On Sunday, Novak Djokovic claimed the Wimbledon title after a hard-fought five-set match against Roger Federer. I was lucky enough not to have my regular clients so I could stay home and watch the entire affair. Although I was beginning to get cabin fever after the match headed into a third hour, the drama was so compelling that I didn’t mind missing out on the sunny morning.
After having played and watched thousands of hours of tennis in my lifetime, I can honestly say that Djokovic won one of the greatest mental battles I’ve ever witnessed. He had come into the match having lost five of his previous six Grand Slam finals and was starting to doubt his ability to win the big titles after a record-breaking 2011, when he became the number one player.
The match began with Federer winning the first set in a tiebreaker (for the tennis uninitiated, that means it was a tight beginning) and appeared to have the momentum. Novak improved his chances by winning the second set, and then the third. He was leading 5-2 in the fourth set when Federer began clawing his way back and ended up winning that set, pushing the match to a final, fifth set. After having let the set (and his grip on the match) deteriorate, Djokovic took a bathroom break. At this point, I (and the commentators) thought that Djokovic was going to let the match slip away as he had done so many times before.
However, Novak came back from the break focused and determined. Federer was the one who blinked under the pressure and Novak came out on top. He became quite emotional after the nearly four-hour match ended.
When asked afterwards how he was able to pull out the victory, he referenced his bathroom break as a turning point. He gave himself a pep talk, piling on the positivity and self-belief.
“I managed to have my convictions stronger than my doubts in this moment,” Djokovic said.
His lesson is a simple, yet powerful one that we can all apply in situations of adversity. Being resilient under stressful conditions—when facing injury, illness, or even work screw-ups—is a fundamental, yet often overlooked part of being successful. When things are going well it’s easy to be positive and patient with yourself. But it is in the moments of doubt, when our faith in ourselves is tested, that we must be even more positive. As Djokovic demonstrated, we have a choice how we respond to situations that are not ideal. If we can practice his brand of self-belief and resilience then we’ve got a better shot at coming out on top.
Keep on Movin’