Roger vs. Novak Redux 13

I have got thirty minutes to get this blog written and out there before the first serve of this historic match is played.

We tennis fans are lucky. Not infrequently we get to watch a follow up to an extraordinary matchup. Borg-Tanner. MacEnroe-Borg. Federer-Nadal. Becker-Edberg. Consecutive years of a matchup that we were enthralled by the year before. How could these followup matches be better than the “one of the greatest matches in Wimbledon history.” Sometimes we are lucky enough to really see the second year be more amazing than the year before.

Will this Roger vs Novak #2 be go beyond last year’s extraordinary match?

As many of you know, I am all about stories. Stories that players tell themselves that don’t work to get them what they want. And stories they tell themselves that create the possibility of being who they need to be to bring the very best out of themselves in the biggest moments of performance.

I take liberty to write stories for others. It is what I do.

Two weeks ago I wrote stories for a number of the players. Eight of those players managed to find their way into the quarters. Maybe they were telling good stories and that helped them get there.

Now it is down to two.

I hope that these two great champions are telling great stories for that is what can give us another greatest match ever.

If I were their coach I would write these stories for them.

Novak: I play to ignite the highest levels of my skills and talent. I play for myself and for the enjoyment of those who watch me. I am a model for others as a humble winner. I can take a loss and still be proud of all I have brought to the court. I expect extraordinary from myself and accept that my attempts to be perfect will fall short. I love to compete. I respect Roger, who has taught me so much. I appreciate that having Roger on the other side of the net will push me to be the very best that I can be. I push myself to defeat the beasts of this game. I welcome adversity.

Roger: I love this game. Every part of it. I enjoy figuring out how to impact on my opponent. I never quit searching for new ways to play, new shots to hit and new spots on the court. I feel a child’s wonder at those things that seem to flow out of my tennis being. I love all parts of this game. I can win and feel good about it. I can take a loss and still be Roger. I play to inspire those that will follow me. I set a bar for competitive attitude. When I miss a shot I simply see it in a detached was as part of the game. I will not react emotionally. I look within myself for a quite peaceful moment and from there will play the next point as if it is all that matters in my life at that moment.

I hope that we see these stories play out.

One afterthought. I read that today is the 25th anniversary of Edberg’s win over Becker 6–2, 6–2, 3–6, 3–6, 6–4.

It was a match where each player had the lead and chances to win many times. When the match ended, Becker stepped over the net in defeat and hugged Edberg. Genuine. Real. Respect and admiration. I felt chills and I thought to myself, “I want to feel that in a loss.”
The timing was perfect for me as I had, that summer just won my second National title, on the grass in Santa Barbara. Winning a National title is a big deal and it might never come again and I wanted to be able to take away and give what Becker did if and when I had the chance.

I got to work that year by, first, writing the story “I am a gracious loser who appreciates my opponent and am happy for them in their victories.” Whew that was a tough one to try to live because I was good at excuses. But I got to work on it. I read the story before every match. I spoke the words before I felt them. I kept plugging and made progress. Slowly I was becoming my story. One year later I returned to Santa Barbara as the top seed. In the semis I played a terrific guy named Bob Hansen. We played hard. We played close. He played a little bette in the big moments and won 6-4, 7-5. As I approached the net, I reached out to shake Bob’s hand and the words came out of my effortlessly. Bob, I am so happy for you. I am so glad that you can get to experience a National final. Welcome to this world.

One of the biggest wins of my life was saying and truly feeling it. It freed me up and made me a better player as I discovered that winning can take many forms.

Now let’s get ready to watch #1 vs. #2.

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