What a rollercoaster!
And a classic case study for how in vital ways the field of sport psychology has set coaches, parents, and players up for failure when it comes to developing long-term mental toughness. But to understand why this is so, I need first to summarize the match and Federer’s experience of it.
Part 1- Federer’s Pre-Match Jitters
It was refreshing to hear Federer talk about how difficult he found the build up to the final.
He said, “Well I think my thoughts were all over the place all day, I was thinking what if I lost how horrible it would be to lose it, what if I won, it’s a late match start so I thought about this all day, I was so nervous going into this match.”
Part 2- Federer Looks To Make It An Early Night
After 72 appearances between them, either Simona Halep or Caroline Wozniacki is about to win their 1st Grand Slam.
This will be an incredible achievement for the winner given that despite their world rankings of 1 and 2, their comparatively disappointing Grand Slam history and failure to deliver in some of the most important moments was beginning to suggest that these 2 players may not have what it takes in the upstairs department to deliver on the biggest stage.
What a difference two weeks can make…And today, one of them will become a grand slam champion.
Despite the significant mental scarring in their Slam history, for these two weeks they have put on among the best displays of fighting tennis when they looked down and out, combined with poise in the pressure moments, in the history of the game.
Halep’s Journey To The Final
Just over a year ago Grigor Dimitrov looked every bit a player who was destined to be remembered as a career underachiever.
Nicknamed ‘Baby Fed’ when he emerged from the juniors as World #1 for his similarity in technique and gamestyle to the great Federer, it seemed just a matter of time before he became one of the game’s very elite.
But 7 years later that destiny had not materialized and at the end by the end of 2016, having not yet achieved an end of year ranking in the top 10, a new wave of young stars were starting to pass him by.
Fast Forward To Last Night
Fast forward to last night however, and we were looking at a very different Dimitrov…
One who has redirected the path of his career with the help of an obviously very skilled coach in Dani Vallverdu, to the point of becoming an incredibly effective competitor who put on a mental toughness master class for all of those who were lucky enough to watch.
Here are 5 key ways Dimitrov displayed his hugely improved mental toughness:
1.) He wasn’t affected by Kyrgios’s home crowd support
One of the most challenging coaching scenarios is working effectively with players who develop ‘avoidance focused coping defenses’. This occurs when players develop competitive adaptations such as excuses, tanking, perfectionism, and anger explosions as an unconscious way of reducing the stress of competition.
While any player can develop these responses to reduce the normal fears that are a part of competing, it’s MUCH more likely that children will develop these adaptations, and MUCH harder to be helpful, when a child’s fear of failure has become exaggerated due to what can be called ‘parent conditional regard’.
The devastating effects of parent conditional regard on children’s development are well researched and highly predictable…
Parent Conditional Regard and the Shame Emotion…
Watching Nadal and Kyrgios in the final of Beijing highlighted the contrast in 1 vital mental skill that we often fail to understand. Let’s explore it…
Nadal Is Actually Getting Better…
It’s hard to believe but Nadal is actually getting better. He is a competitive machine… Simply the greatest competitor the game has ever seen.
Last night is the best I’ve ever seen him play on a hard court. That he turned up to this rather minor tournament (for him) at this stage of his career and displayed the same desire to win as if it was a Slam is the very reason he has become so good and continues to improve.
His insanely high level had Kyrgios looking for an exit within 30mins.
Kyrgios Is Deeply Addicted to Reducing Fear and Pain…