Odd superstitions and taboos are a part of tennis as a sport. Nearly every tennis player has something they consider lucky; a favorite pair of shoes, a particular wristband, or a racket that should have been swapped out a long time ago, but they keep it around because they seem to win when they use it.
These same superstitions can happen to players at all levels of the game, from beginner to professional, and even affect some of the game’s biggest names.
We notice individual professional tennis players’ oddities because they are frequently in the
spotlight, playing at the game’s highest level.
No-one would probably have noticed Rafael Nadal’s odd superstitions about his multiple water bottles, for example, if he wasn’t one of the world’s most successful players.
Strange on-court behavior isn’t restricted to tennis either; every sport has a collection of eccentric athletes who stand out because of a particular set of behaviors or a specific style.
However, in a team game, these players are just one among many and can get away with doing something odd when the camera isn’t on them. That’s not going to happen if they’re on center court at Wimbledon, however.
In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the most eccentric professional players you likely to see in a major tennis tournament.
Shadowboxing offers recognized benefits in combat sports, but shadow tennis during a major tournament is a much rarer beast. However, more tennis players might consider taking it up, given how well it has worked for Marion Bartoli.
Bartoli has a whole host of trophies to her name, including the Wimbledon Championships singles title, eight Women’s Tennis Association singles, and three Women’s Tennis Association doubles titles. During her time on court, she defeated huge names, such as Justine Henin, Victoria Azarenka, Jelena Jankovi?, and both the Williams sisters.
Bartoli was always in constant motion during all of these matches, even when the ball wasn’t in play. While most players use these breaks to rest and have some water, Bartoli would bounce and hop around the court like the Energizer Bunny, running through shadow plays with an imagined opponent.
As odd as that sounds, when you look at her win record, there may have been something to it.
Most people are aware of Rafael Nadal’s habit of, shall we say, relieving underwear discomfort before serving. GQ even named him “arguably the most famous underwear adjuster in history.”
However, what you might not know about the extraordinarily successful Spaniard is that he also has a precise way of taking in fluids. During a match, most players are happy to be handed a water bottle, sometimes by a ball kid, swig from it without looking and then hand it back.
Nadal has a far more complex routine that he seems to think is tied to his in-game success. He always lays out three water bottles, sips from them separately, and won’t allow anyone else to touch them.
That being said, Nadal has won 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles and has spent 709 total weeks ranked in the Association of Tennis Professionals’ (ATP) top ten players in the world, so we don’t feel that we can challenge him on his odd drinking habits.
Most professional sportspeople have lucky charms, some of which are very odd. A lucky ball isn’t unusual for tennis players, but for Richard Gasquet, using a particular ball is very important indeed.
So important is using the right ball to Gasquet that, during his match against Nikolay Davydenko in the 2010 U.S. Open, he stopped the match to argue with a man in the crowd who had caught a miss-hit ball and was refusing to give it back.
In the end, Gasquet was told by the umpire to get back on the court, and he went on to win the game in straight sets, so perhaps the lucky ball wasn’t all that important.