Wow….what an incredible men’s final on Sunday!
By now you’ve probably seen some of the match, or some highlights, but what you probably HAVEN’T heard are Rafael Nadal’s candid thoughts immediately afterward in his press conference.
Every once in a while a great champion gives us a glimpse of what makes them tick, and that 11 minute interview was one such occasion.
Below are two of his top four quotes from the presser along with powerful lessons that all us mere mortals can take away from how Nadal approaches the game mentally.
Questions from journalists are in bold…
Quote 1: Doubts and Negative Thoughts
Q. “Daniil said at 2-3 in the third set, he was thinking what speech he would make after he lost. He thought he was going to lose. At any point did you think that it was going to go the wrong way for you?”
RAFAEL NADAL: “If I thought I going to lose?”
RAFAEL NADAL: “Of course, when you have breakpoint against in the beginning of the fifth, losing the last two sets, you are in trouble. But I really try to avoid this thought. I always believe that I going to keep having chances. That’s the way that I approach.
Of course, I was in trouble. But I played a not very good game at the 3-2 of that third set. In that moment things looks under control, but then Daniil increased a lot and changed a lot of things.”
- Lesson 1: ALL tennis players have negative thoughts and doubt themselves in the heat of the moment, even Nadal who is one of the most mentally tough players to ever step onto a court!What separates successful players from unsuccessful ones at all levels isn’t whether or not they have doubts, but rather their response to those thoughts when they happen.
Notice how Rafa CHOOSES to focus on what’s right in front of him: “I’m going to keep having chances”.
Instead of getting caught up in the emotion of letting the match slip away (past) or the embarrassment of potentially losing after winning the first two sets (future) he stays squarely grounded in problem solving in the present.
Without that mindset winning the 5th set would have been impossible.
Quote 2: Results vs Process
Q. “Now you have these 19 majors. For fans the race is very special. Talk about your winning your 19th and the competition between the three.”
RAFAEL NADAL: “I don’t look it that way. I always say the same: I would love to be the one who win more, but I am not thinking and I not going to practice every day or not playing tennis for it. I am playing tennis because I love to play tennis.
I can’t just think about Grand Slams, no? Tennis is more than Grand Slams. I need to think about the rest of the things.
I play to be happy. Of course, the victory of today makes me super happy. But few weeks ago I won in Montreal and have been important moment for me, too.
I feel honored to be part of this battle.
But I repeat the same: you can’t be all day looking next to you about if one having more or one having little bit less because you will be frustrated. All the things that I achieved in my career are much more than what I ever thought and what I ever dream.
I would love to be the one who have more, yes. But I really believe that I will not be happier or less happy if that happens or not happen. What gives you the happiness is the personal satisfaction that you gived your best. In that way I am very, very calm, very pleased with myself.”
- Lesson 2: Do NOT tie your happiness to results on the court, especially as an amateur athlete!This is so powerful, and a mindset that I wish for you, dear reader, more than anything…
When you link your happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment to winning matches frustration is right around the corner. That’s because losing is part of the game, even for a legendary player like Nadal.
Rafa’s mindset is actually the opposite: “I am playing tennis because I love to play tennis. What gives you the happiness is the personal satisfaction that you gived your best”.
On the surface that might sound borderline cheesy or cliche but I know from personal experience that if you don’t align your values like that the game of tennis can be brutal because everybody is fighting and clawing for every single point.
Instead, Rafa goes back to focusing on elements that he can control: his effort, focus, and quality of training.
What do you think of these insights? Are they helpful?
If so shoot me a quick reply and let me know.
Lesson 3 and 4 are just around the corner. Until then, thanks for reading and keep up the great work on your game.
P.S. The chase for most grand slams is hotter than ever so Megan, Kevin and myself decided to document our official predictions in our recent episode of the Shankcast…
Hear who we think is going to finish on top here: