The Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games is almost upon us, and tennis player Christian Oliver Lee is one of the local athletes we’re cheering on. We chatted with the up-and-coming tennis star on how you too can train like a professional athlete. These are his five best tips:
1. Believe In Your Potential
Being a tennis player at a professional level anywhere around the world is difficult, Lee says. “Staying determined and disciplined is extremely important, as you have to be strict with yourself to keep pushing your limits every day to improve and to get better,” he points out. According to Lee, a lot of aspiring athletes may feel discouraged in the early days of their career. “At the start of a tennis career in Malaysia, it’s difficult to keep motivated as there aren’t many players here who are aiming to compete at the highest level, and the support system isn’t as big as it is overseas,” he shares. “There isn’t a huge demand to be a professional tennis player here because no Malaysian has fully been able to make it to the top of the tennis world scene.”
Instead of feeling discouraged, Lee sees untapped potential in the uncharted waters. “If we had the same success in tennis – like in badminton or squash – there would definitely be a bigger influx of players training to pursue tennis here as a dream,” he says. “You really must have the drive and a good setup to be successful in tennis here.”
2. Keep Your Eyes On the Prize
“You have to be mentally focused when you play,” Lee says. “One slip-up or a lapse of concentration can affect the whole outcome of the match. You have to be clinical when you’re winning and take advantage of your opportunities.”
On the flip side, if you’re not performing at your best during the match, you have to stay positive and come up with a game plan to get ahead of your opponent. “You’ve got to realise what you aren’t doing well and what you can do better on the court, with no help from the outside,” he says. Lee highlights that the solitary nature of tennis affects a player’s performance too: “Unlike many other sports where you have a coach or teammates to help you through the game, in tennis, you’re out there with no guidance from your coach. You must find solutions on your own and figure out ways to win.”
3. Stay Hungry For Success
How badly do you want to achieve your goals? “You’ve got to have the discipline and hunger to be successful day in and day out,” Lee says. “You really have to push yourself and believe that you can make it, because any negativity will hamper your progression.” He notes that winning and losing is all part of an athlete’s journey, “but it’s but it’s how you bounce back and recover from your losses that will make you successful later on.”
Lee’s advice? Stay level-headed and don’t beat yourself up too much if you’re not doing well. “It’s easy when you win, but it sucks when you lose. You just have to handle losses maturely.”
4. Hustle With The Pros
If you want to get to an elite level, you’ve got to work with the elite. Lee himself trains with other national players at the National Tennis Centre on Jalan Duta on most afternoons. “We play a lot of point situations and we also include match play, where we practise playing sets,” he explains. “This helps us prepare for match situations when we compete, both physically and mentally. I try to imagine that these practice points are like a real match so that my mind can be more prepared when similar scenarios arise in a tournament.”
5. Make Winning a Habit
You’ve heard the phrase “mind over matter” – now listen to Lee’s take on it: “The mind and self-belief play a huge role in determining how successful you can be as an athlete. Every player at the professional level can compete – there’s not too much difference in terms of the strokes and ability between each player,” he says. “The big factor that separates the top players from the rest of the field is their mental strength and self-belief to succeed.
“The best players don’t crumble under pressure and are mentally so strong to pull through tough matches,” Lee continues. “Top players always find a way to win even if they’re not having a good day – they consistently perform at the highest level.”
Catch Christian Oliver Lee in the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games from 21 to 26 August 2017.