Lessons from the 2017 Australian Open Tennis finals

Watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the 2016 Australian Tennis Open was deeply inspiring. Here were two guys, who have been written off in favour of younger and more energetic rivals. Yet after two weeks Federer and Nadal were doing the unthinkable, they were playing in the final of a Grand Slam. Playing earlier in the Women’s Final were the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena Williams. When was the last time we had an all Williams final? one will have to go back to the archives to check out the last time we had an Williams final. I draw some lessons from these finals. These finals played by 30 year-olds in the era of grueling baseline rallies and brutal service games, were not meant to happen, at least on paper!

1) Never give up

If these players had listened to critics and armchair analysts they would have long since stopped playing tennis. I can’t tell you how many comments I have read where tennis wrote off these players and advised them to hang up their retire. If these players stopped to entertain critics they would have quit their dreams long back.  They were too old, they no longer had what it took to win. It is always fascinating to read articles which proclaim the end of an era. Yet these same players had other ideas. Instead of fading away quietly they have stuck it out. They are still playing with greater hunger, going for every point like the match depends on it.

2) Be prepared to work hard for a very long time

If you talk to these champions they will tell you that they were preparing for a very long time, many months in the gym and on the practice court. There was a story that Roger Federer would practice one of shots for four hours. The fantastic shots and precision that we have come to admire is not only a results of talent but the incredible work that has been put it to refine it.

We the fans see the glamorous results, the Grand Slam tournaments but there are many struggles and battles in betweens. The struggle to regain match fitness after a long time away, polishing up one’s game and overcoming weaknesses, overcoming health challenges. What we witness in a few hours is a result of a lifetime of dedication. Are you prepared to stay the course? If you want to be among the winner, you need the work ethic or a winner.

3) Stay close to the team and the team will get you through

Only those people on the inside really know what they players had to endure. For Federer he had not won a Grand Slam since 2012. He took the longest injury-related-break in his career due to injury. Nadal left the French Open in tears. i had no idea that we might see him again at that level. Venus Williams, we cannot even remember the last time she was in a Grand Slam but she stayed the course. She showed that she still has the mentality and game of a winner. Venus had good reason to leave the game altogether. She has battled illness for a very long time and even her biggest supporters have at times doubt her but the team helped to keep her going. The team helped her to maintain perspective.

Build your team and invest in them. They are your strength and support system. Not everyone in the world needs to know what’s going on in your world. There will be too much attention and too many comments from people who don’t really matter. Keep close to the team. You can trust them and count on them to help you through.

4) If you stick around, your chances will come

There are so many great players now and you never know what will happen in a Grand Slam tournament. However, if you keep taking part, something will happen sooner or later. Watching the matches during the Australian Open, some of the top seeds were upset and this open things up for Federer and Nadal. WIth Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray knocked out, suddenly Federer and Nadal were in the mix, they were playing very well and with the top seeds out of the tournament anything was possible.

It’s quite logical. If you have more attempts you increase the likelihood of your success. Serena Williams has been trying to reach 23 Grand Slam titles for a very long time now and she had come incredibly close to reaching that milestone in the past few years. Each time failed to win a Grand Slam she would just come back in the next one.Put yourself in a position to achieve your goals and one day the stars will align for you.

5) You right off winners at your own peril

Winners stay in the game because they know that they still have what it takes to reach the highest levels. You right them off at your own peril. Everyone time a winner steps onto the court, onto the field, into the ring, into the office, you know great things can happen. They know what it takes to win and will do everything it takes to get onto the podium again.
People may write you off but you know deep inside that you can do it. Nurture that belief but more than that. Live it every day.

6) Try a different plan

The Federer Nadal final was very interesting from a tactical and strategy perspective. These players have played so many matches and the way the match goes is very predictable. Nadal will put massive pressure on the Federer backhand by hitting high bouncing top spins. When Federer returns, he would return with a chip backhand which is quite a soft return. In a typical game Nadal could hit say 70% of the balls to the Federer forehand because technically that is the weakest part of the Federer game. Nadal would then pounce on this easy ball by return withing with a very hard ball. This patten would be repeated in pretty much every game and for this return Nadal would generally dictate the match. However, the Australian Open saw a different game plan from Federer. He stopped his soft chip backhands and instead opted from the flatter backhand which was very close to the net. This return from Federer was very aggressive and Nadal could no longer rely on the success from his tried and tested strategy against Federer. It was my first time seeing Federer dictate Nadal in a very long time. If your plan does not work, try something else. There is no doubt that Federer came to the match with a different game plan.

If you are getting frustrated in life because your plans are not working, have you analysed things to get to the root cause. Why is your plan not working? How about plan B? How do you overcome this failure that is getting in the way of success? Don’t get stuck on an ineffective or inefficient plan, try a different way of doing things.
In summary,
Never give up.
Be prepared to work hard for a very long time.
Stay close to the team and the team will get you through.
If you stick around, your chances will come.
You write-off winners at your own peril.
Try a different plan if things are not working.