Effort, desire, willingness, success

Sunday 29th January 2012 was, for me, a day spent mostly in my pyjamas watching two phenomenal athletes battle for the prestige of becoming Australian Open Champion (in men’s tennis). I don’t use the word “battle” lightly, either. Near on 6 hours of gruelling competition resulting in Novak Djokovic taking the title and further cementing his position as the best player in tennis at the current time.The winner, to me at least, didn’t really matter. I enjoy watching tennis and didn’t mind either man winning (I was gunning for a Murray vs Federer final) and cared less about the result the further the match went on. I know it is a cliché to say that neither man deserved to be beaten, so I shall refrain from saying that, but the effort put in by both men was beyond that which I have ever seen.

The end result became secondary for me as a spectator: the reasons for me continuing to watch the match deep into its sixth hour were more to see if both men would actually survive. They did. It was extraordinary. I was reminded of a video of two women completing an “Iron Man” competition where confusion, delirium and exhaustion take over as the women crawl over the line. It’s painful watching and whilst neither Nadal nor Djokovic were at that end, there were times when both men’s faces looked like they could give no more.

And yet, from somewhere, they both produced some breathtaking tennis in the final set. I was constantly clapping and cheering (they couldn’t hear me, I know) in exclamation at what both men were producing. There was one point where Djokovic was walking slightly oddly, and behind his eyes he looked defeated, gone, but he managed to win the match! I honestly thought that Djokovic wouldn’t make it, that he would fall over in exhaustion (which he did, once) and just not be able to continue. But he showed fight, grit and determination the like of which I have never seen before in my life.

All this given that, not only was he facing Rafael Nadal – arguably the fittest man on the tennis tour, but he was doing so having played for 5 hours two days beforehand against Murray, a day after Nadal had beaten Federer. The big question I am asking is simply HOW Djokovic managed to do it?

How do you possibly train for a six hour battle where you know that your opponent gives you nothing for free? How do you keep the focus and determination to win, when your opponent is looking fresh and ready to go, no matter how many times you seem to beat them? What was going on in both of the players’ minds is beyond me. I cannot begin to comprehend how those two men must have felt when the match was finally over. And fair play to Nadal who came round the net to hug the victor in his congratulations, a huge sporting act from a man who never ceases to amaze me.

I saw a tweet midway through the match that said something along the lines of “If you had 11 men with this much desire on a football team you would have world beaters instantly”. I don’t disagree with this but does this mean that, for example, footballers don’t put the same effort that these two men did? Surely not. Surely their desire to succeed is the same as Djokovic and Nadal’s and so surely they would, if need be, look as broken as those men did at the end of the match. Maybe this is not a fair analogy since football matches ALWAYS have a definite end point so maybe it is not possible for the footballers to put the same energy into their play but I’m sure that if Nadal played football then no fan would ever deny his effort for the team – he would break himself for his end goal: success.

I hope, as a result of watching this tennis match I will be reminded of how to keep going and keep fighting when the going gets tough. Much like in tennis, when playing ultimate you are not beaten until the instant where the other team gets a winning score. I really like that as it differs from the likes of football where time can stop you from mounting a victorious strike. So even if I am feeling beaten and like I cannot go on I will keep fighting and make my opponents beat me.

Don’t get me wrong, I need to prepare myself for such times. There is no way that Djokovic could have been that strong without preparing his body beforehand (and we were all impressed with how ripped he is when he tore his shirt from his body at the end) and so there is absolutely no chance that I am letting my physical condition be anything other than as good as I can make it. I will put everything I possibly can do to make sure that I can do everything in my power to help my team succeed. And I will ask you, if you won’t do that, why not?

For Djokovic and Nadal the only thing that mattered on that Sunday (Monday morning, Australia time) was winning that match. But it was not just about that one 6 hour period, but about all the preparation work beforehand. They both did everything in their power to ensure that they were able to finish that match, but not just finish it – they were both physically and mentally prepared to play their best tennis possible on the brink of exhaustion and do whatever they could to win*. It was mesmerising and, more importantly, inspiring.

