In this world there are two sports that are the odd ones. Tennis is one of them. Most individual sports you see in the Olympics are sports of the fewest mistakes. Diving comes to mind. Who would have predicted Tom Daily make consecutive mistakes in the semifinals? Snowboard cross andBMX are sports where medals are decided by who falls down. They are sports where your dream can be wiped out with one mistake. Same goes with track and field. One misstep, and you are toast. In these “mistake sports”, everyone has to perform, so the general standard of competition is immensely high. These are the early-specialization sports. In these sports there are significant physiological barriers to success: After a certain level, one will max out his sprinting speed. Most team sports are about iterative luck. In basketball, your goal is to net a basket. In these instances, the default result is a miss. The majority of the shots that soccer or hockey players take are saved by the goalkeeper. As Wayne Gretzky said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Team sports are about trying to maximize iterations because the odds on a single iteration are not in your favour. The team that wins often takes the most shots, or attempts the most baskets. In these “luck sports”, one might get on a “hot streak” when luck is going his way, and subsequently have a good season. Then, when his luck turns, he will get into a “slump”. In these sports there is no linear path in which a player can get better. After you reach a certain ability, more practice doesn’t result in more success. And then there are the two odd ones out. Tennis is an “additive sport”. It is a sport of multiple unrelated skills. Footwork, feel, power, flexibility, endurance, timing and anticipation are just some of the skills needed simultaneously in each point played. Here’s the beauty: one skill can make up for another. A person like me doesn’t have the height or muscle power. It doesn’t matter. My feel and flexibility can make up for it. Ivo Karlovic doesn’t have a backhand. Yet he’s among the top 20 players in the world, and he has won multiple titles. Again, it’s about the skills he has: he has a powerful serve, a powerful forehand, and decent footwork. Anybody can be successful. Even you can be a great tennis player. In this sport, there is a clear, linear path to improvement for each and every skill. If you want to work on your serve, you must work on shoulder flexibility, calf strength, and hip rotation. If you make these tangible improvements, you will develop a powerful serve. Tennis is additive in another way. Lets say Federer makes a mistake in a match to another player, Vasek Pospisil. Is his season over? Does his entire life’s worth depending on not making a forehand error? The default outcome of any shot is that it will land in the court. Most professional tennis players can easily rally a hundred balls without missing. Yet the worst that can happen after a mistake is a lost match. The tennis ranking system doesn’t punish mistakes. Losing to the 300th ranked player means just as much as losing to Federer. In tennis, points are added, not lost. Tennis is a sport where all players get their glory. The chance of winning a given tournament are low. But if you compete in enough tournaments, you will win some. If you have just one successful week, you will catapult yourself into the history books. That’s why tennis is the greatest.