Rodger Federer - 7 times Wimbledon Champion
Novak Djokovic - 3 times Wimbledon Champion
Rafael Nadal - 2 times Wimbledon Champion
Andy Murray - 2 times Wimbledon Champion
What do these Wimbledon Champions’ all have in common – what makes them so special?
Aside from the obvious physical capabilities of a tennis champion; flexibility, balance, strength, agility, and speed (to name a few), maintaining particular psychological traits can set you apart from being a world class player and being a Champion!
So, let’s dive into the minds of the greats and explore three of these traits that set them apart from the rest....
Personal Resilience –
2012 saw Andy Murray take the runner’s up place at Wimbledon to Rodger Federer. In 2013, Murray came back with a bang and won for the first time. Following this, Murray’s season was cut short by his decision to have back surgery. His sheer tenacity and resilience over the next three years finally saw him win his second Wimbledon title.
While many tennis players look to minimise stress levels, Champions acknowledge that pressure is an unavoidable and valuable part of performance. They develop their personal resilience so that they can thrive under these conditions and trust they can bounce back from adversity. For example, their resilience will help them thrive under the pressure of a second serve, bounce back from a match point, or brush off intimidating crowds.
‘You have to believe in the long-term plan you have, but you need the short-term goals to motivate and inspire you’ - Roger Federer.
A player’s level of motivation has a great impact not only how they perform on the court, but also on how they feel. When their motivation is high, they’ll feel engaged, energized, and filled with purpose. However, if their motivation is low, they may feel listless, disengaged, or uninterested, and it may be a real struggle to keep things moving forward. You may think motivation is a given for any world class athlete, but a lack of motivation was a key explanation Australia’s second-ranked player, Bernard Tomic, gave for his straight set defeat in the first round of Wimbledon this year.1
So how do the Champions maintain their motivation? One tactic they will undoubtedly use is goal setting. Not only will goals be achievable, stretching and realistic, they will also focus on the immediate, versus the long-term vision. Setting great goals will ensure that each time a goal is achieved, motivation will increase.
Djokovic is recognised as the game’s finest returner of the serve. His instincts and hand-eye coordination are world class2. However, it could be argued that it is Djokovic’s concentration during these high-pressured moments that make him stand out above the rest. The ability to focus his attention on the task at hand and not be distracted by internal factors (e.g. dwelling on an earlier mistake) or external factors (e.g. a bad call from the umpire) is vital for maintaining a consistent and high level of performance.
Psychological strategies such as positive self-talk and visualisation, will have been developed by Djokovic, which enable him to concentrate on the task at hand. Similarly, Nadal’s unusual shuffle ahead of a serve could be acknowledged as a pre-performance routine; another type of strategy to aid concentration and ‘get in the zone’.
These three psychological traits are likely to be significant contributing factors to how and why the four Wimbledon legends maintain the title between them. After 14 years of the Wimbledon Cup sitting on their shelves, can anyone match their levels of resilience, motivation, and concentration and challenge them for this year’s title?