Winning and losing are defining terms in tennis and separate who advances and who is eliminated from the draw. Being a competitive singles tennis player at the highest level requires more than extraordinary athletic talent; the player must show mental and emotional aggressiveness; qualities most young girls are uncomfortable expressing. Typically, girls are raised to be social and more cooperative over being competitive whereas as typically boys are encouraged to be the best, dominate and defeat their opponent without worrying about the emotional toll it might take on their friendship away from the game. Moreover, girls may struggle emotionally since competitiveness can lead to social isolation or losing friendships due to jealousy, envy, or rejection.
Yet last week at the US Open, the very opposite occurred and maybe this is a positive shift in women’s competitiveness.
Naomi Osaka beat Coco Gauff in straight sets in the third round, but her class was a step above ❤️
— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) September 1, 2019
Naomi Osaka defeated Coco Gauff 6-3 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals in a match that will long be remembered more for Osaka’s heart-felt and supportive comments following the match than their baseline battle. Osaka showed displayed grace, humility, and kindness as she warmly complimented and encouraged Gauff in a rare display of camaraderie.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2019
If anything, this display of female encouragement, acceptance, and equality exemplified the best of female athleticism and hopefully will build a bridge to a future in women’s tennis and beyond in women’s sports as it showcased how the best players can show respect, admiration, and appreciate each other’s extraordinary athletic prowess without fearing it weakens their competitive edge.
For more examples, check out our book, Raising Your Game.