Serving Aces for the Christ

David Wheaton was one of the top professional tennis players in the world. During his 13 years on tour from 1988-2001, David reached the semifinals or better in singles or doubles of every Grand Slam tournament (including the semi-finals of singles at Wimbledon), attained a career-high singles world ranking of  #12, won the prestigious Grand Slam Cup, represented the United States in Davis Cup competition and scored victories over notable players such as Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.

David is still involved in tennis; he plays professionally part-time (he won the Wimbledon Over 35 Doubles Championship with T.J. Middleton in 2004), writes Grand Slam preview articles for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and recently completed four years of service on the Board of Directors of the United States Tennis Association. In 2005, he was inducted into the U.S.T.A. Northern Section Tennis Hall of Fame.

I’ve covered  David over the years while I was a tennis reporter when he was a top touring professional. Recently, I had a chance to interview the now fellow radio host on my weekly “Good Sports Magazine Show”  on what was his story about  His Glory. Here is what he had to say:

CF–David, share your testimony of becoming a world class tennis champion. Tell us how your life and career changed at the age of 24 after winning the richest tennis event, the Grand Slam Cup, and a two million dollar payday, and when you accepted Jesus Christ into your life.

DW–This was never something that I saw coming growing up in Minnesota. I was the youngest of  four children and the next oldest was nine years my senior, so I sort of grew up with five parents. I did grow up in a Christian household and started playing hockey and tennis at a very young age – like when I first started walking. I remember when I was four years old going down the street in the summer to play tennis with my older siblings and ice hockey in the winter – we had a very athletic family. I started developing my tennis game, became a good junior player and then went down to the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida, at the age of 16 and finished my high schooling there. I went out to Stanford to continue my tennis growth and education, turned professional at the age of 19 and went on to play 13 years on the tour. As I mentioned, I did grow up in a Christian home but got off track in my teenage years as a junior tournament player. I was hanging out with the wrong kind of kids. It really wasn’t my own faith, but rather I was riding the coat tails of my parents being Christians. I really got off track in college and ended up writing my book, “University of Destruction,” about those wild times and not being there spiritually. It wasn’t until I was 24 years old and after winning tennis’ largest event prize, money-wise at the time, the Grand Slam Cup, and a 2-million dollar payday, that it brought me to the point of  how outwardly successful I had become but how inwardly conflicted I was. I knew I was going the wrong way in life and bringing dishonor to God and others. I really came to a point with myself where I was in repentance of my sins, and truly understanding I was a sinner for the first time. I committed to put Jesus Christ as my Savior and follow Him as the Lord about 17 years ago. My life turned around completely and the rest of my tennis life was played with a different perspective and motivation. I played until I was 32 years old in 2001.

CF–After retiring as a full time professional tennis player at still a very young age of 32, how did  you end up in the radio booth?
DW
–It really was a sequence of providential happenings as a local former NBA player here in Minnesota was doing a Christian sports talk show and he had me on as a guest. He called me a few weeks later and said he was moving into another career and wanted to know if I wanted to take over his radio program. That was about 9 years ago now and the sports show really morphed into more of a cultural, current events show now called, “The Christian WorldView”- which is now syndicated. I can’t really take credit for it as I had very little to do with it beyond just walking through the door God had already opened.

CF–How did your life as a competitive tennis player change at age 24 once you accepted Jesus into your heart and became saved by grace?
DW
–There are a couple of things that come to mind right off the bat. First, just the motivation of why I was playing started to change as I may have thought before I was playing for God on the outside but really had the inner striving of winning titles, earning big money, making a name for myself, increasing my world rankings and really playing for all the wrong reasons.  When I came to Christ, I asked myself how do I play this game and career to bring glory to God. How do I prepare myself to use the abilities He gave me to glorify Him and that was a big change. The other big change was just my lifestyle as I was involved in all the wrong kind of relationships and attitudes on court with anger along with being rebellious to authority in my life. Now my life wasn’t representing the works of the flesh anymore but the fruits of the spirit. Those were the biggest changes.

CF– Finally, David, a lot of your former opponents are still playing on the Champions Tour. Do you still have any aspirations or thoughts to get back out on the courts professionally?
DW
–I really don’t know right now. God has me doing some work in radio with “The Christian WorldView” which by the way airs weekly across the country from 9-10am ET LIVE, as well as writing a blog and articles at my website: www.thechristianworldview.com, and also speaking to groups around the country. I’ll actually be coming to South Florida in March to speak for Scott Williams’ MatchPoint Ministries Spiritually Tough Tennis Awards event and Family Tennis Day at Saint Andrews School in Boca Raton. God has me living a very active and fulfilling life right now and I’ll never say never about returning to a Champions type tour event if the opportunity presents itself.

Carl Foster is the host/founder of  “The Good Sports Magazine Show” airing every Friday LIVE from 12 noon to 1 p.m. exclusively on GraceFM 90.3FM in South Florida and worldwide online at: www.gracefmradio.com  Carl also hosts “The Road Show” Monday thru Fridays from 4-6:30 p.m. with “The Good Sports Minute”  feature at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. daily on GraceFM.

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