What individual screams profanities, whispers jabs of self-deprecation and breaks things in public? A homeless man on the E train? An escapee from the insane asylum down the street? Wrong.
The correct answer is a tennis player.
In all sports, players get angry and frustrated; it’s just a part of the game.
However, unlike other sports, tennis is a long battle that tests both physical and mental strength at an intense level. You must be able to play for three hours in 90-degree weather and quickly move on from crying about a changeover because of a bad call.
It’s true that golf is also a lonely sport that can last hours. But, unlike tennis, golf has maintained its peaceful nature.
It is taboo for players to hit their clubs against trees or — heaven forbid — scream profanities toward the spectators. Tennis invites public displays of anger.
Tennis has forever left behind the days of whispered grunts, quiet clapping and respect for the umpires.
At the US Open this past week, a frustrated Victoria Azarenka was caught saying to her chair umpire that she was probably not very good at tennis. And remember that time Serena Williams was fined for saying she would shove a ball down an umpire’s throat?
But why do tennis players get so frustrated?
Everything is on their shoulders. There is no other teammate to blame for a missed shot and no coach exclaiming the ways to fix mistakes from the sidelines. Players are utterly alone, except for the 10 umpires holding the fate of each shot in their hands.
Until recently, tennis players were forced to accept every single umpire decision. If it was out, it was out. Nowadays, players get three opportunities at challenging a call in order to turn a point in their favor.
However, there are only three challenges per set, while there can be up to 100 points or more played in an entire match.
So, not only are you alone, but your entire match also lies in the hands of 10 individuals who decide if your shot missed the line by a millimeter. I mean, seriously? You would threaten to shove a ball down an umpire’s throat, too!
The insanity continues. Only professionals get 10 objective individuals calling shots. Young and upcoming players are forced to trust the enemy across the net to decide whether his or her shot hit the line or not.
I really wish I was joking, but I’m not.
There is no other sport in the world that would succumb the refereeing of an established sporting event to the players themselves. What does this lead to? Lots and lots of cheating, dirty looks and, you guessed it, frustration.
But, tennis isn’t entirely mental. Players possess the ability to consistently hit 110-mph serves and slice balls that barely float over the net.
They can run back and forth for miles and dance around balls, making quick and fine adjustments. They can retrieve balls in between the legs, while in splits and in the air. They are versatile and skillful athletes who embody the true definitions of grinding and never giving up.
It takes a insane person to play this crazy sport. Thousands of players wake up every day for eight hours of training, no offseason and weekends full of these psychotic matches.
Very few make it, and even fewer can make a living. And yet, there are just enough crazy individuals in this world who keep tennis thriving.
They might be crazy, but they are incredibly dedicated and strong.