tennis legend mats wilander coaches GQ’s rosecrans baldwin for the US Open

GQ’s Rosecrans Baldwin is a tennis fanatic. He didn’t start playing tennis until the age when most pros retire, but he’s pretty decent at it. It was the longest of shots, but that didn’t stop him from gunning for this year’s U.S. Open. He hooked up with a former champ (Mats Wilander!), trained for months, and took his first step toward becoming a Grand Slam winner.

Baldwin on his experience training with Wilander:

“My first time out, a ball from Mats came fast to my backhand. I was caught off guard and returned a weak slice, rather than a more powerful topspin shot. Mats said immediately: ‘Why did you do that? You’ve got a good backhand—why hit a slice?’ Twenty minutes later, there was a drill where Mats fed me overheads so fast I might as well have swung my arm like a propeller to hit them all. Instead, I lost focus and dumped three into the net. Mats was pissed. ‘You should never miss an overhead! It’s the easiest shot in tennis. Federer misses maybe five overheads in a season.’”

Watch Roger Federer’s pre-match routine

“It was a master class. He disassembled everything he’d noticed in my game, down to the tiniest hiccups in my strokes. ‘Against these guys’—meaning the opponents I’d see at the tournament—‘you have nothing. No weapons. Maybe two things: your footwork and your determination. That’s it.’ From there came tips, tactics, solutions. He jumped out of his chair to demonstrate positioning. Compared situations I might face to moments in matches he’d played twenty-five years ago. By the end, my notes ran to seven pages.”

The September issue of GQ is available on newsstands now in New York and LA and nationally August 26.

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