It’s Saturday ladies final day at Wimbledon and after a shakeup in the draw, the day sees two ladies who have gained much respect amongst fans, battle it out for the SW19 title. There has been much discussion amongst commentators about who will take it, some talking about the power but patient game of Kvitova, and others commenting on Bouchard’s high percentage of tournament returns and aggressive style.
Both players clearly have weapons in their game. What will set them apart may be the mental approach on Finals Day. Bouchard has mentioned on a couple occasions in the tournament, that she tries to stay in the moment and leaves everything out there on court; a clear determination to give it her all. Kvitova has spoken about facing pressure before, and being able to handle it better having learnt from the ups and downs in the last three years¹. Let’s also not forget that Bouchard, the 20 year old Canadian, has previously faced pressure having reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and the French Open this year, so perhaps she too will not be intimidated by the occasion of a Grand Slam Final.
When athletes embrace the challenge of a big event, and enjoy the moment and occasion, they are more likely to perceive the pressure as being a privilege. In fact, they thrive in the pressure of the occasion. Michael Johnson, four times Olympic gold medalist has spoken about how he enjoyed the pressure, knowing that the athlete who handled the pressure best, would have the best performance². If it is perceived as a threat, then it is likely to induce anxiety and lead to a player choking. For Kvitova and Bouchard, mindfulness will play its part in the way the two deal with pressure moments. Rather than allowing thoughts to race ahead, players will need to engage in the moment and set their mind to focus on the current point. Being mindful, also requires that the ladies accept when things don’t go their way, or when distractions unfold. Acceptance of these situations and resetting the focus to the next play is important, instead of allowing for something that has passed or is out of their control take hold. With acceptance and refocus, the emotional reactive response, frustration and resulting pressure is reduced.
These two incredible forces will have prepared for the event, and will have their game plan ready. Kvitova has the advantage of experience on finals day having won in 2011, but the young driven Canadian has confidence in abundance. Self-belief is evident as they have both come this far, but how they adjust to and manage the emotional ebb and flow in the final, and rise to the occasion, will likely define the result.
References 1. http://www.tennishead.net/news/on-tour/2014/07/04/kvitova-ready-to-seize-her-opportunity-in-final 2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8DSzLpEru0#t=146