In January 2017, while I was preparing for the publication of this book, an extraordinary event took place.
On that day, Roger Federer accomplished what some specialists have described as the most significant event in the history of sport. Not a single trainer, coach, doctor, journalist, former champion or tipster had bet a single dollar on Federer to win the 2017 Australian Open.
By winning the tournament at almost 36 years old and after a six month hiatus due to injury, he achieved something akin to a miracle. The most optimistic people predicted his return to the top 10, but almost no one expected to see him win a Grand Slam tournament again. Yet “Rodgeur” did it. What he achieved is simply amazing, because we need to remember that he had to fight against the best tennis players in the world, who are mostly much younger than him. Professional players who train well beyond their pain barriers, and who would give anything to win a tournament of this magnitude even once. But Roger Federer is a genius, an artist and a virtuoso who transforms everything he touches into gold.
What particularly stood out about this memorable feat, and made me very happy to see, is that Federer seems to use the tools that I laid out in “Happiness and Success” and that took me 40 years to find and refine. For the rest of this article, I am going to highlight the titles of the chapters in my book, which I humbly believe can be tied to the extraordinary way in which my illustrious compatriot lives.
The full power of his brain allows Federer to vary his game infinitely. His great strength lies in knocking his opponent off balance by continually changing his game, before surprising him with a final, and often bewildering, blow.
The clarity of his ideas and constant self-questioning allow him to analyse himself and question what he does every time, in order to further improve his game. He took advantage of his convalescence to work on his back hand, which was already considered the best on the circuit. His ability to reinvent himself is phenomenal. When something does not work perfectly, he innovates, and invents a new weapon. He will use it, but without forgetting his old techniques, some of which date back a very long time, which he will use again at the right time to stun his opponent.
Even when he is behind, his level of confidence and mental attitude allow him to never lose faith in a possible victory, unlike other great players. It’s obvious that Roger Federer has moments of doubt when things don’t go exactly as he would like, but I think it’s his faith, which is much stronger than that of his adversaries, which allows him to conquer. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill calls faith the crucial element in success. “If you are absolutely certain you are going to succeed, you will succeed”.
Being able to let go, acceptance, relativisation and flexibility of mind allow Roger to ignore what has not worked so far and immediately get back to a state of mind that will enable him to succeed.
In my book I place a lot of emphasis on the tremendous benefits that flow from living in the moment. Being in the moment is absolutely vital to winning a tennis match. From a mental point of view, you must not think about the past by reliving your bad shots, nor should you think about losing or even winning the match. How many games have been lost by players who became unrecognisable when they mishit the ball in a match that they should have won?
You also need to live in the moment on a physiological level, in order to be present for the10th of a second it takes to volley the ball or hit it so perfectly that the player seems to be able to slow down time.
We can push the analysis of the benefits of living in the moment for tennis even further. Did you know that a famous tennis coach has speculated that the smartphone is the reason behind the as yet unanswered question of why young tennis players have so much trouble beating their elders? During their daily training sessions, those born with a smartphone in their hands are thinking about their social networks and what they can post. They are therefore no longer in the present, which reduces the benefits of their training. But most of all, they do not practise staying in the moment, and will be unable to concentrate and keep themselves entirely in the present during games that last several hours, leaving the victory to Federer and his “old” colleagues.
When you see Roger Federer playing, you can’t help noticing the joy and happiness that he experiences, as well as the love and respect that he shows towards everyone, from his entourage to his adversaries. In addition to being a great champion, “Rodgeur” is an extraordinary man. Some athletes, regardless of their fame, become arrogant and proud to as soon as they are successful. Him, never. Everyone recognises and loves him for his great human qualities. Every time he is interviewed he shows a lot of modesty and lots of love and gratitude. He never fails to thank the public and his entourage, and regularly expresses how lucky he is to be able to give people so much happiness by giving putting on a good show.
Finally, of course, Federer continually takes action by correcting his few remaining weak points and undergoing training sessions which the ordinary citizen can never truly understand. “Roger continues to work and improve every day, it’s almost scary”, says Mario Ancic. “Having a gift doesn’t get you anywhere. You have to work, time and again, and love what you do if you want to go far.” Roger Federer
American psychologists have examined this phenomenon which is common to virtuosos and sportsmen at the peak of their art. They call the trance-like state “getting into the zone”.
Roger Federer lives in a world where everything is slightly different from the one we live in. Thanks to his talent and his ability to use the fabulous tools that were given to us at our birth, he lives “in the zone”, where everything becomes easy, beautiful and bright.
“I don’t think anyone in the world has more fun than me when I’m on a tennis court.” Roger Federer
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