The Aussie Open is one of the pinnacles of world tennis.
Every year in January, the biggest names in the sport make their way to Melbourne in search of glory, all hoping to end up with their name etched on the trophy and $3 million sitting in their bank account. And we lap it up.
But have you ever wondered how these select few manage to rise above millions of other talented players to land a spot at the Open and a shot at over $36 million in prizes?
One thing’s for sure; it’s not only their natural ability or tennis skills (although they can generally hit a pretty decent backhand).
The players who make it to the top have a unique combination of physical and mental attributes that help them succeed, which are important not just in tennis but in almost any other career you care to mention.
Here are six lessons you can learn from the top players that will help you in succeed in your career. And they’ll probably improve your tennis game, too.
1. You have to have passion and drive
Ability will get you so far in tennis; a passion for the sport and a drive to improve is what motivates players to take their game to the next level.
And it’s the same in any job. While it helps to be talented, passion and drive are the difference between being a good or even great performer, and being exceptional.
2. Preparation is key
A tennis player’s preparation doesn’t just involve hitting a few balls over the net every day; every minute detail of their training regime is analysed, tweaked and optimised to improve their performance.
From diet, health and fitness, to strings, rackets and what they wear, they over-prepare in the hope that they’ll find an edge that could tip the scales in their favour on match day.
Think about your approach at work. Do you find yourself winging things more often than not, or not knowing what’s going on in important meetings? It could be time to get organised.
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3. A cool head
To win a grand slam, players have to battle through seven rounds of gruelling competition, weighed down not only by their own expectations, but also those of the crowd and the media.
On top of that, it’s basically their life’s work, boiled down into a few sweaty-palmed matches. Talk about performing under pressure.
In the stresses of work, there are lots of times when it’s tempting to fly off into a McEnroe style tantrum. And maybe that can work for a very small subset of people.
But while it might feel good at the time, for most of us keeping a cool head under pressure is crucial to performing well consistently. Just ask Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.
4. Don’t go it alone
Even though tennis players look lonely out there on the court, in reality there is a whole team of coaches, staff and supporters behind them.
These people will not only help them work on their game, but also their mentality and attitude. They will essentially teach them how to think differently, make good changes and ultimately win.
For the rest of us, a trusted career mentor can be a great sounding board to identify areas to improve or help make serious decisions.
5. Strategic thinking
Professional tennis matches are as much a mental battle as a physical one.
In some cases, they can last for hours as two evenly matched opponents grind away at each other trying to gain an advantage.
As in chess, the best players are thinking a few moves ahead, using their knowledge of an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, as well their own, to work out how to win.
It’s crucial for your career to learn how to do the same.
All tennis players know that no matter how good they are, how much passion they have and how much they want to win, there will always be times when they’re on the back foot.
That’s why resilience is one of the most important qualities a player can have; they can always bounce back to win the match from a seemingly impossible position, or rectify a defeat in the next tournament.
So next time you’re down, why not take some inspiration from the great tennis fighters, and resolve to come back bigger and better than ever.
Image: Marianne Bevis, Flickr