What Makes Champions?

Updated: Apr 10

What makes champions?

Bring on the mighty task of ousting in the Australian Open one of the toughest, fittest and finest players the game of tennis has seen. Wawrinka, a man who has made himself known with power and style, surely would struggle to overcome the might of Nadal, and be overwrought with emotion and anxiety with the odds against him?

However, Wawrinka took to the courts with a self-belief and confidence that shadowed any nerves that may have been in the depths of his gut. From the start he appeared on the Rod Laver stage with power and domination ready for the task at hand. Champions see challenges as opportunities to display their finest talent with excitement. Any nerves are channeled in a way that arouses energy levels of excitement, rather than render debilitative anxiety. Wawrinka with preparation, hard work, and a plan was ready to reign as the Australian Grand Slam Champion and no-one and nothing would distract from this belief and focus. And even when he was broken at 4-2 up in the fourth set, when Nadal seemed to be resurging with determination with his third set win, Wawrinka kept his focus and channeled his mind to deliver a performance that saw him clinch the Australian Title. As Arthur Ashe once said “One important key to success is self-confidence.”

But what of the mighty Nadal whose work ethic and humility has gained him much respect around the world? How does one manage to play through a tournament with a painful blister the size of a ten penny coin on the hand, reach the final to be cursed with excruciating back spasm, and yet continue to play on and produce some strong tennis? Tennis champions are able to focus on what is in their control and block out that which is not. Yes numbing pain with painkillers aids, but a champion is able to channel thoughts away from ‘the nuisance’ giving it no attention, and instead focus his/her thoughts on performing. There’s no doubt, the pain is a reminder that it’s not always possible to ignore the issue, but with determination and grit, Nadal was able to come back and win the third set, and break a grand slam champion in the making in the fourth set.

Champions take to the stage hoping to be in the best physical shape, but knowing they simply need to exercise their mental muscle to display some great performances; and when in the best physical and mental shape, succeed in their goal!

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