In the Monte Carlo semifinals on Saturday we got to witness another step in the evolution of Novak Djokovic, the competitor.
A few years ago, Novak used to retire in matches if he did not feel well. Hey, no judgment. That is what normal people do.
But Novak lives in the world of abnormal people. The very best in the world are abnormal in the way they react to situations.
The portfolio manager whose fund is down 1% in the first week of a month is non-reactive, putting his head down and working on the next good investment idea. I have been here before and I know this is part of the game. I just keep working on the fundamentals.
The mom who has back pain and has a 6 and 2 year old that are acting like a 6 and 2 year old. The mom reacts abnormally by finding the energy and strength to be patient, to stay engaged, to teach and to love. I am a Mom and this is what I must do.
The first responders who run towards the fire or the building that has collapsed. This is what we do.
I often use Novak as an example of how old stories that don’t work to give people what they want can be changed into new and better stories. The results are dramatic.
Years ago, when Novak was #3 in the world, his story was one of it being unfair that he was born to play in the era of Federer and Nadal. That the crowd didn’t like him and cheered against him. That he was unfit due to respiratory problems and needed to stop in matches. His interviews were often revealed these stories.
And then we started to hear a different story of who he aspired to be. When he spoke it, he wasn’t quite that person, but the new story took root in his system. “I am lucky to have Federer and Nadal as role models for how to be a champion. I will exhibit these qualities. I engage the crowd and play to give them enjoyment. That is what they come to watch. And I will be fit. I will find the way to be healthy.” In short order, he became the #1 player.
In January I wrote about how, in the finals of the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal, injured and unable to stretch or run, played to conclusion. A warrior. He said, when I asked why he didn’t stop when the losing outcome was pretty certain. His answer: “I never quit.”
Yesterday, taking the lead from Rafa, Novak showed up for the semis against Federer with his forearm and wrist heavily taped. When these guys play, an injury of any sort is enough to predetermine outcome. They can’t be off more than 1%, much less injured.
Novak played as if not injured through a brilliant, hard fought first set, only to lose in a tiebreaker. The second set, with his discomfort clear, he stayed out there. Giving his all. Against a player that continued to play at his highest level.
Novak, the warrior, like Nadal, showed us another level of what a great champion he has become.
He does not quit. That’s his story.