Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Wimbledon Diary: Novak Djokovic, A Peak Performance Case Study

"When my streak ended in Paris it was kind of a relief as well, because it's been a very successful five, six months, but it's also been long and exhausting. I needed some time to relax and I'm happy to see that I'm playing well again and I'm mentally really fresh to have more success."
--Novak Djokovic, whose streak of 43 matches won recently came to an end.
Over the past year, Djokovic has been playing his best tennis:  in addition to "The Streak," three consecutive wins over Roger Federer, a Grand Slam win at the Australian Open, a first-ever win for Serbia in the Davis Cup, and back-to-back wins over Nadal and Federer to win the BNP Paribas Open.  

Is Novak Djokovic positioned to win at Wimbledon?  Let's look at various aspects of a winning mentality.   

Realistic Confidence

"Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer] are the two biggest favourites," he said, "because they've been so dominant the last couple years, especially on grass. They are the only two players who have been winning this tournament for quite some time. Obviously, there is Andy Murray, who is home favourite. He's playing really well on grass courts and Wimbledon last couple years.
"It's true there is a different approach to this year's Wimbledon from my side because I'm playing, I think, the best tennis of my life in the last six months. That's why I believe in myself much more on the court and I know I can perform well, equally well, on this surface as I do on the other ones."
Maturity and Perspective

""We grew up in the worst time for our country (war-torn Serbia).  But it made us stronger, made us fight for what we want to achieve, made us people who appreciate life more.  We have been through difficult things in our career, and we appreciate success much more, even though we are still young."
"This is a difficult sport. It just depends where you grow up. It's a matter of luck in the end, but that's life. But probably this hunger for the success which we all have and still have, you can see it in the girls like [Maria] Sharapova and the Williams sisters and the girls and guys from Serbia.
"You see how much they appreciate to be in that position and how much energy and emotions they put on the court. It's quite amazing. I know for myself I play with a lot of emotions, positive emotions, negative emotions. But this is how I feel and how I am. I'm a guy with alot of temperment, becuase I know how much it means to me to be in that position."

--Novak Djokovic, discussing the new wave of young players whose desire to succeed is born of economic hardship and cultural upheaval, particularly in Eastern Europe.

Focus:  Competition, Learning and a Continuous Improvement Mentality

When discussing his toughest competition, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Djokovic says that they help him focus and develop.

"They're always lifting the limits.  In each event--literally each event you're playing--you have to play at least semifinals or finals. It's ridiculous how successful and how consistent they are, how mentally strong.  It's a big challenge, something that makes you grow up.

"When I step on the court, especially with Federer and Nadal, I believe I can win against them.  That's what's different about me.  Before I was just trying to play my best tennis, but now I want to win."


Djokovic has been more emotionally balanced this year.  In the past, his performance was a source of frustration.

"He was more up-and-down, and physically, he wan't ready--he'd get more aggravated.  Emotionally , he's settled down," says his coach of the last five years, Marian Vajda.

"Think positive.  LIfe is too short to think otherwise" says Djokovic.

From a mental standpoint, it appears Djokovic could go deep into the Wimbledon draw, perhaps come out with the title.  He seems mentally prepared.

Are you mentally prepared for the challenge, unknowns, turbulence and competition of the future?  

Excerpts from the New York Times 1/29/08, Tennis magazine (June 2011) and Reuters (June 21, 2011).

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