Wimbledon 2008. Its 2 sets to 1, 8-7 to Rafael Nadal in the 4th set tie break when Roger Federer unleashes one of the best backhand passing shots to date given the circumstances. Would a younger, tetchier, less physically developed, mentally frail, raw Federer been able to have pulled this off? Or to even be able to contest in a match of such magnitude? The answer is highly unlikely. Federer would ultimately lose the match in five epic sets making it apparent that Federer’s greatest rival had found the solutions to the Federer puzzle, for now……
It’s a bright sunny day in Kent and as I arrive at a tournament ready to sign in and wait for the action to begin, I hear the sound of violent impact coming of a competitor’s racket, 3,4,5,6 shots, bludgeoning his opponent left, right and centre. What next? He misses a simple cross court backhand into the open court and continues to verbalize self-directed obscenities. It was clear that in this players mind he was not living up to his expectations and was having a bad day at the office. Something all tennis players can relate to and is extremely common. To have a bad day at the office and still manage to win at a high level is rare. Sure, it can be done and some players have immense fighting spirit however it’s the nature of the beast. Mentally you have to not give up and allow emotions and frustrations to get the better of you, this is where self-development comes to the forefront.
Team sports such as Football, Hockey, Rugby are all well respected and demanding games in many aspects. However, if one member of a team is having a bad day at the office, there is still plenty of others to take responsibility to get the job done, as well as plenty of other team mates to load the blame onto. For me this is where an individual sport like Tennis is unlike any other. You are forced to take responsibility for everything within your control to give you the best chance of success.
Self-development is a conscious act, you choose to take certain actions to garner the desired results. With the demands of modern tennis physically, mentally, emotionally, tactically, technically and in some cases spiritually all players have to evolve to truly become the best they can be. An easy task? certainly not and for those who commit to the sport and get the best out of themselves, the fulfilment that it can give a person is priceless.
January 2017 Roger Federer is about to step onto the Rod Laver Arena in Australia to compete for a potential 18th Grand Slam Title against none other than Rafael Nadal. Nadal had continued to find the answers to Federer in majors beyond Wimbledon 2008 and many were shocked and surprised to see them both back in the final. Federer had to take the back half of the 2016 season off to recover from injuries and to rejuvenate himself, to be competitive at a high level for a couple more seasons. Mentally his expectations were not particularly high as he admitted, but the power of this mindset he had was incredible. Federer had used his time off to also bring in an old rival and well respected coach Ivan Ljubicic, to help on his approach to his tennis and to make his backhand a genuine weapon again. I won’t say anymore besides watch the match here and check the results of the self-development for yourself.
It won’t be easy by any means, but if you’re up to the challenge of it. Try Tennis.
“Im a slow walker, but I never walk back”