Tennis taught me so many lessons in life. One of the things it taught me is that every ball that comes to me, I have to make a decision. I have to accept responsibility for the consequences every time I hit a ball. It also taught me about delayed gratification. No matter how you look or how much money you have, you still have to learn your craft, you have to hit a lot of balls, you have to train. There’s disciplines of life that you learn from tennis or other sports.

Another thing is that you learn to adapt. I have these two sayings, Champions adjust,” and “Pressure is a privilege.” Tennis teaches you about those things. When you’re playing a tennis match, you can’t say, “Stop, I want to do another take,” or “Can I play that over?” That’s the way sports are. They’re very real that way. So they teach you lessons in life, but the most important one is accepting responsibility. You have to make a decision, live with the consequences. That’s what tennis does with every ball that comes to me, and I just use my experience in tennis in everyday life now and it’s fabulous. It’s been a great journey to learn those lessons.

(These are excerpts from the book Wisdom, created by Andrew Zuckerman. Billie Jean was the only sports talent of the 50 elderly celebrities mostly from the arts, political activism and government who were interviewed for this book, which was published by PQ Blackwell in association with Abrams, New York.)

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