Number one or bust or …..

The commentator relates a conversation with a taxi driver that morning, who had just dropped three first round losers off at the airport. That’s the reality of this sport he says, lose and move onto the next tournament, chasing the all important ranking points. 

Mon 19 

Still dragging my feet. Last week’s loss at Westside, London seems to have knocked the stuffing out of me. A very sore wrist is not helping. Maybe the hot weather is contributing as well. Feel better for a visit to the gym. Trying to bring everything into perspective. Given that I enjoyed my last singles match even though I lost, I cannot quite understand why I feel so out of sorts. What I really don’t understand is why this blah feeling is still hanging around. I am now annoyed with myself for feeling out of sorts.

Of course it always feels better to be writing about things going well and positive progress. When things ar’n’t going so well this becomes more difficult to write about, which doesn’t mean it lacks value. As I get into my stride, it’s like peeling layers from an onion. Playing well is important and so is winning, but its only part of the picture. 

Tues 20 

Another early visit to the gym. Good workout. 

Mid morning, over tea and toast, I reopen the weekend’s slightly crumpled once read newspaper. Re-reading an interview with Dominic Theim, who has fallen down the rankings due to some unfortunate injuries. The way back is proving difficult for him, yet he says he is now enjoying his tennis more than ever, enjoying the challenge. There is also recognition that he might not scale the heights he knew previously as the next generation are coming through.

In an interview in the Times by Tom Kershaw,  Thiem recalls going 14 months without a tour level win being a tough time. Now though he is enjoying his tennis more than ever. And says he is grateful for the tough time as he has learned a lot. 

Thiem refers to a book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle, as being particularly influential; given him a new perspective on his tennis. I order the book, it seems a natural thing to do.

It’s the second day of the Queen’s Club Championships in London. The spotlight and expectation really turns on home players as they begin the short grass court season. Seen by many near the top of the sport as the ideal way to tune up for Wimbledon. Alcarez sneaks through his first round match in three tight sets. Andy Murray loses straight forwardly, though on the back of  a good run winning back to back titles at Surbiton and Nottingham.

My attention is drawn elsewhere to the losers and especially those going through a bad patch. I feel a greater empathy with these guys. Half of the players in any tournament go out at the first round stage.

Dan Evans comes up short in his first round match and proclaims that he does not want to be anywhere near a tennis court just now, having lost something like six of his last seven matches. And no he is not looking forward to Wimbledon given his current form.

Later I watch the big serving American, Maxime Cressy. The commentator says that if he loses today this will be his eleventh straight loss on the tour. It’s close and comes down to two tie breaks, which he loses. Small margins. I watch an interview with Cressy from the Australian Open 2022. Two things stand out. Firstly that he does not worry about his opponent and secondly a belief that not only can he reach top ten but he believes he can become world number one. 

This belief thing. I read an interview with Cameron Norrie in which he also states that his goal is to be number one. He says he is behaving like a world number one in everything he does and his support team are working in just the same way. 

Fri 23rd

Norrie bows out 4-6, 6-7 to Sebastian Korda, commenting that he had fought hard, but found it difficult to find  a rythmn against his big serving opponent. While disappointed to have lost he finished by saying that he still felt he was improving. Belief intact it would seem. 

It appears that these ups and downs are inevitable. How we deal with them is the real telling thing.  

Sat 24th

The Times carries a great piece on Andy Murray by John Westerby;

“You can’t always be comparing yourself to other people, to people that are more successful than you,” Murray said. “Once I’d started to accept that I shouldn’t be comparing myself against other people, that I should just focus on my own journey and working as hard as I possibly can to achieve the goals I want to, that’s all you can do. I’m still doing that now. When I look back at the fact that I was winning my slams and Olympics against those players, it is brilliant. I’ll be very proud of that.”

Interesting how these guys deal with setbacks. Murray it seems is reframing his expectations very successfully.

Perspective. Now six days since my singles defeat I am ready to get back on court with renewed enthusiasm. I am looking forward to my next match.  

Scroll forwards. Tuesday 26th June watching the Wimbledon qualifying competition on the tv. Everyone has everything technically, it’s an impressive standard. The commentator relates a conversation with a taxi driver that morning, who had just dropped three first round losers off at the airport. That’s the reality of this sport he says, lose and move onto the next tournament, chasing the all important ranking points. 

Losers in this sport. We are in the majority.  

My mind is drawn again to the words of the sports psychologist and my free half hour chat of some weeks ago ‘What do I bring?’ and ‘the vital role of sub targets and goals, other than winning’ 

Everything in perspective once more. 

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