Jun 7, 2009

Nadal and Federer

As I blog this, Federer has won the French Open final. A final that was possible because a little known player beat the king of clay, Rafael Nadal.

Nadal's comment is a great insight on what goes through a champion's mind when winning becomes a second nature. From the Times sports page :
Then came his quote, one of the more revelatory to emerge from a post-match press conference, occasions that typically incubate soulless banalities: “Defeats never make you grow, but you also realise how difficult what I achieved up until today was, and this is something you need sometimes. You need a defeat to give the value to your victories.”

And it was that last sentiment that penetrated the deepest, many discerning something vaguely Kipling-esque in its powerful simplicity. “You need a defeat to give the value to your victories.”

None of this is to dispute that Nadal would have enjoyed victory at this year's French Open. He would have felt a palpable sense of elation and marvelled at how his name was being writ ever larger into the iconography of the game he so dearly loves. But would it have compared to the virginal emotions of his first victory, or even his second or third? Would it mean quite as much if he were defending his title for the tenth or fifteenth time?

Defeat is a precious gift to the all-conquering sportsman: an opportunity to learn, to adapt, to develop. But ultimately it is an opportunity to rediscover the essential meaning of victory. That is why Nadal will return stronger, deeper and hungrier.

Nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.

The point of this post?

Career success can help you grow a lot. But sometimes failure can bring its own lessons. One must look beyond the pain of the loss and internalise that lesson.

Like Federer has had to .
If Federer accepts that he is no longer the king the pressure comes off. Nadal becomes the man to beat, which leaves Federer more relaxed. Right now, Nadal is the Buddha with a tennis racquet. He has the confidence that comes from knowing you will win. “The winner is always relaxed,” says Dr. Gary Canivez, head of Apex Sports Psychology Services, and goes on to talk of Usain Bolt at the last Olympics: “He was effortless. You look at the other runners, and their faces show that they are straining. They are not efficient.”