From Childhood Idols to Signature Shots: German actor Kostja Ullmann, who stars in the new Netflix series ‘Paradise,’ opens up about his passion for tennis. He reveals what he loves most about the game, how tennis has influenced his craft, and which players are his biggest idols.
When did you start playing tennis?
I started playing tennis at the age of six. I played for eleven years, then took a longer break. Only six years ago, I started again. There’s nothing better than being on the tennis court and hitting that yellow fuzzy ball. I love it!
“There’s nothing better than hitting that yellow fuzzy ball.”Kostja Ullmann
What do you love most about the sport?
I think it’s the challenge, the constant battle with oneself, always finding new motivation to play. In the end, it’s also a mental game, and I find that fascinating for myself. You can get incredibly frustrated, but then you have to pull yourself together and try to score those points. That’s what I love about the sport.
What do you take from tennis to your job as an actor?
The mental aspect is incredibly important. In acting, I constantly have to adapt to new situations, there are always new directorial instructions, different colleagues I work with. Every actor plays differently. And adapting to each person, just like in tennis – where you have to adjust to every player – I believe that’s the parallel.
Photo: Kostja Ullmann with the cast of ‘Paradise’ (on Netflix from July 27th, 2023), alongside director Boris Kunz, producer Simon Amberger, Netflix manager Lars Wiebe, and actress Iris Berben
What is your signature shot?
Currently, it’s my backhand. I completely lost my forehand. I don’t know where I left it. I play a two-handed backhand. It brings me so much fun, and I even run around my forehand to play the backhand.
⠀“I grew up with Graf, Becker, and Stich –
⠀and Michael Stich was my biggest idol.”⠀
Who was your tennis idol as a child?
I grew up with Graf, Becker, and Stich – and Michael Stich was my biggest idol. I loved watching him play. I also liked the fact that he’s from Hamburg. I’ve had the great fortune of getting to know him and working with him. He’s not only a great player but also a great person. Of course, I also admired Sampras and Agassi – there were so many great players!
Who is currently your favorite player?
I’m a big Dominic Thiem fan because I also admire him personally. And, of course, it’s hard not to be a fan of Alcaraz. He’s such a fantastic player with a lot of variety in his game. It’s just incredibly entertaining. But there’s so much young talent coming up. And, of course, the big three with Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic – it’s brilliant to watch them play tennis.
How often do you currently play on the tennis court?
I try to be on the court two to three times a week whenever my job allows it.
My tennis club:
SC Victoria in Hamburg, Germany
My racquet of choice:
Photo: © IMAGO / Anni Schmitz | VISTAPRESS, © 2023 Netflix, Inc., © Wilson