That was another incredible big match performance by Stan Wawrinka to claim his 3rd Grand Slam and 11th finals victory in a row. Interestingly, it came after what he described as being the most nervous he has ever been before a match…
I found his candour regarding his pre-match nerves refreshing. Here’s what he said in his post-match interview:
“Today, before the final, I was really nervous like never before. I was shaking in the locker. When we start five minutes before the match talking, last few things with Magnus, I start to cry. I was completely shaking…I was also — because I don’t want to lose the final in a Grand Slam. That simple. That’s the only reason….The pressure, I was feeling amazing after the semifinal. I was feeling great yesterday. Really happy. But this morning it start to be there, the feeling of you don’t want to lose. I don’t want to come to the court and lose a final. So close, so far.”
The reason players almost always feel nervous before matches is that when we enter competition we have 2 very different motivations…(you can see my visual display of how these motivations affect player experience above)
The desire to win, but also the desire not to lose.
These may sound the same but they’re not and motivate very different internal experiences…
So as players consider the possible outcomes before matches they experience both excitement to do with the desire to win, and anxiety to do with the desire not to lose.
And when a player misses an easy shot at a crucial time of the match they will likely experience frustration to do with moving away from their natural desire to win, while at the same time feeling anxiety regarding moving closer to their desire not to lose.
It’s also why players feel both pain and anger when they lose, and joy and relief when they win…
When we as coaches understand that these motivations are always part of competing it can help us normalise their existence (this is one of the simplest, most helpful communications we can have with our players).