It has been several months since my 2005 tennis season ended. I have not played very much. In fact, I have played only 10 sets of singles since the finals of the National Grass in September. During this time I have had the opportunity to look back on the last few years of competition with much pride. I worked hard and reaped the rewards. My work going forward has been to figure out how to put it all in perspective. Winning the World Championships and attaining the #1 World ranking was both good and bad. The good is obvious. Self satisfaction for work well done. A huge boost to my self esteem as a player and competitior. My belief in the importance of the “mental game” validated with concrete results. The bad…well, I seemed to have lost motivation. With external goals being achieved, what was I to shoot for? I couldn’t win a bigger event. I couldn’t get a higher ranking. I spent time wondering if, maybe, my run in tennis had ended. With nothing to achieve, why do the work? Understand this was all first time stuff for me. Maybe others who had achieved these successes had other ways of looking at it, but me, I am a rookie. I had no dream. Nothing that I wanted from the game. So I waited. I processed. I taught hard for teaching always helps me learn more about my game. I kept on working in the gym, staying fit with no tennis purpose. I suppose that I was unconsciously preparing so that if the fire in my belly started to burn again I would still be mentally and physcially fit to anwer the bell. I kept waiting and watching for a sign.
Then it happened. Last week I got a letter from the USTA telling me that I have been selected to play for the USA team that would be going to South Africa to compete for the Austria Cup, the 55 and over equivalent of Davis Cup. There is was, on paper…the message…you are playing for the USA. You have a mission. Well, the next day, I was shot out of a cannon. My first client of the day had to ask me to tone it down a bit. I was hitting every ball like I was in the finals. That fire was roaring. I was pumped.Later that day, when I went to the gym, I changed my routine from going through the motions to hiring a trainer whose job it would be to help me focus my attention on every repitition from now until I start to compete. By working casually in the gym I have been training myself to work without focus. Starting last week, every repitition has become an opportunity to strengthen my focus so that when I step off the plane I will be totally mentally tough. Every time I work a muscle, the repetition and, even the pain, will be done with joy as I know that it is being done for a greater purpose. I will be ramping up to this event day by day for the next few months. To be at my best I will work towards having focus every moment of every day. What a gift to have a reason to challenge myself to get to higher levels of fitness and focus. This is what tennis gives to me.
As for not having a goal, I realize now, more than ever, that it is not about winning another tournament or achieving another high ranking. That may or may not happen. The goal is to get the most out of myself. The goal is to prepare to compete totally. The work that I do to get myself to be at my best physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually is a process that encompasses me. This work is both the process and the goal. The results will surely follow.