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Q&A: Stroking Felt With Anthony Ross


Our most recent contribution to our Stroking Felt With...series comes from Anthony Ross. Anthony is presently a sport psychologist registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PBA). He is also a member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the College of Sport Psychologists (CoSP). He works primarily with children, parents, and coaches in developing well-being and performance in/through sport. Anthony is a leading researcher regarding parental roles in child development through sport undertaking his Masters and Ph.D. studies in the area. Anthony is also a principal contributor to Skillforkids.com where he writes on topics including sport parenting. Previously Anthony played tennis professionally as a doubles player competing at tournaments including Wimbledon. 

By way of background, I first met Anthony when I transferred to Pepperdine (from Fresno State) in January of 1998. I had taken the fall semester off in 1997 in order to play some tournaments and figure things out (i.e., whether to continue on at Fresno, transfer to Pepperdine or go somewhere else altogether) and I recall that he was coming in for the spring semester as well. Although we weren't roommates, we became instant friends. Initially, we shared a suite and the thing that stood out the most is how Rossie could sleep through anything. And by "anything" I mean his roommates 24/7 sessions of playing Doom at full volume. THAT would not have worked for me. Another thing that I remember about Rossie is his full-on sprint towards the net when playing a doubles match against Tennessee at the NCAA D-1 National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle. Someone on our team had popped up an easy sitter right on top of the net that was just waiting for the other team to put away. Rather than backing up, Anthony sprinted towards the net at full steam, dodged under and held the racket up with two hands. The opponent (Peter Handoyo) hit an absolutely killer overhead RIGHT INTO ANTHONY'S RACKET!!! The ball rebounded over the net for a winner. STUNNING! It all happened so fast and my partner, Oliver Schweizer, and I were awestruck (as were the opponents). I think that Rossie's hands are still shacking from the impact. This incident epitomized Anthony's attitude on-court. He was a true warrior with a solid return and net game coupled with a "never say die" attitude so typical of Australian players. In addition, he worked very hard on his game as well as developing his speed, stamina and strength off-court. Lastly, he was an all-around guy who was well-liked and respected by teammates and opponents alike. 

Quick Bio: ATP high ranking - 134 doubles; 1087 doubles. Member of Pepperdine men's tennis squad from 1996-2000. All-American honors in 2000 (reached quarterfinal of NCAA D-1 Championships along with Sebastien Graeff). Contributor to Tennis Australia magazine. Worked with Queensland Academy of Sport to provide assistance with decision making under pressure for some of Australia's finest young sports people, including the former World Number 1 Under 12 tennis player, Bernard Tomic. 


1. At what age did you start playing tennis and how did you "fall" into it? 

A: I started played around the age of 7. I did so because my family played socially so I started joining in at that age.

2. At what age did you start taking tennis seriously (i.e., when you knew that you wanted to become a tennis player)? 

A: Around the age of 11 or 12 I started playing tournaments and doing quite well. I played a lot of different sports but about this age I realized tennis was my favourite so I began playing more tournaments and less of the other sports. I think by the time I was 15 I thought I would like to try to be a professional player one day.

3. How did your workouts change once you decided that you wanted to be a tennis player?

A: At the age of 14 I moved to Brisbane to join the National program that was set up at the time. This would involve about 6 on court sessions a week either before or after school. The main difference was the increase in intensity and competition among all the players that were there. 

4. If you've had to guess, how many hours on the court do you think you've spent between picking up the racket and enrolling at Pepperdine?

A: Wow. I really have no idea. But generally speaking after high school for a couple of years it was 4 hrs a day 6 days a week. In college our training went 3 hrs each afternoon. And playing on the tour depended on the situation. Obviously many thousands of hours.

5. Who influenced you most as an athlete?

A: I would say my parents. Now since I work with many young athletes in my role as a sport psychologist at SportParentSupport.com I understand the incredible influence parents have on children’s sport development. In my case my parents provided a lot of support but most importantly they were able to communicate their unconditional love no matter how I performed. This I believe is the most critical element of any young players successful development because that base allows players to better cope with the incredible stresses of competition.

