What Do Azarenka, Del Potro, Djokovic and Murray Have In Common?
The Miami 2009 tennis tournament proved to be very exciting and Victoria Azarenka, Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray did very well here.
What do these great tennis players have in common in their mental game that enabled them such success?
It’s the power of belief.
They all believed (or just started to believe) that they CAN win and beat the higher ranked opponent.
Juan Martin Del Potro Celebrating His First Win Against Nadal
Juan Martin Del Potro Celebrating His First Win Against Nadal (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Juan Martin Del Potro really believed that he could beat Nadal this time. He played Nadal 4 times before and always lost in straight sets.
When I watched Del Potro in Indian Wells two weeks before when he lost to Nadal 4-6, 2-6, he really didn’t seem to believe he could win.
He seemed intimidated by Nadal, had too much respect for him and really didn’t attack Nadal as he should.
But Del Potro learned something very important from this loss.
He learned that when he plays his own game well, Nadal will not just blast him off the court.
He realized that Nadal is just a human, that he can be neutralized by consistently playing to his backhand, that he can be attacked to the forehand side and will often just defend and that with smart tactics, it is possible to outplay Nadal.
That’s why the Miami match was completely different: Del Potro played the ball. He didn’t play the “big name”. He focused on his game plan and didn’t even falter in the final set tie-break.
This was a big break-through in Del Potro’s belief and that’s why he won against Nadal and even stretched Murray to 3 sets in the semifinal match.
Victoria Azarenka Couldn’t Believe That She Won Miami Open
Victoria Azarenka Couldn’t Believe That She Won Miami Open (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Victoria Azarenka had a very successful year so far which helped her grow her belief that she can win big matches against big players.
She won in Brisbane, lost to Serena Williams in the R16 of Australian Open (retired after winning the first set!), won in Memphis against Wozniacki, lost to in-form Zvonareva in the semi-finals of the Indian Wells, and eventually ended up in the finals of Miami facing Serena Williams.
Because Azarenka won a set against Serena before, she believed that she COULD win. Unfortunately Serena was injured in the final and really didn’t move well so she didn’t stretch Azarenka to the limit, but still, Azarenka had to play good tennis, stay focused and kept fighting to win the title.
The key for Azarenka was her belief that she CAN win although she didn’t really believe that she WILL win: “I was so nervous, I couldn’t believe I had the match point,” said Azarenka afterwards.
Novak Djokovic scored another big win against Roger Federer in the semi finals and Novak definitely believed that he COULD win.
Although his season so far was not really stellar, he did play good tennis and knew that Federer is beatable. Roger Federer hasn’t won a tournament in 2009 and Murray and Nadal showed exactly what tactics works against Roger.
Did Novak believe he WILL win? No, but he surely believed that he COULD win based on his prevoius 2 wins against Federer and based on Federer’s form.
Andy Murray had a great season so far; he won in Qatar (beat Federer in semi finals), lost to in-form Verdasco at Australian Open, beat Nadal in Rotterdam final, lost to Nadal in finals of Indian Wells (didn’t cope well with the wind but still made great result, beating Federer again) and eventually reached the finals in Miami.
Did Murray believe he COULD win against Djokovic? Definitely. He has beaten both #1 Nadal and #2 Federer this year and knew that Djokovic hasn’t had such a great year.
IN fact, when Andy finally won the Miami Open, he didn’t really look very suprised or shocked like Azarenka did. He almost expected to win and that calmness and the power of believing enabled him to play best tennis when he needed to.
What can you learn and apply to your game from these great champions?
It’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of forcing yourself to believe that you WILL win. That’s unrealistic and causes anxiety in you.
Telling yourself that you WILL win is not the key to confidence and calm approach to the match. Because as soon as the score turns in favor of your opponent, your belief will look to be proven wrong and you’ll start to lose confidence.
The belief that you WILL win is based on uncertainty and that’s why it starts to break down when things don’t go your way.
The right way to approach the match is believing that you CAN win. This belief is often formed after you have lost a few matches (or just one) with a higher ranked player and you realized that they are just human and that they have weaknesses too.
The belief that you CAN win is based on certainty (of course, if you play someone in your league) – a realistic possibility that you have the chance of winning since tennis as all other sports is not certain. So if your (even higher ranked) opponent is NOT certain that he / she will win, then there is a realistic possibility that you can win.
In other words, it is certainly possible that you can win and this belief will not be broken so easily even when things don’t go your way.
Based on all this, check the video below of Roger Federer below and share your thoughts on what Federer’s beliefs are right now and what he needs to do to at least get even with Nadal, Murray and Djokovic.