Things I learned from watching tennis

Those were the days when I did not care about sports

Now I follow tennis players, especially Romanian ones of course, every time there is an important tournament to see their evolution and growth. I root for them and it makes me happy when they win and sad when they lose. But although there is great satisfaction in seeing one of your favorites win and also bittersweet to watch him/her lose, you can also learn a lot from your favorite players.

Simona Halep, the highest ranked Romanian player currently at number 5 in the world, won last weekend a big trophy in Madrid. This great week came after a so-so period for her, when she went down to number 7 from being number 2 in the world. She has also been highly criticized by many of her Romanian “fans” either for her lack of form, stubbornness or for not being focused enough on her game. People expressed their high expectations of her, she felt the pressure and it all culminated with a few injuries that kept her from training fully and also kept her away from results she is capable of.

Players mention it from time to time, but rarely get into detail, about how difficult and frustrating it can be to not be able to properly train because of injuries or some illness and how, then, results in matches are not satisfying. As I mentioned before, for us fans, a loss by our favorite player can be a bit of a downer, but we quickly forget it because we have to move on with our lives, but for players it can be really difficult. Especially, if for a longer period of time bigger wins against top players seem harder to grasp and matches get harder to conclude once they have match point.

I got onto this subject of losing because it seemed like a theme of last days, stumbling over things like a quote or a statement from another Romanian player talking about losses. Sorana Cîrstea, the one I was referring previously, went from being on a 20 something rank to being in top 200 because of injuries. For the last few months she fought her way back to top 100 getting a big break just last week in Madrid where Simona Halep won the title. This is what she said in an interview:

“For example, after a loss, I wasn’t able to handle it. Those were very tough; I would lose and two-three days later, I was still sad about that match and suddenly the next tournament was coming and I wasn’t ready. It was different, but it’s about maturing and that’s a tough side that people don’t see. […] People don’t teach you how to handle losses.”

Quote taken from here: INTERVIEW

This sort of thing hits close to home for many of us. I mean, when things go well and as planned it all feels comfortable. But things turn nasty when a loss rises its head or a failure for that matter. I mean, it is ok and normal to be sad in such a situation, but sometimes things like that can affect us a bit too much (not referring here to extreme situations like the death of a loved one or situations like a serious illness). I think few of us are actually taught how to manage losses or failures. Even more, we kind of learn to fear them and try the hardest to avoid them. Feel free to contradict me.

Final thoughts (Bear with me, please!)

As we grow older and hopefully wiser, we eventually start learning how to cope with the bad and even see the lessons available. More than anything, this kind of situations will lead to introspection and to a realization that they mustn’t be feared, at least not for the reasons we might think. I mean yes, they are pretty rough, but that’s when we tend to learn more about ourselves. Because that’s when we are tested, we are forced out of our comfort zones and, if handled optimally, proper coping skills can be formed to use in the future.

Thinking about it you realize how important that lesson is: that failure and both loss are a given in life, you’re going to go through one or the other at one point and you’d better be aware and learn not to fear them as soon as possible. In the road toward success you will fail probably multiple times, but the idea is you will finally prevail after hard work.

Going back to tennis now and to reconnect it with the theme of loss and failure, it is a very good example of how things like these work. I am going to use Simona again as an example because of what many call her “comeback”: winning a big title after months of struggling. You can rarely get a glimpse into what happens with the tennis players mentally or psychologically-wise, but the great ones don’t get stuck. They get back on the court for the training, for the grind. Because they know that if they work hard enough, and are consistent and healthy, results will eventually follow. That’s exactly what happened to both Simona and Sorana. Results started to come. If players like these don’t motivate you to keep going I don’t know what will.

Ok, you might not be such a tennis fan like I am, but there must be lots of examples in other fields you might follow. I used tennis as an example because: 1. I am obviously biased and 2. I think it is a very clear, straight forward example of how results don’t come over night. We don’t get to see all the hard work tennis players do, but I was lucky to witness some of their training sessions on court and I tell you they work their bottoms off trying, over and over, shots or techniques they need to improve. It’s not as glamorous as when they actually win titles, but you see what is needed to get spectacular shots and wins that people see, cheer and applaud being delighted by what their favorite players can do.

Both losses and wins are part of the game. Just remember that.

Here you have a quote from a Nike store (I think) somewhere, also on theme, that I stumbled upon today somewhere on the Internet and was a further push to write this article:

How do you feel about loss and failure and how do you manage them?

2 comentarii

  1. Is it just me or do people have too high expectations for tennis players? Like any sport, the fans expect the player to win, each and every time, because it validates them and the reason they picked that player as their favorite. "come on Simona, don’t let me down! I believe in you!" has multiple meanings than just fan support, if you ask me. But sports players are celebrities in fans eyes, and they are expected to be perfect, as celebrities are seen generally. Admired and with high expectations from fans. Expectations that are not exactly healthy. Look, since we’re talking about tennis players.. They are people too, that need to live, eat, drink, love, feel , work, socialise. Aren’t people seeing them too much like robots? like… "dance! for my entertainment !"? I think they are, they are expected to "dance", cos’ deh, they choose that, and if they went in it and succeeded, they must have no other faith than to succeed, because, they are our favorites and they must not let us down. Simona, Serena, got to be famous and have great results because they worked hard and thrived in what they did. Can we not expect perfection once a high has been reached?As for your last point, failure , in my vision, is welcomed, necessary and actually healthy and beneficial. Imagine if Simona had no failures. Sure, she would learn from her successes , but I am sure not as much as she would from her failures. You can be "in the zone" for a long period of time and then loose it for a while, and then be on and off. Failure is required as it makes the one that fails make decisions, "reconfigure route", learn and not make the same mistake again. I don’t want to invoke the Thomas edison metaphor with the light bulb but as, I think he said, he did not find out one way to invent the light bulb, he found out 1000 ways how not to make it. So expect failure,in your heroes and in yourself welcome it, learn from it. Sadness is sometimes required and beneficial (SPOILER ALERT! Inside out refference – not a quote.)


    • Besides seeing them as celebrities, I also agree they tend to think of them as robots that should not have emotions and physical problems and should just play and win matches.Once they get extraordinary results I think people kind of stop thinking of them as humans and expect them to be flawless every time.I think many of us lack in the empathy department and require too much from someone that firstly plays for themselves and then maybe for their fans. We also don’t really try to get into their shoes often to better understand them.


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