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One Key Learning From Rafa's Roland Garros Victory

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:

 

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Osaka, Thiem, and the Key Skill that Most Contributed to Their US Open Finals Victories

 

 

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...

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Encouraging Players to Control Emotions Not Working...Try This Instead

 

 

If your efforts to help your players control emotions haven’t helped them compete better, you’re not alone!

Instead of trying to reduce the intensity of difficult nerves and frustration when they show up during matches, here’s an alternative 3 step approach that you can advise your players to use…

In the video, I’ll also explain why this approach is helpful. And if you’d like a copy of the activity instructions to go here: https://www.mentallytoughtennis.com/notice-look-activity-signup

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Maria Sharapova's Defining Glory: The 2014 French Open

 

  

##This was an article I wrote in 2014 summarising Maria Sharapova's incredible mental toughness...

How fitting!

It would not have been quite right had Maria Sharapova completed one of the all-time great grand slam title runs in any other way.

A mighty struggle of over 3 hours; faced with the adversity of double faults at key times throughout the match; seeing the 2nd set slip from her grasp when so close to victory; but ultimately decided, like so often throughout her magnificent career, by her ability to respond to the adversities characteristic of 3-set encounters just a little better than her brave opponent.

Sharapova’s Remarkable Career 3-set Record...

Think of any quality associated with mental toughness and Maria Sharapova ticks the box:

Competes effectively when behind;

Competes effectively when not playing her best;

Competes effectively under pressure;

Competes effectively when in front;

Competes effectively through adversity.

In total,...

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Short Term vs Long Term Gains

 

  

Traditionally the field of Sport Psychology has recommended strategies like controlling difficult emotions to feel better- because we know when we feel better it’s easier to commit to helpful actions.

Similarly, the recommended goal to do with anxious, angry, or outcome thoughts has been to avoid or reduce them.

When done successfully this helps players in the short term.... but there are 2 problems with this approach that  tend to lead to big problems in the long term.

1.) Because the thoughts and feelings that show up during competition are based on the situation and our history within similar circumstances (including human evolutionary history), these strategies are very hard to do effectively when players most want them to work.

2.) In the long term players become less ‘fit’ in being able to tolerate internal difficulties, and more reliant on having to feel good to play good. This in turn tends to lead to players experiencing more...

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Emotional Fitness vs Emotional Control

 

 

The emotions we feel during matches are based on the situation itself combined with millions of lifelong learning experiences from past similar situations.

This means that it is actually easier to improve the relationship we have with our difficult match related emotions (and therefore respond better to them with our actions) than it is to control the difficult emotions itself.

The weird thing is that this ‘emotional fitness’ approach tends to result in less intense difficult emotions in the long term, without ever trying to control them.

The same goes for difficult unintentional match related thoughts as well.

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Djokovic's Mental Edge...

 

 

Time and time again Novak Djokovic successfully navigates both the external and his own internal challenges to find his way to finish line 1st in the biggest matches.

Asked after his 8th Aus Open victory what it is that gives him this mental edge in the biggest matches Novak said this:

"My upbringing was in Serbia during several wars…embargo in my country where we had to wait in line for bread and water.

I think these things make you stronger. They make you hungrier for success in whatever you choose to do. That has been my foundation, the very fact that I came from such difficult life circumstances.

And going back to that and reminding myself where I came from always inspires and motivates me to push harder and so thats probably one of the reasons that I manage to find that extra gear or mental strength to overcome challenges when they present themselves."

Too often those of us responsible for helping players develop the required resilience and grit needed to...

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How Has Simona Halep Improved So Much?

 

 

I listened with fascination to Darren Cahill's interview following Simona Halep's dominant quarter-final win at the Aussie Open, and thought I'd share a couple of the key points and reflections.

1.) Regarding her improved approach to responding to difficult internal experiences that are part of competition Cahill said:

“As far as I'm concerned, the relationship is exactly the same. She's still as stressed on the court as she always is, but she's learning ways to deal with it and to handle it.”

“After letting two breaks slip against Mertens in the Round of 16 and then having chances in the 4-3 game in the second set, Simona got back to 4-all, had break points in the 4-all game and missed them. The old Simona would have let that game go, but she refused to give up in that game."

“That's what I'm most proud of is that fight that she's showing when a few things go against her. That's been the big change in her I have seen over the last two or three...

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The Psychology of Nadal vs Kyrgios: 2 Vital Lessons

 

 

Wow...what a match!

Nadal was at his incredibly tough best and my sense that Kyrgios is finally making great progress towards becoming an effective competitor to complement his crazy physical talents looks more and more likely to be the case.

Here are 2 vital lessons to take from the match:

1.) Nadal shows again that choking is usually not fatal if you can respond well to the common experience of trying to finish close matches.

In tonight’s match, when Nadal realized that the finish line was in sight when leading in the 3rd set tie-break and again when he was serving for the match at 5-4 in the 4th set he suddenly tightened…A couple of double faults and playing more tentatively, along with Kyrgios's great fighting spirit, allowed Kyrgios to win the 3rd and prolong the 4th. 

But, as usual, to Nadal's huge credit he recovered from both chokes quickly  and got the job done…

There are a few key things we want to remember when trying to...

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Nick Kyrgios, Why Players Get Angry at their Support Crew, and How to Change It

 

 

 

Why is getting angry at others, particularly those people who players are close to like their support team, so common?

In my latest 'Mental Toughness Made Simple' video I use Nick Kyrgios as a case study to help understand why players so commonly get addicted to this habit. I also discuss the 4 Step process that breaking the addiction almost always requires. 

Interestingly, the reason players develop this habit can be the same reason that they give up, use excuses, or even lose concentration so if any of these issues sound familiar to you this video really is a must watch. The great news for Kyrgios is that on the evidence so far this Aussie Open, with the support of his team he appears to be finally making steady progress in improving all of these issues... 

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