When The Best Loses
A couple days ago, I was lucky enough to catch the Federer vs Del Potro quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open. While tennis is not one of my most watched sports, I do jump at the chance to watch the best of the best when they are in form. While Federer is a bit older now, he’s still amazingly winning majors with two this year at Wimbledon and the AUS Open adding on to his untouchable 19 majors. I remember watching him a while back and he would make these insanely difficult shots look effortless and would put the ball anywhere he wanted. If you follow him, you’ll know he’s not super flamboyant or outspoken, just super calm and collected and plays every match like he’s on a different level. If you watched this week, you may know he lost the quarterfinal which was a pretty big upset, even at 37 years old. In the loss, I still saw flashes from old with crazy shots and ridiculous returns that reminded me of his freakish abilities, but what grasped me more about him this time, was hearing him comment in defeat. I posted the video of his reaction to the loss above. I was amazed at how much he spoke about the importance of preparation and how even when he was winning, he knew something felt off and that he was “not in a safe place” the entire tournament. I was taken back and reminded that, even the greatest of the great still go through what every athlete goes through and nothing is a cakewalk. You don’t always hear pros this humble and be so in-tune with their game. While we always talk about the greatest having upper-echelon confidence, I’m wondering if Federer’s humbleness and self-awareness is what has set him apart as the greatest throughout these years. Is it uber confidence or humbleness? Or both? He still placed the importance around fundamentals, preparation, and the mental game and in order to be the best, you must have all of them running on all cylinders. While I was bummed he lost, it was refreshing to hear how in control of defeat he was.