An inspiring dialogue with Jacco Eltingh
The company Eltingh Haarhuis Tennis & Events, located in Eltinghs woodlike garden, is just as dynamic and ambitious as Jacco Elting himself. “The company is growing and progressing continuously.” The former professional tennis player is also enjoying his family life together with his wife Hellas, three children and the dog. Does he often think about his life as a professional tennis player? Every time he’s late for the ball, he thinks by himself: Hey, I used to get a ball like this?! In general Eltingh hardly ever thinks about his former career as a sportsman. “I am very grateful and everything I have, the people I know and the things I can do, came to me by tennis. Apart from this, I hardly ever think about my professional career.” Although Eltingh was forced to leave the professional tennis tour prematurely due to an injured knee, he did reach several worldwide top achievements during his career. Together with Haarhuis, his double partner, he won five grand slam titles and as a team they became the worldwide number one in 1995. Moreover, in the same year he conquered the 19th position in the worldwide single competition.
“I HARDLY EVER THINK ABOUT MY FORMER PROFESSIONAL CAREER.”
A splendid career as a single player
When thinking about his career as a single tennis player, the first thing that crosses his mind is himself managing to win four tournaments playing on four different surfaces. “That makes me belong to a very small group of ex-tennis players who succeeded in this”, Eltingh tells with a smile. Additionally, Eltingh beat almost every number one in the single competition at least once, under which Sampras, Agassi, Wielander and Muster. However, Eltinghs most splendid victory in the single competition was the match against Wimbledon champion Michael Stich. Eltingh won from Stich in the first round in straight sets at Wimbledon center court. “That was really very nice!” Eltingh admits he had to retire way too early. Fortunately he was able to continue playing in the double competition for one more year, from June 1997 until November 1998. By winning three grand slam titles in the double competition this became an exceptionally good year!
“ONLY A FEW THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE. I ACCEPTED EVERYTHING THAT CAME ON MY WAY WITH PLEASURE.”
The key for success?
For Eltingh, being a professional tennis player was a great period in his life. He liked discovering new places, meeting new people and working daily to improve himself. However, things like the travelling, the obligation to train every day and to cope with losses weren’t always nice. Being a sportsman with a positive attitude, he managed to cope with these issues in a sensible way. “Only a few things I didn’t like. I accepted everything that came on my way with pleasure.” During the tournaments he used to spend his time eating, drinking, having massages and getting ready for the next match. In his spare time, he visited a city centre or a zoo. Did he watch the other matches sometimes? “No, never. Although I’m positively naive self-confident, I never felt comfortable watching the others, so I let Haarhuis and Reinders (coach) do so”. Any match-related tension Eltingh dealt with by making sure he had done his homework properly. “If one has done everything to prepare himself for a match, from the training to the stringing of the racket, it’s all right, there’s nothing more one can do.”
Masters tips for success
It’s not very easy for the enthusiastic Eltingh to describe himself in only three words. “Talkative, passionate and consistent”, he finally concludes. Being consistent has proven to be a very important quality in his successful career as a tennis player. Eltingh advises professional tennis players to be consistent in everything they do. This includes all the training and preparations for the competitions, as well as the ability to score one single point or a complete match. “I see too many short-lived moments. It’s impossible to practice everything during one single training of an hour and a half, if one aims to be really very good at something. If a player wants to score a point one shouldn’t use different tactics for each ball. And at tense and crucial moments you shouldn’t be experimenting all kinds of emergency actions in order to save yourself. To put it differently: the road to success is no highway. Being consistent will bring advantages in your matches and your career ”.
“THERE IS NO SHORT CUT TO SUCCESS.”
Another useful advice was taught to him by his previous trainer Henk van Hulst. “Find your limits starting from the base, and not the other way around. It’s useless for enthusiastic starters to move immediately into sixth gear, only to find out it doesn’t work because you’re going way too fast.” Here Eltingh introduces a new topic: the business world in which he is operating nowadays. “You’re not being judged for just one sad or just one beautiful match, nor for just one good deal or one bad business result. No, it’s the constant average over 12 months that counts. That’s your final result.”
“FIND YOUR LIMITS FROM THE BASE, AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.”
A black gap?
November 1998 Eltingh retired definitely as a professional tennis player. Did he fall into a black gap after that? “No, absolutely not”, tells the optimistic sportsman. He set up a small textile company and he started organizing tennis clinics. For Eltingh, these years were quite relaxed. The children were being born and his new home was being rebuilt. “I was being offered several jobs. So I took my time to find out what I would like to do and where I could find my chances.” For a few years, he didn’t do any business trips. “I loved that calmness. It was a very conscious choice which I enjoyed immensely!”
Nowadays the grand slam winner is facing new challenges for his company Eltingh Haarhuis Tennis & Events. “As a person I want to develop within my work to become a better and better leader of my company. However, sometimes I feel a stomach-ache before important moments at which I want to perform well, for instance before presentations for large groups of people.” His company organizes various events like tennis trips, tennis clinics, workshops and lectures. What Eltingh likes most is the variation in these different activities. “In this I have to make sure I ‘ll keep focusing. Nowadays I don’t waste time anymore with irrelevant meetings.”
“AS A PERSON I WANT TO DEVELOP WITHIN MY WORK TO BECOME A BETTER AND BETTER LEADER OF MY COMPANY.”
Besides his work, his family means a lot to Eltingh. His perfect Saturday consists of sleeping late, enjoying breakfast and a cup of coffee, sawing in his wood, watching his sons play soccer, gardening and finishing the day with a nice drink, a traditional Dutch meal and watching telly with his wife and children. Probably enjoying a glass of wine. Because when he’s asked to choose between beer and wine, he answers “When I can choose between any drink or wine, I always prefer wine.” He shows no preference for any of the four seasons. “I can enjoy bad weather and the leafs in fall. As long as it’s not for too long.” Eltingh likes his country but also enjoys international travelling. In 2013 he travelled to the Australian Open to participate in the ‘Legends Men’s Doubles’ together with his partner Paul Haarhuis. Right now he’s enjoying life with his wife Hellas, the children and the dog and meanwhile his company is growing and developing.
Click here to read this article full of tennisexperience and tips from Jacco Eltingh in Dutch!