Asserting themselves even in the face of defeat
I just ran across this article on Wozniacki by James Martin of Tennis.com. On the surface, the article might appear to equate offense with power. “She needs to hit harder and go for more winners.’ But if you read a little deeper you will see that there is more to it than that.
James Martin also talks about a mindset. It is an assertive mindset that distinguishes the true champions. Sampras does not have the most powerful serve. Federer does not have the most powerful strokes. They hit hard but there are others who can hit harder.
They both have fluidity and variety. In fact, if you think about Federer, Sampras and McEnroe everyone would agree they have incredible hands. So does Borg and so does Nadal. It is not as natural but they have used variety to augment their games.
And all of them used offense. But the overall theme of the article seems to bottle up the essence of a higher level of tennis.
In fact, I really think that Federer is the king of variety and strategy. He just uses all his weapons to move people around the court and then hits an easy winner. He is also not afraid to attack.
There are times were seems to be shanking his backhand but will continue attacking. The same with his forehand.
He is willing to lose a match but he will not give up attacking. See the match point from the Federer vs. Nadal Wimbledon final in 2008:
You probably saw Nadal falling to the ground and Federer missing a forehand after a somewhat awkward bounce. But what was Federer doing. He was hitting an aggressive approach shot.
And that was on the last point of the match. He missed and the rest is history but he did not back down and stop attacking.
If you watch the great players they will keep attacking until the very end. But they attack in all sorts of ways. Federer is the king at this because he uses variety to confuse opponents and create openings.
Martin points out that Wozniacki has reached a level of success with a pretty simple plan. She gets everything back and just outlasts her opponent.
The problem is that the true champions will do more. They will assert themselves even if it means losing. He suggests that this is a necessary step that is needed for Wozniacki to begin winning tournaments.
There is one last thing that is interesting. Both Federer and Sampras seemed to arrive a little later (if we exclude Sampras USO at 19). Sampras talks about the fact that he was never afraid to lose. This might be part of the key.
They might lose but this does not shake their self belief. Some people have even commented on Serena Williams as never admitting that she lost. It is is almost as if she could have won had she just had a little more time.
Now it is not that they don’t know they lost. They know they lost. But I suspect that they quickly search for a reason and then try to rectify this.
Champions may actually be defined in how they respond to losses.
Federer seems to have actually improved his backhand in the last year. Lendl took the whole summer to prepare for Wimbledon and made it to the finals. Martin points out Bill Tilden actually developed a whole new weapon. Sampras switched his backhand in order to be able to approach and volley better.
These things all indicate a certain mindset. It is indicative of them taking control and asserting themselves even in the face of defeat.
It does not always guarantee victory. But it does guarantee that they will lose on their own terms.
And for many of the best champions this assertive mindset led to victory more often than defeat.
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This entry was posted on Friday, March 26th, 2010 at 11:25 am and is filed under Arturo’s Tips, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
2 Responses to “Asserting themselves even in the face of defeat”
April 2nd, 2010 at 1:04 pm
Great article, Arturo and thanks for your contribution to tennisthoughts.com. Roger lost this week in Miami against Berdych in a similar way; he missed the last attacking forehand.
The video below shows the whole of the third set tie-break but if you fast forward you can see only the last point.
This situation tells us two things:
1. Federer keeps attacking regardless of the score – as suggested in your post above.
2. Even the greatest champions fall victims to nerves – so we shouldn’t blame ourselves when this happens to us.
Both missed forehands – against Nadal and against Berdych – were unforced errors. Roger was not forced into trouble and the only reason why he missed a forehand was a mental cause.
This could be doubt, indecision, going for too much or something similar – which are all the consequence of anxiety – or nerves as we often call it.
April 5th, 2010 at 11:30 am
I noticed that, too. I really think that Federer treats all the Masters series tournaments like practice matches. But the interesting thing is that he always attacks no matter what. So when the big points come he will keep attacking and not lose that instinct. Do you think he might just be a bit bored outside of the slams?