Smash the Opposition: Actor Jamie Bamber’s Warrior Approach to Tennis

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You could view tennis as a friendly sport between two gentlemen returning a ball to one another atop manicured greens. You could also approach it as two armed warriors engaged in a battle of physical and mental attrition. 

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Actor Jamie Bamber prefers the latter approach. “The game is the most combative that I can imagine,” says the Monday Mornings star. “I love that element of trying to wear someone down and find their flaws.”

Growing up in London, Bamber took to the game at an early age but eventually set his racquet down when a career in film presented itself. It wasn’t until he scored a role on Battlestar Galactica that he found his way back. “[Battlestar director] Michael Rymer was a routine tennis player,” Bamber says. “I kind of secretly picked up a racquet, thinking, ‘I haven’t done this in years,’ but I found I could still do it…The crew operator [and I], we’d have these marathon tennis matches on the weekends. We played whenever we could fit them in.”

Bamber’s hectic filming regimen still precludes him from playing regularly, but he finds ways to stay in the game. “What I rely on are ball machines,” he says. “I just go down [to a court] and set the ball machine on some crazy frequency of intervals to make me run around. It’s like a workout, and I’ll smash some tennis balls around, too.” 

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When he can’t get to the tennis court, Bamber runs trails with his dog, and he finds his way to the weight room at least once a week to maintain his strength. “I love the basics and the feeling of having exercised,” he says. “Whatever [I do for exercise], it’s an important part of my day.”

The man-to-man challenge offered by tennis, however, is what keeps him coming back. “It’s not this refined thing people think,” he says. “There is violence to it. You see how hard these guys hit the ball, how brutal it is on the body. That’s the thing people have to embrace, those combative elements.”

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“You’re so focused,” Bamber says. “If you’re playing an opponent who is a decent player and you’re well matched, the ball is going to be in play until one of you makes a mistake or forces a mistake. You’re on the edge of exhaustion and yet you’re trying to control your technique. The players who [win] aren’t necessarily the best players, but the most shrewd—the ones who know where to put the ball, know the other player’s strengths and weaknesses, and don’t make mistakes. There’s the battle.”

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