We all saw Roger Federer win yet another Grand Slam victory, totaling 19, undoubtedly making a strong case for being the GOAT … Greatest Of All-Time.
However, that’s not the purpose of this article. Let’s leave that debate to others and bring our focus to the story behind the story.
What is Roger’s driving force?
How can he continue to rebound?
And, most importantly, what can we learn from him and other greats?
Let’s discuss the driving force first. Whenever Federer talks about tennis and his longevity, he always speaks to his “Love of the game.” His enjoyment of competing. During Wimbledon, Federer said to the Guardian, “Don’t you understand that playing tennis is great fun? I don’t need to win three Slams a year to be content. If the body doesn’t want to do it, if the mind doesn’t want to do it, if my wife doesn’t want me to do it, if my kids don’t like it, I’ll stop tomorrow. Zero problem.”
Clearly, Roger is in tune with himself, his unique process and his supporting cast, his family. These components, together, allow him the freedom to play and be grateful for each match he plays. The secret to Federer’s sustained performance is that he is more than an athlete, he brings who he is (the person) to what he does (tennis). As a result, he is able to play from a grounded, centered place.
What about the question of rebounding, aka bouncing back? During Wimbledon, I remember seeing an advertisement on a New York City bus: “Reboot, Recharge and Rebound.” This struck me as making so much sense both in life and on the court.
Think about it … we spend so much time trying to “get somewhere.” Very often, we over-try, pushing the limits and grinding. Grinding almost becomes a rite of passage. Think of how many times, off the court, you reboot your computer, your phone or Kindle, and everything resets. Often, that act of rebooting is preceded by panic, pressing buttons, imagining the worst. But stepping away and a simple rest or reboot is usually all that’s necessary to clear the way.
Federer and Serena Williams are two great examples of this. Last year, Federer took six months off to allow his mind and body to heal. The result? A victory at the 2017 Australian Open, followed by time off and then Wimbledon.
Years back, I remember announcers lamenting that: “If only Serena would play more, dedicate herself more, she would have so many more Grand Slams, and have a stronger imprint in the game.” Certainly, Serena also values the saying on the bus: Reboot, Rebound and Recharge. For many, it can be difficult to take such protracted periods away from the game. However, that’s not the point, the real point is that many times, it’s not about continuing to grind and push forward. Often times, the best strategy is to stop rather than step forward and simply allow things to settle, clear your mind, loosen up, be free and then continue your journey. In my previous article titled “Untangling the Knot,” I spoke about this same idea.
As players, coaches and fans, it’s important to give some thought to what we can learn from all the players who continue to rebound, bounce back from adversity and never give up. In a nutshell, these players are the ones who don’t force, don’t over-try and don’t continue to do the same thing … that is not working, with more intensity. They are also not focused on outcome, but rather, on their unique process. They dial back to small things like positioning, targets and contact point. They are eliminating the excess noise of what they cannot control and bringing their focus back to what they can control: Playing their game, not comparing and staying patient on their journey. It’s not so much about confidence, but about inner belief and trust. They know if they lose a match, they are more than an athlete. The match is only a reflection of the score on that particular day, not a reflection of who they are as a person. From this place, they can Reboot, Recharge and Rebound from a place of clarity, allowing their journey to be their best.