I will make absolutely sure that I do nothing that will hinder my chances of being physically able to compete to the best of my ability at the back end of nationals. Djokovic and Nadal played some of their best tennis after a ridiculous time on court and so, I hope it motivates me to train hard enough to mean that I play my best ultimate deep into competitions.

If I put in the effort, have the desire and willingness to train, I will be successful.

*Within the rules, of course.


  • jessie

    Very interesting and well written Rapo.

  • Fetu

    The video of the women is horrible to watch :s

    Onto the Tennis. I too really enjoyed that match. I only saw it from the third set but even from there I could easily appreciate what a battle it was. I too thought Djokovic was in trouble as he collapsed to the floor. Nadal wanted to get on with it. Well done to Djokovic for winning the match. True sportsman the pair of them*.

    Your bit on preparation caught my eye. I think its interesting and often unappreciated how important preparation is. There’s the physical preparation sure, but its the mental preparation that interests me here. From the Open team last year, and I only had an outsider’s view, it was obvious everyone knew how important it was you guys did well that year. It was ‘your year’. I think you all had similar mental preparation, similar to that of Nadal and Djokovic. You knew the stakes were high but you believed this was your time and were going to win. Failure was not an option at nationals.

    Now here’s the question. Do each of you (incl women’s) believe it again this year? If not you’re similar to Federer and Murray at the Australian Open in my mind 😉

    *unlike many football players I might add

    1. Therapist

      I believe it can be our year. I think we are training hard and if we can get the correct balance on the lines then we will be one of the toughest teams to beat. We’ve got the talent to challenge anybody else and teams will have to get their match ups very smart to shut us down, and even if they do we’ve some exceptional talent (across all divisions) and it’ll take monumental effort to take us down.

      Last year, on the open team at least, we had a team where everybody was quite specific in where they played. In that we had three people who were definitely (on the uni team, certainly) handlers, a couple of definite mid types and then three big receivers (that’s the 8 that played indoors, anyway) so so we knew what to expect from everybody. This year, however, we’ve got people who are perhaps slightly more versatile in where they can play, which could either destroy the opposition or destroy ourselves – if everybody tries to do everything!

      As I say though, we’re strong and we should, in all three outdoor competitions at least, be looking to be in the semis/finals and once you’re there it is winnable. We’ve a chance, but we’ve got to work hard to get that chance. I know I will be

  • ShimmyJohn

    Great post Rich!

    Small correction: it was an Iron Woman competition… Nothing to do with Margaret Thatcher.

    I have nothing inspirational to add, but if you haven’t seen the “How bad do you want it?” videos then I recommend them. They’re based on a speech about success from some business man or corporate motivational thing, but have been put over different sports. If nothing else they each have some awesome training ideas in them:
    American Football: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsSC2vx7zFQ
    Basketball: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2g0Pk3gBzI

    Also Asics recently started a good ad campaign called “Made of Sport”, I saw this ad on TV earlier this month and found it pretty inspirational:

    1. Dude

      “I am made of all the days you don’t see, not just the one you do.”

      That’s enough inspiration right there..

  • Taxi

    Love the post Rapo, best one on the site so far. On Djokovic:

    I think sometimes we forget how good this guy really is. Five or so years ago people were trying to write him off as one of those players who just wasn’t fit enough to go all the way in the slam. He worked off court alledgedly giving up a whole preseason (ie not having a christmas holiday at all) to get himself super fit.

    He had learnt his trade on the mental side of the game as a junior. One of his brilliant tricks is to exagerate how tired he is and then come into the final set with kicks of energy the opponent was not expecting. He continued doing this, just with ever more kicks as his fitness had increased. After all that work he is now one of the fittest guys on tour and this means he can still perform at his highest level after 6 hours into a match 2weeks into a tournament.

    It is the same for those women. Their mental strength took them over the last few hundred yards. But it was their years of training and dedication that got them over the first 50 miles (or however long the race is).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *