Subjective perceptions of success in top-class tennis players

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South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation

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University of Stellenbosch Department of Sport Science


University of Cape Town

This paper explores the subjectively perceived performance success of top-class tennis players, largely in an effort to supplement the massive body of purely cognitive, psychophysiological sport psychology literature that already exists. Indepth, semi-structured interviews were conducted individually with nine players at three levels of expertise: provincial, national, and international. The players also completed the Telic Dominance and Negativism Dominance Metamotivational Scales, in line with the Reversal Theory of emotion and motivation. Cyclical thematic analysis of the interview texts and descriptive statistical analysis of the scale items were carried out. Ten integrative theme clusters emerged exploring what it means to be successful in tennis, including nine themes illuminating the elements subjectively perceived as necessary to achieve success. Some significant differences were found in certain theme categories for provincial, national and international players. The scale scores supported and questioned previous research that success in sport is related to paratelic and negativistic metamotivational dominance.