BTT: Tell us about your favorite moment on a tennis court?
SR: I’d probably answer this one in three different ways. Firstly, my most special memory as a coach was connected with a farewell evening we held at the National Academy in Melbourne for an athlete that was heading to US College the following day. Later that evening I received a note from the family that spoke of the gratitude they felt for the impact I’d been able to have on their family. Really heart warming and special.
BTT: Playing-wise, in a very mediocre and average playing career, undoubtedly it was playing my first live Davis Cup tie for my country.
SR: In terms of an against the odds moment that nobody bar the athlete himself would have seen coming, it was really quite special to sit next to a good mate of mine in strength and conditioning coach Aaron Kellett as Nick Kyrgios def Rafa Nadal in 4 sets in the R16 of Wimbledon 2014.
BTT: What was tour life like, can you share a few insights?
SR: At times lonely, somewhat isolated and monotonous. At other times, hugely enjoyable, rewarding and full of laughter and great times/memories. In hindsight, I would have been well served to have remembered more regularly the old mantra of North Carolina’s famed Basketball Coach Dean Smith – it’s never quite as bad (after a tough loss) or as good (after a great win) as it seems. That notion of balance and perspective is so important to navigate the turbulent waters.
BTT: Was traveling something you enjoyed or was it hard to be away from home?
SR: At times – both! My timespan of traveling for extender periods was much shorter than many, so others would be in a better position to answer. With US College and finishing up as a 25 year-old, I didn’t persevere for anywhere near as many as so many athletes.
BTT: Are you still friendly with your tour mates?
SR: I wish I had have stayed in closer contact with team mates from the University of Tennessee. We shared a really special and unique journey at such a volatile and defining period of all of our respective lives. That being said, I’ve made some connections through my post-playing days within tennis that are incredibly special to me – lifelong, best mates that have come about through a connection forged in our wonderful sport.
BTT: Was life after tennis something you thought about doing your career?
SR: Yes, insofar as I had an interrupted journey as it was and returned to the University of Tennessee to finish my journalism degree as a 22 year old. I’d always been fascinated with coaches of all professions and paid particular attention to coaching approaches and methodologies that resonated most strongly with me – so that was a guide to what might follow in my heart I suppose.
BTT: What was the retirement process like for you?
SR: Relatively straight forward insofar as the decision was cut and dried, I’m not good enough to make a successful go of this playing caper so let’s turn my hand to something else that I can really have a red-hot crack at excelling within. I think upbringing and education and a wonderful example from two loving, hard-working and special parents allowed this phase to be relatively smooth for me and in different ways (outside of the retirement context) for my three siblings also.
BTT: How important do you think it is for current players to plan for a career beyond tennis?
SR: Essential – and I genuinely believe this can be a significant performance-enhancer whilst athletes are still competing. The uncanny examples of athletes taking a complete break to step away and reset completely are simply too numerous to ignore. There has to be something in this in terms of shifting perspective, gaining clarity and taking a physical, mental and emotional break from the toil that is professional tennis?
BTT: What are some of the life lessons tennis taught you?
SR: These are too immeasurable to list here. The importance of being truly happy, discipline, the importance of relationships, resilience, reward for effort, perseverance, commitment, accountability, to be really honest – with yourself primarily and certainly not finally how fantastic this sport has been to me – changed my life forever in all kinds of special ways.
Cheers Simon its great to have you back in Australia!