Recently, I asked my brother Paul how Rafa continues to be so successful at age 36. His answer was something that we all hear over and over when coaches give advice to their players: he plays every single point as if it were match point.
This sounds like an impossible idea to execute and for most players, it is. However, Rafa's mindset is to go after every ball, hit every shot the best he can, and then regardless of the outcome, repeat this over and over. He has mastered the ability to dismiss failure, capitalize on success, and persevere regardless of the outcome. It is human nature to be influenced by what has just happened, especially if it was not what you had hoped.
Dealing with adversity is extremely difficult yet incredibly important if you want to succeed at anything. The problem in tennis is that you are asked to do this over and over, sometimes for three or more hours, and then go do it again in the next match. To me, winning a Grand Slam tournament is one of the most amazing accomplishments in professional sports since you have to do this on seven (10 for Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open!) separate occasions. Now think about what it takes to win THE Grand Slam in a calendar year and you will appreciate how close Djokovic came to it, and how amazing it is that Rod Laver won it twice.
Play every single point the best you can regardless of the score, the outcome of the last shot or point, and the obstacles along the way. This will give you a lot of opportunities to succeed and help you become the best player you can be.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com throughout the Hamptons, NY. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (Tucson, AZ) for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org