Sometimes you just need to work harder in order to reach your goals. It’s as simple as that. In Roger Federer’s case, perhaps that was enough to propel him to an incredible 7th Wimbledon title. But, a bit of luck didn’t hurt either, and may have been the other factor that led to his success, helping him end a 2.5 year drought of Grand Slam tennis championships and regain the rank of best male tennis player in the world.
The men’s Wimbledon final demonstrates the life lesson of how hard work plus “luck” leads to success. As the first century Roman philosopher Seneca, and my junior tennis coach Arthur Carrington used to say, “luck” is when opportunity meets preparation. One could argue that Roger Federer prepared well for the opportunity – the “luck” – that presented itself at Wimbledon 2012.
Roger Federer is an incredibly talented athlete. The shots he’s able to make on the tennis court are astounding at times. And, he makes it all look so easy, moving with such fluidity, balance and grace. Former tennis champion Jimmy Connors described Federer’s ability to do it all by saying, “In an era of specialists, you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist…or you’re Roger Federer.”
Not too long ago, everybody in the tennis world was saying things like, “the greatest that ever played the game,” when referring to Federer. Then, along came Rafael Nadal, who slowly, but surely demonstrated that he could dominate Roger in the big matches. All of a sudden, there was hushed talk about possibly moving the moniker of “best ever” over to the Spaniard, noting that if he kept on pace, it was just a matter of time before he accumulated as many titles. At this time, Roger was still playing great, but just not number-1-in-the-world-level great.
Then, if Roger’s troubles weren’t enough, along comes the rise of Novak Djokovic, from a player who held out so much promise at the start of his career, to somebody who was finally living up to his full potential. By the time the French Open started this past May 2012, Djokovic had won 3 grand slam tournaments in a row – Wimbledon and the US Open in 2011, followed by the Australian Open at the start of 2012! This amazing feat made him the new it-guy on the men’s tour rolling into the French.
Now, it was looking like Roger would have to get through both Nadal and the Serbian master, both of whom were younger and stronger, in order to claim another grand slam championship. Things were not looking good for Roger Federer, and many started wondering if he could ever win another slam, with these two other contenders in the mix, along with a 30-year old body that was no longer at its peak.
Roger hadn’t given up, though. He was very determined to do something different to turn his game around. During a post-match interview, he explained how he took time away from his family this past year to work on his game more. He had better results in many smaller events leading up to Wimbledon than he has had in the past. When he met Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final this past July 8, 2012, he looked like he was at the top of his game, playing as well as he has ever played. Not too shabby for a thirty year old J. So, working harder on his game paid off.
But, it could also be argued that having a little “luck” certainly didn’t hurt his chances either. There were three key opportunities that arose for Federer during Wimbledon 2012 that benefitted him. First, one major obstacle, former three-time Wimbledon champ Nadal, went out of the tournament shockingly early. Nadal’s loss may be at least partly attributed to how hard it is to come back from a highly emotional victory, as he had just won a record setting 7th title at the French Open just a month earlier. Having Nadal out early meant that Federer wouldn’t have to beat him – something he had struggled to do in recent grand slams.
The second opportunity that arose for Federer was when he met a not-100% Djokovic in the semifinals. Novak simply was not at his best. He played well, but wasn’t as sharp or energized as he usually is. That was enough to give Roger the edge he needed for victory.
The third opportunity for Federer came when the Wimbledon finals match was tied at one set each and they closed the roof. At the time, his opponent Andy Murray was playing the best tennis Andy Murray can play. Now, many might think that a closed roof doesn’t mean much, but to a player like Roger Federer, it does. He is somebody who relies on much precision and touch. He can make incredible shots anytime, but when the factors like the sun and wind aren’t there, it just means that it’s that much easier for his precision game to roll. Had the roof not closed, the variable outdoor elements may have neutralized Federer’s strengths a bit more.
So, in summary, Roger Federer prepared well for Wimbledon 2012 by working harder on his game, which made him ready to capitalize on the trifecta opportunity of avoiding a match-up with Nadal, meeting a slightly off Djokovic and getting to play Andy Murray under a closed roof. This led to an amazing 7th Wimbledon crown.
A good life lesson indeed: work harder and be prepared for the “luck” – that is, the opportunity – that presents itself.
Life Lessons from Sports – Introduction
Life Lessons from Sports #1
Life Lessons from Sports #2
Life Lessons from Sports #3
Life Lessons from Sports #4
Life Lessons from Sports #5