Five Minutes with.....Taylor Dent
If you want to hone your tennis game, Taylor Dent can certainly teach you a thing or two. The former professional player climbed to No. 21 in the world, competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics and scored wins over some of the biggest names in the sport. Now, the tennis star and Keller resident is helping develop the next generation of tennis talent. Along with his wife and father, who also played professional tennis (wife Jenny ranked No. 52 in the world and father Phil ranked No. 12 in the world), this month Dent breaks ground on an indoor tennis facility, the Birch Racquet and Lawn Club.
I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT TENNIS BECAUSE: I love the self-reliance it breeds. Tennis is tough physically and emotionally. You have to be smart, fit and a problem-solver when you’re on the court. Tennis is one of the toughest sports, but you always get something out of it.
ONE OF THE PROUDEST MOMENTS OF MY CAREER AS A PRO PLAYER: was winning my first title. That put my father and me in the history books. We were—and still are—the only father-and-son team to win titles on tour. I GREW UP IDOLIZING: different guys at different times. When I was young, Pete Sampras was winning everything. Everybody loves a winner! Before that, I loved Boris Becker’s dominating style. As I learned how tough tennis was, I loved watching Pat Rafter. He looked like he worked so hard! BEFORE A MATCH, I WAS ALWAYS: super nervous. You never know what’s going to happen. When you see players on TV, they have a poker face; you don’t know if they’re nervous. I actually made a point to ask Roger Federer if he still gets nervous before matches. He said, “Yeah, of course I get nervous!” It’s nerve-wracking playing a mentally tough match and maintaining focus and concentration through all the distractions.
WHEN I RETIRED IN 2010, I FELT: content. I don’t want to say it was easy, but I was content with the decision. Jenny and I had our first child in January 2010. [The couple has four children: Declan, Liam, Reagan and Blake.] I had three back surgeries and was out of the game for five years. It got to be overwhelming. I reflected on my 12 years on tour. I had wins and losses—I had experienced it all.
MY HOPE FOR THE BIRCH RACQUET AND LAWN CLUB: is that it will become a world-class training facility. It’ll be a private, membership-based club that will amplify the fun of tennis. Where I come from in Southern California, private tennis clubs are common. If you love tennis, a private club takes it to the next level. We have a projected July opening. The club will be developed on almost 30 acres in Keller at the prior location of the horse ranch, Rocky Top.
TRANSITIONING FROM PLAYER TO COACH WAS: easy. Teaching is second nature. I’ve been around tennis my whole life, and I’m passionate about helping kids improve. It’s fun.
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN COACHING IS: knowing you can’t do it for the players. As much as you want them to go out there and give 100 percent every day and focus on getting better, you can’t do that for them. Before, it was all in my hand. Now I’m an advisor and that gets a little tough.
MY GOAL IS FOR PLAYERS TO: play to improve. Kids should always play to get better. Many people get stuck on trying to win all the time, and that’s detrimental. If you’re so wrapped up in what you have to do to win the next point, you lack the freedom to experiment with things that will take you to the next level.
MY BEST ADVICE FOR PARENTS OF TENNIS PLAYERS IS TO: make tennis fun. Kids will stop playing if it’s not fun. If you can make it fun, I’d also say to teach them the right grips. Some of the toughest things we have to do is get kids out of bad habits with their grips.