In Episode #5 of the Peak Performance Podcast, I interview former world #7 tennis player and Olympic Silver medalist, Tim Mayotte. In this exclusive interview, Tim and I chat about:

  • State of US tennis
  • The pro tour
  • The mental game
  • The worst thing that he ever said to himself
  • Is education important?
Twitter: @timMayotte
I don’t know about you, but I loved hearing Tim talk about the mental game.  Share below!


Speaking with Bob Ryland at Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education in Philadelphia

As we close out Black History Month, my thoughts are with a good friend of mine, Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Bob was Arthur Ashe’s hero. In fact, when Arthur Ashe was 14, he said, “I only want to be good enough to be able to beat Bob Ryland.”

Bob has taught tennis to the Williams sisters, Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and many others in his career. I recently had lunch in New York City with the living legend and every time is like the first time. What impresses me about Ryland is that even though he lived through segregation, he stays one of the most optimistic people I know.

You think it’s hard to play tournament tennis nowadays?

I remember when Bob told me about a time when he got accepted into a tournament in California because of his high ranking. But once he arrived, and the tournament director saw that he was black, Ryland was told to “Go get some lunch and come back.”

When he returned, the tournament director said that his opponent showed up and Ryland wasn’t here, so he was disqualified. Of course, this was intentional because of the color of his skin.

Ryland also frequently was pulled over by the police for no reason. There were blacks strung up on trees and also dragged down the street when he was a young boy. He lived through hell.

Bob Ryland could easily be bitter and angry at those situations, but he isn’t. According to him, “It is what it is.”

Much of life is not what happens to us, but how we react.

I am proud to say that Bob Ryland is a dear friend, hero and role model. Bob will be 91 years young this June 16th and you can be sure he will be around the Central Park Tennis Courts once the weather warms up.

Many people say, “Be like Mike.” Today, I say, “Be like Bob.”

Thanks for reading.


Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player.

Bob’s wife Nancy said he couldn’t put the book down!

New friends. Notice the photos of Bob and Arthur Ashe in the background.

A wonderful gift from the great one.

So yesterday I spent the day with Bob Ryland. I don’t know where to begin. It’s amazing enough that he was the first black professional tennis player. But he was also Arthur Ashe’s hero. He coached the Williams sisters, and travelled around the world as Bill Cosby’s personal tennis coach.

I went to Mr. Ryland’s apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City to talk about the book he wants me to help him write. I hit the record button on the brand new bright white digital recorder as the 88 year old tennis legend talked about his life, on and off the court. He brought me back in time to his early days in Alabama around the 1920s. He was called racist names and frequently saw blacks “strung up” in the trees outside his front door while walking to school in the morning. He really had to sit in the back of the bus, and if it was too full, he had to either stand or get off. They had separate bathrooms and water fountains for blacks. And in college, the black players had to wait until night to sneak into the dorms to sleep. The white boys on the tennis team went into the shops to get them food and brought it to them. And yes, he almost got killed several times.

I have read about those days in the history books, but Bob Ryland lived those days. If Bob was a bitter man, I probably wouldn’t blame him, but he says, “I’m just a regular guy. I overcame adversity and became better because of it.”

Bob has coached the Williams sisters and told me a secret. “They weren’t more talented than everyone else, they just worked harder. 6am to 6pm was their workout schedule.” So if you want to become a great tennis player, just train like a great tennis player.

So Bob knows the importance of overcoming adversity and how hard work beats talent, but the thing that really stuck with me is that Bob really is just a regular guy.

I asked him what the most important lessons he has learned in his life and he said: be a good person, listen, and smile.

He didn’t mention anything about tennis…a regular guy?

I don’t think so.

None of my blog readers should ever complain that their life is tough.

” ‘Game. Set. Life.’ can help you accomplish whatever you want in life and teach you how to stay ahead of the game, concentrate, focus, and give you confidence. I wish I had read this book when I was playing.”
-BOB RYLAND, December 2, 2008, New York City

Thanks for reading.

Checkout “Game. Set. Life.” in The Daily Racquet in Hawaii…