I have often thought – and in most situations correctly, I might add – that the game of tennis is analogous to the game of life.
There are ups and downs in each match, much like life.
On tour, as well as at the club, one of the biggest determining factors between victory and defeat is how well a player handles adversity.
How a player – or a person – handles adversity is as much a mark of character as any that exists.
On the other hand, opportunities will abound in a match when a player is NOT facing adversity; the willingness to seize opportunities when they arise will define a player’s character as well.
However, great players play to win, while the ‘best of the rest’ generally play ‘not to lose’.
This is the kind of fear one can almost smell on the tennis court.
Great players go against the grain, looking for – and creating – opportunities to beat their opponents into the ground.
Bjorn Borg, who won six French Opens on the slow red clay of Rolland Garros, as well as five consecutive titles on the fast grass at Wimbledon, defied the conventional wisdom of the day, that a baseliner couldn’t win on grass. He proved that for a man who plays to win, the surface – and the opponent – exists merely to be subdued.
Like I said, tennis is like life. If you approach the game of tennis – or the bigger game of life – with the attitude of just trying ‘not to lose’ (think about your last lost to a ‘pusher’), then you probably are going to lose.
But if you PLAY TO WIN, the odds of your winning are greatly improved.
You won’t win them all; but your winning percentage will go up dramatically.
Remember that scene from the movie ‘Rocky II’, when Rocky is by Adrianne’s bedside in the hospital? He’s about to tell her he’ll quit boxing, as she didn’t want him to get hurt anymore. When she finally wakes up from her coma, she says “I want you to do something for me.”
“What?” he asks.
“Win” she says.
Not “give it your best shot”.
Not “don’t get hurt, honey, okay?”
Now mind you, playing to win doesn’t mean winning every time.
Playing to win means just that – play in a manner that gives YOU the best chance of winning.
If you lose a lot of matches because you hit a lot of unforced errors by taking unnecessary, wild risks, that tells me you have a low shot tolerance, and you need to raise it. Keep the ball in play longer, and you’ll win more.
Play to win.
If you lose a lot of matches because you simply push the ball back hoping your opponent will miss, that tells me you need to improve your shot-making and then take more bold shots when the opportunities arise.
That’s playing to win.
What happens if you take a ‘play to win’ approach in your match and still end up losing?
You get hurt, of course.
But, hey… that’s life – that’s tennis.
Winners suck it up and move forward.
If there were no risk involved, everyone would play to win.
When you play to win, you’re telling the world that you believe in yourself – and your ability on the tennis court – so much that you’re not afraid to take risks.
When you do lose, there’s this gem from the ages:
You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start over again.
It’s true in tennis and it’s true in life.
You teach it to your kids.
Robert Kiyosaki once said “Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
The kicker of it all is that the more you play ‘not to lose’, the more you will probably end up losing.
That’s because you won’t be hitting the shots you need to hit to win points, and what you will be doing subconsciously is actually playing to lose.
Play to win.
Fail if you must during the process.
Analyze, adjust, and move forward playing to win the next match.
And the next one.
And the next one.
Remember, when you play to win you are doing just that – playing to WIN.
When you play to win, you are not playing to be liked (although respect is a nice byproduct of winning).
When you play to win, you are not playing to be loved, or adored, or be thought of fondly (if you really want to be loved, get a dog. Trust me, your dog will love you no matter what).
If you are playing to win, you can bet there are going to be people who dislike you, will make fun of you when you lose, will call you stupid for taking ‘unnecessary’ risks on the tennis court, and on and on.
If you are playing to win, grow up and deal with it; because winning solves a whoooooole bunch of those problems, and weeds the weak-minded and back-biting people from your life – and attracts other winners and those who understand the sacrifices you’ve made to become a winner.
So play to win – and do it with honor, respect and fair-mindedness; and when the last point has been played, your only regret will be that you didn’t start Playing To Win sooner!
To Your Massive Tennis Success,