The best winning mentalities in tennis: ‘Being number two sucks’

John McEnroe was known for his brash manner, but also had some really good stuff to say:

‘Everybody loves success, but they hate successful people.

‘I’ll let the racket do the talking.

‘What is the single most important quality in a tennis champion? I would have to say desire, staying in there and winning matches when you are not playing that well.’

Arthur Ashe was a wonderful custodian of the game – and often brought plenty of verbal insight, too:

‘Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner.

‘Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.

‘You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing.

‘True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

‘From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.’

Boris Becker often kept it short and sweet, on and off the court:

‘The fifth set is not about tennis, it’s about nerves.

‘Winning is a way of expressing yourself.

‘I love the winning, I can take the losing, but most of all I love to play.’

Andre Agassi, who pretty much epitomises the winner effect studied by this blog, came up with some pearlers in his day:

‘Freed from the thoughts of winning, I instantly play better. I stop thinking, start feeling. My shots become a half-second quicker, my decisions become the product of instinct rather than logic.

‘Being number two sucks.

‘Tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love — the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature.’

‘What makes something special is not just what you have to gain, but what you feel there is to lose.

‘You’ll hear a lot of applause in your life, but none will mean more to you than that applause from your peers. I hope each of you hears that at the end.’

Martina Navratilova is also a legend of the game – and her comments were as good as her forehand:

‘Just go out there and do what you have to do.

‘Tennis has given me soul.

‘The mark of great sportsmen is not how good they are at their best, but how good they are at their worst.

‘You don’t have to be pretty for people to come and see you play. At the same time, if you’re a good athlete, it doesn’t mean you’re not a woman.’

If you think you know everything there is to know about Navratilova and her illustrious career, why not take our quiz on her?

Renowned and revered, Venus Williams knows what she is talking about:

‘My motto is: I’m alive, so that means I can do anything.

‘Tennis is mostly mental. You win or lose the match before you even go out there.’