Tennis: The Champions Masterclass

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It’s the fifth set of the Wimbledon’s mens single final. Rafael Nadal is pounding Roger Federer. He has vital break points at 2-2. It’s a pivotal moment in the game. The champion is on the ropes.

Minutes later Federer heads for the chair 3-2 up. There is a spark in his eye. A spring in his step. And with it a sense of knowing. A sense that champions get. That this is it. This is the moment. The turning point. And so it proves. He has taken all Nadal has got to throw at him. Nadal is finally beaten.

So what is it that great champions draw on in these testing moments, when their title is on the line? When they seem down and out. What are the enduring qualities that sustain and lift them?

Here are some the qualities of true champions:

Motivation – A four times champion has to be hungry for a fifth title. When he has to find extra, there must to be a ‘powerful reason why’ deep in the well. Federer had the motivation of equalling Bjorn Borg’s five titles. He was also helped by having Borg observe respectfully above the court. It was a constant visual reminder and prompt, of his goals and motivation.

Defiance – When the heat is on, the champion must find the defiance, that says, ‘There is no way I am reliquishing my title. It will simply not happen’. This defiance is born out of the pride of being a champion. The pride of what it has taken to reach this level of excellence. The pride of the lineage of champions that you are connected to…The Lavers, McEnroe’s, Beckers, Sampras etc. You not just represent you. You represent them as well.

Belief – Being a four times champion gives you the knowing of what it takes to win. It is lodged in the tennis sub-conscious. Whilst the day may be new, the situation isn’t. You are able to access the state, or feeling of being a champion.

That brings with it a confidence, a sense of certainty, a calmness under pressure. All of which compounds into a state of belief. A belief that you will find a way to win, even if right now, you don’t know how you are going to do so. However bad it gets, if your belief is intact, you can find a way through. Belief brings all the strengths together in a conference of trust.

Being a champion is not just a measure of your natural talent. It’s a test of your ability to act and think like champion. The more you act and think like a champion, the more of a champion you become. That’s what makes you so very hard to beat. It is in essence, what makes the psychology of sport so compelling.