With the announcement that Roger Federer will make his return to play in Doha next month, it got me reflecting on his greatest career mental traits, and what parents can learn from this…
I believe he has 3 that stand out:
If 1 statistic characterizes Federer's resilience, it is this…
He has come back from 2 sets down 10 times, this is equal all-time record shared with Aron Krickstein and Boris Becker.
An amazing achievement…
2.) Performing his Best Under Pressure
Federer has always been clutch...but just how clutch even surprised me.
To consider this I reviewed the open era records of some of the world’s best male players in Grand Slam sets that went past 5-5…
And the results?
Federer, along with Raphael Nadal, hold clearly the best career winning % in close Grand Slam sets at 70%...
Djokovic wins 66%...
And the next best I found was Sampras at 63%...
This one is pretty obvious....
A great passion of mine throughout my career as a sport psychologist has been supporting parents on the tennis parenting journey.
I quickly formed the opinion early in my career that tennis parents in the organisations that I worked were having more influence on player mental toughness outcomes than coaches.
I also learned that National Organisations, the bodies that should be prioritised supporting parents throughout the tennis parenting journey, do a terrible job in this area.
This contributes to i.) consistent parent and coach overwhelm and helplessness, and ii.) poor competitive habits and common issues with well-being for players.
And while coaches generally do their best to support tennis parents in this challenging role, we typically miss some vital elements in successfully assisting parents...
Why do efforts to support parents often fail?
The reason that efforts to support tennis parents often aren't adequate is that those looking to help simply give parents...
Invest 5min of your day right now in watching this video if you want to become a better coach, tennis parent, or player....
The last couple of months have been a little bit of a whirlwind for me having my first child…Kudos to all or you who are also parents- it didn't look as challenging as I'm finding it from the sidelines :-)
But with the fog clearing I had the chance to watch some of the ATP Finals during the week which was great J
And one moment stood out from a mental perspective…
When Dominic Thiem was trying to finish Novak Djokovic in the 2nd set tiebreak despite being one of the most relentlessly aggressive players on the tour, he didn’t commit to this gamestyle in that moment. Instead he played more conservatively and even defensively on a few points.
This cost him the set after having 5 match points….
He did amazingly well, however, in recommitting to aggression when down in the 3rd set breaker, to reel off an incredible run of points to get the win.
When asked whether his win was more of a mental battle than a physical battle...
Another Rafa Nadal French Open looked less likely at the beginning of the tournament as he reported feeling frustrated with the tournament balls and cool conditions.
He openly discussed his doubts whether he could win the tournament given these challenges.
Yet at the end of the tournament he stood as the champion once again following one of the best Grand Slam finals performances in the history of the sport.
Check out the key learning I took from his remarkable victory:
When asked how he had most helped Dominic Thiem as a junior, his former coach Gunter Bresnik replied, "Stress Tolerance".
And it is this one skill that most contributed to both Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem becoming 2020 US Open singles champions.
In a moment I will outline the basic steps to improving stress tolerance. But first, a couple of reflections on the finals matches:
Osaka Navigates Her Way to the Finish Line
Osaka is quickly stamping herself as a very special big tournament, big match player.
Regarding tournaments, 3 of her 6 career titles are now Grand Slams. For some context, excluding Serena, most of the best players in the world have historically won at least 5 regular tour tour titles for every 1 Grand Slam victory.
And in the biggest matches she is now 3-0 in Grand Slam finals. What is super impressive is the differing paths and challenges she's had to take and face to get to the finish line.
In her 1st US Open final she had to deal with...
I'm not sure I've ever seen 2 collapses when just 1 game away from winning at 5-1 up in such quick succession as we saw with Stefano Tsitsipas and Kristina Mladenovic this week.
These 2 losses got me reflecting on one key learning point that I'm pretty sure I've never discussed before.
And this is that in certain circumstances confidence can actually become an obstacle to winning.
Check out my thoughts in the video below:
Competitiveness is a requirement for becoming a successful tennis player. It is the basis for the motivation to work hard to improve skill and compete to win.
Being competitive means players also feel the emotions of competing more strongly. Competitive players feel more joy and relief when they win. But they also feel more fear and frustration to do with not winning.
This in turn makes them more vulnerable to developing unintentional habits that are about avoiding and reducing the fear, frustration, and pain that comes with possible and actual loss.
If players are to become successful a high level of competitiveness is required. But once this is present the next most important focus should be for parents and coaches to help these players learn how to respond well to the more intense difficult emotions to do with competing that they will naturally feel.
In my last video I talked about the 4 categories of Committed Actions that players can commit to during points.
But what happens at the end of points?
Typically players automatically judge the success of a point based on the outcome along with how well they executed their skills. But to improve mental toughness, we want them to practice asking a vital question which will help them connect more with the processes that will help them compete more effectively.
To find out what that question is check out this week’s ‘Mental Toughness Made Simple’ video…
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