I play Joe Oren for the gold tomorrow at 9:30AM. He is a fine player who is #1 in Israel in our age group. He and I have come across each other a couple of times at Senior Davis Cup matches although we have never played.
I have been asked by my teammates what I am thinking about tonight and if I am nervous.
My old story before big matches used to be that I would be edgy, nervous, worried and filled with obsessive and repetitive thoughts about the next day. I would often be focused on my opponent. I would worry that I wouldn’t play well.
My story now is that I see big matches as opportunities to ignite the highest end of my talent and skills. How I play is mostly unrelated to my opponent as I know that I can be Bob on the court no matter what he is doing. That doesn’t mean that I can have total control of the outer game, the contest of who wins the points. It means that I can be in control of the inner Bob…in the present, calm, excited about the challenges of competition. I control my fighting spirit and my willingness to face the obstacles. I am in control of solving problems as they come and can adapt to the liquidity of the way matches unfold. I have many tools in my box to keep me competing for each and every point. I play with dignity and class. I respect my opponent and hope that he plays a good match.
I always can be Bob and that will just have to be good enough. Winning may come as a result.
A few years ago it was the night before a National final and I had a great realization. The next morning I would be going out to play tennis against a buddy of mine for the Championship. I thought about if I had made a game for myself for a Sunday morning I would have called someone like him with whom I would practice and play. I would want him to play well to have the best possible time. I would, of course, prefer to win but that either way it would be a fun Sunday morning time on the court. I realized that that was just how I needed to think of the Championship. A fun hit on a Sunday morning with a good friend. That changed me as a player. The next morning I went out and played the Final as if it were just that. I won easily.
Tomorrow will be a fun couple of hours of tennis with a good guy on the beautiful red clay courts at Ramat Hasharon.