6. If you had the chance to go back in time and talk to yourself as a 15year old, what tennis-advice would you give yourself?

A: I would probably say focus more on developing your game vs winning. Obviously learning to compete and win is an important skill but I probably focused on winning at the expense of developing my game when I was young which meant that when it really mattered when I turned 18-19 my skills were limited. I worked hard in college to overcome this but to a degree it was too late at this stage.

7. What was your favorite drill or thing to work on growing up? Did you prefer playing points? Did you like working on specific things? 

A: I loved to compete so I loved playing points the most. When I was young I was a grinder who couldn’t volley but in college there was a big emphasis on doubles and I enjoyed the quick exchanges at the net so I began to work a lot on doubles drills which ended up making this the strength of my game.

8. Why did you choose to attend Pepperdine and what are your thoughts on college tennis overall? What do you think can be done better in order to have a better experience than you may have already had?

A: I chose Pepperdine because I knew some of the Aussie guys on the team, Troy Budgen and also Brad Sceney. I loved everything about college tennis and if I could I would go back and do it all over again right now. I most loved playing for a team and competing with your mates which made it so competitive. I loved how hard everybody competed and how much everyone wanted to win. I think that everyone who has the opportunity should go to college to compete in tennis. I am not sure what could be done better from my experience- for me it was the perfect opportunity to give me 4 years to compete and continue to improve my game to the point where I was able to spend a few years also competing on the tour playing doubles. 

9. You specialized mostly in doubles and achieved an ATP high ranking of 134 relatively quickly. What were some of the best tour memories and what do you take away from your experience on the tour?

A: Playing Wimbledon was probably the highlight. I remember being beaten in qualifying of doubles after serving for the match at 7-5 5-4 and being absolutely devastated that I had blown my chance to play Wimbledon but then I ended up getting in the mixed doubles so that was great just to experience playing Wimbledon. Another vivid memory was playing Chang and Hrbaty at Japan Open where Chang was like a God in Asia so there was a crazy crowd. But I think my best tennis memories come from playing big college matches. Playing against Georgia at Georgia in front of a packed stadium of crazy college kids cheering against you I think would be my best memory- the atmosphere was unbelievable. In terms of what I have taken from tennis I think I have friends all over the world who I share great memories with so I would say the relationships you build trough tennis.

On a personal level I think it is the discipline I have developed from working so hard at something over a long period. As a tennis player I spent countless hours on the court working at something not getting paid just because I loved it and to give myself a better chance of maybe making some money out of it but with no guarantees. I think that has transferred over to the development of my business life now where I have the discipline to apply myself on my own with no guarantees of any financial rewards. 

10. Tell us something about your current projects, your collaborators and how your background has prepared you for this particular path. For example, did you view tennis as mostly a mental battle and therefore endeavored to learn more about this aspect of the game? 

A: As I said I think tennis had a huge impact on helping me develop the skills for this path. Also I think I am naturally very competitive so I really enjoy to see people develop their mental skills because, yes, I do think that especially as players get to higher levels, the mental aspects are incredibly important. And as I got more involved as a psychologist I started to realize that many players lacked the mental capacity to compete effectively because of the views they had formed of themselves in relation to tennis because of less than ideal interaction with their parents growing up. Or even if players were very successful, they may not enjoy tennis or be comfortable with themselves because they were being driven by fear of how they felt about themselves when they lost through similar developmental relationships.

So as part of my PhD studies I have developed SportParentSupport.com which is an online educational service that seeks to assist parents in fostering well-being through sport. And when parents can achieve this I have found that it also helps players compete effectively as well.


Anthony, thank you for taking the time to speak with us and we wish you the best of luck in all your current and future endeavors. We're looking forward to great things to come tennis-wise from Down Under. 

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