The next level….
The Wimbledon final is over for another year. The sunshine, strawberries and prosecco have been quaffed down in large quantities, leaving behind fond memories and beaming smiles. And what a classic the men’s final served up.
It reminded me of another classic sporting event that inspired my soul, the famous rumble in the jungle, Ali v. Foreman. The fight was made into a film ‘When We Were Kings’ and a line from the soundtrack springs to mind “I saw the devil spar with the lord”, which I think captures the epic struggle that played out during the boxing match. Ali demonstrated the levels that could be reached with willpower.
Coming back to tennis, the Wimbledon final in 2008 was the famous match of the century, Federer v. Nadal, where both players pushed the boundaries in mental and physical performance. I can still recollect the feeling in the pit of my stomach and hairs standing up on the back of my neck, watching the super human efforts both tennis players produced. Your eyes were witnessing it but your mind still couldn’t comprehend what it was seeing: ‘how the hell did he get that shot back in?’ That game set the standard for the level that tennis would be played for the next decade, and helped deliver what unfolded in this year’s Wimbledon final.
Novak stated after the game, “it was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding match I was ever part of”. Novak had to save two match points and pull himself back from the abyss. With the crowd heavily against him cheering on King Federer, Novak had to reframe the crowd’s chants in his mind, “when the crowd is chanting ‘Roger’ I hear ‘Novak’ ”. Novak credited mental training and visualization for helping him through the epic struggle that unfolded on centre court, adding it was more difficult for him than the physical toll on his body. “I always try to imagine myself as a winner. I think there is a power to that”. “Also there has to be, next to the willpower, strength that comes not just from your physical self, but from your mental and emotional self…For me at least it’s a constant battle within more than what happens outside…It’s really not the situations that you experience that are affecting you but how you internally experience those situations, how you accept them, how you live through them”.
As a mental performance coach these quotes from Novak are music to my ears, I love how Roger, Rafa, Novak and Andy have set the standards and created dialogue around the importance of mental skills for performance. Novak’s words about the importance of internal experience and acceptance are particularly important for me as it links back to the benefits of practicing mindfulness, especially for sports.
I would love to hear your take on the final and the words of wisdom from Novak.