Actor Alessandro Nivola on his tennis obsession


Q: What other professional players have influenced you along the way?

Alessandro Nivola: I am a [Rafael] Fan of Nadal. I like that he feels he needs to “suffer” to be successful, that level of commitment. I just identify with it personally. Obviously, it’s easy to appreciate the grace and ease of someone as naturally gifted as Federer displays, but there’s just something about this grinding attitude that I love. And the narrative drama of a Rafa match, it always seems to involve some precariousness in his lead… and then comes the strength of will he uses to find a way out. He’s also incredibly gifted like Fed, Djokovic, and others, but his style is definitely peculiar and unorthodox.

On the women’s side, Iga Swiatek is my favorite right now. She is equivalent to Rafa in terms of style and mental attitude. I also love watching Jen Brady, she is a very exciting player. In fact, I was recently filming in LA with [fellow actor] We and Tim Olyphant were hitting the UCLA courts and the coaches there gave us a good look at Brady’s intense training during his playing days at UCLA. There is also Coco [Gauff] who is so young, but she has it all. She’s classy and I’m dying to know where her path takes her. I have always followed women’s football. At the time, I had a poster of Gabriela Sabatini on my wall when I was a teenager!

Q: As an experienced actor, do you personally see a cross between your profession and tennis?

Alessandro Nivola: Definitely, yeah. When I first started training to be an actor, the ‘inner game of tennis’ was practically required reading, covering things like focus, relaxation, calming the mind, conserving energy. and “being in the zone,” finding that balance between putting in effort and not overworking yourself. All of these things are really a direct corollary of performance in terms of process and psychological journey, especially as a film actor. The process of making a film is so similar to a tennis match.


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