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Why I think tennis is like life

So, we’re almost half way into Wimbledon fortnight and already it’s thrown up its fair share of surprise results, early retirements through injury etc.

As I was watching the Gasquet vs Soeda match I started thinking about the parallels between Tennis and Life.

At the beginning of every point each player follows their own little ritual; the number of times they bounce the ball, the twist of the racquet, the little clothing adjustments etc. Similarly most of us start the day with very similar habitual behaviours. We’ll start by maybe walking the same way to the bathroom, then perhaps we’ll stumble downstairs to put the kettle on, let the dog out etc. etc.

How often do we actually do something different in the morning?
Sometimes these daily habits are helpful and put us in the perfect frame of mind to start the day. However, more often than not we’ll get up out of bed and then begin another drab day of “same old, same old.”

Those habits you engage in each morning can either set you up for a great day of a bad day, it’s your choice. If you’re happy each morning and can’t wait to get to work, school or whatever, then carry on. If however, you get each morning feeling dull and listless and as if you want to stay in bed, then why not try something different? You don’t have to do the same thing every morning, think back to when you were younger and couldn’t wait to get up and go somewhere, or do something. What was that like? What were you thinking about? How excited were you?

Tennis players have their rituals in order to reproduce the exact same state at the beginning of every point. If the ritual doesn’t have the right effect, their coach might vary it with them until it does. Look at Andy Murray, for example, a couple of years ago he was struggling to maintain his composure and concentration when things weren’t going well in a match. It showed in his results, if only he could control his self defeating behaviour. Enter Ivan Lendl, as soon as Ivan Lendl started coaching him, his mental preparation improved and last year he won an Olympic Gold medal and the US open, beating both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer!

Time after time in tennis we see the underdog come out on top and the favourites crash out, and so it is in life. Just because you’re not expected to win, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Similarly, just because you are expected to win, it doesn’t mean you can cruise and take you eye off the ball.

Life is full of committed and persistent individuals that overcome the odds to achieve greatness. It’s within each and every one of us to achieve greatness in some form. Whether it be in business, in sport, as a parent, as a student, or as a partner.

It doesn’t matter what you do, if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can overcome the odds and be great at something. The only thing stopping you is you. Your excuses, your reasons, aren’t real. They’re a mental construct designed to keep you safe, away from risk and ultimately unsatisfied.

How many times in a tennis match have we seen the victor come from behind to win? It’s never too late, not until that final match point is lost. The great players keep going, doggedly playing point after point until they get there. At the end of each point lost, they turn around and walk back to the base line, reset their attitude and follow the ritual designed to get them in the right state to win the next point.

The same applies in life, we have our point wins and our point losses. Sometimes we’ll lose a match, sometimes we’ll be on a winning streak. It’s the nature of the game.

Just like the great tennis players of our generation, we can’t very often do it all on our own. If you want to be like Andy Murray, or Roger Federer, or Novak Djokovic, surround yourself with people who will support you, who will help you along the way. Look around you, there are people close to you who want to help you win at the game of life, and people you can help win.

So remember, if your habitual behaviours don’t serve you. Change them.
If you feel like you’re falling behind, galvanise yourself and remember it’s never to late to win.
If you feel like you need help, look around. There’s people there to help you. All you need do is ask.