: Top 5 Lessons Learned
2020 has been such an unprecedented, interesting year for the tennis world, and, I want to share five 2020 tennis happenings that really stood out for me and left unforgettable impressions:
- 3 of the 4 Grand Slam events were held in 2020. After 2020 tennis kicked off with The Australian Open, in the face of a growing global COVID-19 pandemic, professional tennis event organizers and players soldiered on. I won’t forget the courage and resilience that ATP and WTA players exhibited when playing their Slam matches under new restrictions or the amazing ingenuity that tournament organizers showed in making the 2020 US Open and 2020 French Open happen.
- The Adria Tour failed. Though his intentions were good with a goal to raise money and share the game of tennis with fans in his childhood home region, Novak Djokovic’s charity tennis tournament in the Balkans during summer 2020 was marred by the fact that adequate social distancing measures weren’t followed, and players, including Djokovic himself, ended up testing positive for COVID-19. This event was a clear reminder that even the most successful among us has failings. We all have blind spots. Another lesson was on how we can respond when facing a failure in life. Though disappointed, saddened and likely humiliated to some degree, Djokovic “owned it,” publicly apologizing to the world via Twitter stating, “I’m so deeply sorry that our tournament has caused harm…we were wrong, and it was too soon.” So, remember: acknowledging and taking ownership of our mistakes is critical in moving past them.
- Activism Among Tennis Greats Continued. From Billie Jean King’s and Venus Williams’ contributions to securing equal pay for female professionals on tour, to Arthur Ashe’s efforts to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, to Martina Navratilova’s stance in the fight against breast cancer, historically, we’ve witnessed professional tennis greats lend their voices to activist causes. 2020 was no different. And, the image that I’ll forever hold in my mind is that of Naomi Osaka this year at the 2020 US Open raising awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement by wearing seven different face masks with the names of US victims of racial injustice and police brutality before she played each of her matches. Osaka ended up winning the tournament, but, certainly, she won so much more in the game of life through her activist actions on the US Open world stage this year. And, she showed at the age of 22 that you’re never too young to speak out for what you believe is right.
- 2020 Opened Up the Game of Tennis. One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 global pandemic is the fact that the game of tennis has reached more individuals than ever before. Tennis is a sport that can be safely played at a social distance, and, as a result, many newcomers of all ages have joined the game this year. “Try Tennis” programs like the Raleigh (NC) Tennis Association’s Try Tennis program for beginners are running strong. Also, many new online platforms for learning the game, like TopCourt and PlayYourCourt, have gained steam during these unprecedented times. For someone like me, who started playing tennis in the 1980s, it’s exciting to see that the future of the game looks bright.
- When the going gets tough, the tough give back. It’s been a pleasure to see so many professional tennis players act quickly in 2020 to combat COVID-19. I’m a huge Rafael Nadal fan, so, his #NuestraMejorVictoria (Our Best Victory) campaign with Spanish NBA star Pau Gasol Sáez made me smile. I also applaud Roger Federer’s contributions to help COVID-19-impacted individuals in Africa. The most impressive aspect of all of these charitable efforts, in my opinion, is the speed in which they’ve all occurred. In their swift response to the pandemic, today’s tennis greats have shown the world the best example of how individuals in positions of privilege and leadership should respond during times of crisis.
So, as 2020 comes to a close, I want to remind tennis players about the important lessons that tennis can teach beyond the court. And, in this season of gift-giving, I hope that you will reflect and consider all that the game of tennis has given and can give to you. From tennis friendships to better physical health to life lessons, it’s a game to experience and love-love!