Hurt Locker

For the international followers of this blog who are not lovers of tennis, you need to know that the Australian Open is in full swing in Melbourne at the moment.

The standard of tennis has been excellent and we have witnessed huge 5 set matches with some pushing beyond 5 hours of playtime.

All the action has been played out under the heat of the Australian sun.   40 plus degrees Celsius days (100 + degrees Fahrenheit) have seen players sweltering at the base line with one player ending up on a morphine drip to help deal with full body spasms at the end of their grueling struggle with their fierce opponent.

So with all this sweat, with all the pain, the blisters, the hurt and not to mention the grunting, it got me thinking about how tennis, like life, can be an intense hurt locker.   And the intensity can be huge both on and off the court.   My thoughts on the subject reached new levels after watching the Men’s Singles Quarter Final played out between Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer.

Ferrer was two sets down and was not traveling well early in the third set.   But he dug deep and found a way to win the next three sets to find a place in the semi finals.   And whilst watching Ferrer’s fight for his semi final birth I was intrigued by his vice like mind set and never say die attitude at a time when he was struggling to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Ferrer had a belief that he could find his way out of his two set deficit.   He never stopped working and fought hard on every point, such was his mental toughness. At the time he was under relentless pressure from the confines of the centre court hurt locker.   There was nowhere to hide . . . fight or flight were his only two choices.

So where did he find such resilience?   Where do great sports people take their mind when they will themselves to push through the physical duress of their sporting battle?    Ultimately, it comes back to a solid preparation and a strong belief in their abilities.   A belief that says ‘I belong in this space’ and ‘I will fight to remain grounded in my belief’.

Whilst watching Ferrer claw his way back to victory, I was imagining a small vault like room in his mind. A room that allows him to lock down his thought process.   A lock down that prevents the penetration of negative thoughts.   A lock down that leaves the mind isolated throughout the match to ensure absolute concentration.

Andre Agassi has been quoted as saying that:

“Of all the games men and women play, tennis is the closest to solitary confinement….”

So it was just Ferrer, his racquet, the court and his opponent.    Solitary confinement in the midst of a shouting crowd and a strong television audience.

Whether it was his solid mindset that locked out negative thoughts, hours and hours of training or a red hot belief in his abilities, Ferrer got the job done and his amazing act shows how in many ways tennis mirrors the challenge of life.   At times, every point, every game and every match that we play out on life’s stage will resemble a hurt locker.

Whether we bring a Ferrer mindset to our challenges is based on our personal choice and desire to shape up for the fight.  If we do, it will be a deciding factor in our eagerness to side step defeat in our quest for victory.

I thought it fitting to sign off this blog in the words of Agassi as it provides for the perfect summary:

“It’s no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature. Even the structure of tennis, the way the pieces fit inside one another like Russian nesting dolls, mimics the structure of our days. Points become games become sets become tournaments, and it’s all so tightly connected that any point can become the turning point. It reminds me of the way seconds become minutes become hours, and any hour can be our finest. Or darkest. It’s our choice.”