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Tennis. Henri Leconte: “Left-handed people have more instinct, more mischief” – Left-handed people in sport

It is often said that left-handers have something more …

Lefties have instinct, but also a much faster reaction speed than righties. It’s related to the brain. We had a lot of left-handed people with a different way of playing tennis. We have one rather incredible exception: Rafael Nadal is a right-hander but his uncle made him play as a left-hander!

You had a very creative game. Was it related to the fact that you were left-handed?

Yes, I think left-handed people, in any sport, have a heightened sensitivity. We are more about emotion, creativity, it’s crazy besides. Look at Maradona, Messi, there is something incredible about lefties. It feels like it’s much more natural. We have more instinct, there is more mischief. Look at Vilas, Connors, McEnroe, these lefties have marked world tennis. Even if we have exceptional right-handed people like Roger (Federer), Borg… But left-handed people have always had an instinct, a vision, an unpredictable game. We have a faster reaction rate than right-handed people. We visualize faster than a right-hander.

Did you feel like you had an advantage when playing against a right-hander?

It’s clear. They were unsettled. As we are when a left-hander plays a left-hander. When I played McEnroe it was a horror. I had a hard time playing against him because all the effects were reversed, and everything I did, he did better.

Could this love of the beautiful gesture serve you?

Sometimes yes, because we want to do the perfect shot. But with experience, we become more lucid and we do it less.

Is the creativity of left-handers being undermined in today’s tennis, which is increasingly focused on power?

Tennis has evolved enormously in recent years, we no longer see overpowering tennis. It takes away a bit of creativity, but a few lefties still do it. If I put Nadal aside, Shapovalov gets there. But that creativity, going to the net and trying incredible shots, is lost. Of my generation, there was Goran Ivanisevic. He had a completely different service technique and sent planes that were impossible to return.

If you had been right handed, would you have had the same career?

No, I’m happy to be left-handed (laughs). It’s my way of playing and being, left-handed! We are different from others.

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