I’m a huge tennis fan, I’ve never played it but I’ve loved watching it since I was a little kid watching Boris Becker at Wimbledon. I’ve learned so much and been so inspired by my favorite players through the years that I feel like tennis helped to raise me. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned from the greatest champions is they all have the ability and willingness to learn new things and evolve. Here are some of my favorites.
The most amazing example of this is the left handed Spanish player, Rafael Nadal. He has won seventeen majors and is currently ranked number two in the world. But the fact is Nadal is not a left handed person, he’s just a left handed player. When he was little, his Uncle, who was also his coach, noticed that left handed players were so rare that it was an advantage. He forced Nadal to switch hands when he was five years old and it’s one of the reasons he has such crazy spin on the ball and why his back hand is so heavy and accurate.
Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player that ever lived, is known for his calm, business like demeanor on court. His ability to stay unemotional is an ability that many say lead him to win twenty majors. But he wasn’t always calm and cool. In fact he was famous for his firey bad temper on court and his inability to control his emotions. But he realized it was hurting his game. “In the end of the day,” he said, “it’s up to me…I just tried to find ways to calm myself down on court.” When he was sixteen and seventeen he went to a sports psychologist and a few years later he won Wimbledon and would go on to win it seven more times.
Later in his career, when Roger hadn’t won a major in two years. His coach suggested he update his racket and play with a larger racket head. At first he hated it and while he was getting used to it he had his most losing year ever. But finally, after figuring out the perfect racket for him he went on to win the Australlian Open and Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australlian Open in 2018. Much of the credit went to his change in racket, allowing him to “hit easier aggressive, attacking tennis.”
Maria Sharapova is a six foot two inch Russian player with a massive serve and amazing mental strength. She won her first major, Wimbledon, when she was 17, but was never known as a great mover. “I was like a cow on ice skates.” She has said regarding playing on clay. The slippery court surface requires excellent balance and footwork. Sharapova was never expected to do well on clay, much less win the French Open. But she worked on improving her balance and footwork and her speed. She ended up winning the French Open in 2012 and also in 2014.
So what have we learned from these great champions?
- Your personality does not define you. Your temperament is not unchangeable. You can strengthen your brain just like any muscle, with hard work and discipline. Any personality quirk that you think may be holding you back or making life difficult for you can be improved if you work at it. Shyness, firey temper or negative outlook can all be changed with work or even professional help.
- Change is not easy. It sucks and is really hard. You’ll probably actually get worse before you get better as you learn the new technique or skill. This can be frustrating and embarrassing but also totally worth it.
- Embrace failure. That is how you learn. You can only get to the next level if you are willing to put down your old habits or tools and pick up new ones. This is not easy but every loss or failure brings you that much closer to your goals.
The French Open starts May 26th followed by Wimbledon on July 1st and the US Open on August 26th. I hope everyone will watch and get inspired!