MELBOURNE: The difference between a good player and a champion is stress management, says tennis great Billie Jean King. Champions are calm in moments of intense pressure. It makes them thrive. They stay on top because they love the idea of being No. 1.

Look at the emotional makeup of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, says King, who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles and 16 Grand Slam doubles titles before her retirement in 1983 at age 40.

“Roger is the guy to beat. He’s still No. 1 in the world. He knows how to win and he thrives on it,” King said Monday at the Australian Open.

Pressure

Some players talk about the burden of being No. 1 and feeling the weight of the tennis world on their shoulders.

“Some players don’t enjoy being No. 1. They don’t like it, so they’re not going to be No. 1 for long,” said King.

King is the co-founder of World Team Tennis which is making its Australian debut at the Australian Open on Wednesday. “It’s the person who can enjoy the moment of having pressure, that they actually look forward to it,” said King.

A champion, for example, will not pray for a double fault when facing an opponent’s serve. “You want to say, ’Give me your best shot. I want the ball,” King said.

On the women’s side, King admires the drive of 11-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams.

“Serena has tremendous will to win, she really does,” King said. “She’s amazing, actually.” — AP

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