Tennis Masters: A Glimpse Into Nick Taylor’s Winning Mentality
The 11-time grand slam champion and rising boccia ball star reflects on his tennis career and shares his plans for boccia dominance.
Solinco caught up with Team athlete, Nick Taylor, over a Zoom call in November of 2022. Taylor’s chosen backdrop was where it all began for him – on a tennis court in his hometown in Wichita, Kansas.
29 years, 11 grand slam titles, and 3 paraolympic Gold medals later, we asked him how his first year of retirement is going so far.
“When I retired in November of last year, I think it was less than a month that I was in Brazil at a national competition for boccia. I can’t say my life has really changed all that much.”
That inner drive to compete has always been present within Taylor, ever since he decided to pick up a racquet at 13 years old.
“I come from a line of golf players, and to this day, I’m really not sure how I landed on tennis. I just knew I really wanted to play a sport in high school. From there, we eliminated all contact sports, because no one was going to tackle a 250lb piece of metal.”
Having been diagnosed with a rare disease called arthrogryposis that limits his range of motion, Taylor’s journey to greatness was marked by a persistent dedication to beat the odds and an unflinching disregard of failure. When he began honing his signature kick-serve for example, he set a simple goal: find a way to toss the ball without the help of another person to toss it for him.
“No one was going to stand there and bounce the ball for me every single time. [The serve] really came out of a necessity to figure out how to get the ball in the air. At first I was actually kicking the ball into the air, until I realized that if I balanced it on my foot, and tossed it from there, I would get way more accuracy and consistency.”
With years of practice and steadfast persistence, Taylor created a winning formula to dominate wheelchair tennis. He would go on to win 11 grand slam titles – seven at the US Open and four at the Australian Open. Together with his partner, David Wagner, he would win 11 UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters Championships, becoming the most successful partnership in tournament history in their division. He would reach world No. 1 in quad singles and doubles. Lastly, and most importantly for Taylor, he would represent his country in the paralympic games, capturing three gold medals in doubles, one silver in doubles, and one bronze in singles.
In 2016, Taylor joined Team Solinco and began playing with Hyper-G.
“My whole game is about top spin. Oftentimes, I would break the string because I was just cranking top spin, but I didn’t care because I knew it made me play better. I loved the feel of Hyper-G – that’s why I kept going up in the game.”
With Hyper-G in his racquet, Taylor would win another four titles, including one grand slam, before retiring from tennis in 2021. Despite consistently being the most disabled player on court, Taylor’s talent, ingenuity and intensely competitive nature, make him one of the greatest minds and athletes in the sport.
When asked what he misses the most about life on the Pro circuit, he puts people at the top of the list.
“Getting to travel around the world. I mean, when you’ve got friends in 40 or 50+ countries – you really love just getting to see them and hang out with them.”
Lucky for Taylor, his traveling days are far from over. Today, he continues to push himself to new heights with sights set on dominating the paralympic sport Boccia ball. At the time of this interview, Taylor was headed to Bahrain to compete in the 2022 World Boccia Cup.
“When I was first introduced to boccia, I asked my friends what they thought I should do, and if I should pursue it. They know me well and they knew that if I started to learn it, that I would become obsessed with it and never stop.”
Equipped with touring experience and an ambition to master this new sport, Taylor is poised to go far in boccia much like in his tennis career. It helps that he can draw elements from tennis to level-up his boccia game.
Like tennis, boccia ball demands a chess-like strategic approach from players. He notes how much of the sport relies on the mental game. Timing and placement of the ball matter, as well as a player’s ability for superior depth perception.
With his first year of retirement in tennis being nothing short of busy, the journey continues for Taylor. Looking forward, he hopes to move up in the boccia rankings to qualify for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. He balances national and international competitions with his responsibilities as Director of Operations and Coach for the Men’s Tennis Program at Wichita State University. When he’s not competing, Taylor gives back to the sport – creating access to tennis for disabled players and lending his experience to grow the collegiate program in his hometown.
It’s clear now that Taylor’s long and decorated tennis career is merely a chapter in his story as a top competitor. He left us with a few tips for tennis success.
“My advice is don’t be afraid to fail. I’ve been asked a billion times, why didn’t you quit? I always remember this quote when people ask me. It’s from Winston Churchill and it says: ‘Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.’ That line sticks with me to this day.”
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