Por Jorge Manuel Zelaya Fajardo
May 2nd, 2019
The title of this post can be somewhat misleading, particularly if you are familiar with the study method of universities in the United States, since the numerical suffix 101 is used to describe an introductory course of a subject at the beginner´s level (for example, Physics 101, Administration 101 and others similar). In this case, the suffix is precisely the opposite.
Roger Federer, the Swiss tennis player born on August 8th, 1981, is considered by many experts to be the greatest tennis player of all time. The truth is that the numbers (accurate summary of their results on the court) behind Federer are prodigiously overwhelming: 20 grand slams (series of four supreme professional tennis events that are played annually at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and United States Open) placing him as the only male player in history to achieve it. In the same way, he is the only one in history to hold the #1 position as a tennis player in the world of the ATP (historical world record maintained for 310 consecutive weeks).
However, the number that catches our attention this time is the 101, because Sunday afternoon on March 31st, 2019,Federer beat the Jon Isner, an American tennis player, in the final of the Miami Open, to achieve his 101st trophy as champion, almost 20 years after winning his first title in Milan at age 19, when he was ranked 27th in the world. It really is almost unrealistic to think that a human being can win 101 champion trophies of a tennis tournament (only the tennis player Jimmy Connors surpasses him with 8 more tournament trophies). They are not medals or participant ribbons, it is a trophy as the best of all in said event.
Winning 101 champion trophies of anything is a subject of extreme relevance. It makes us think from the deep to the superficial. The questions that arise are: How can a human being earn more than a hundred high-level global professional competencies during almost 20 years of career in a consistent manner? Where do you keep the trophies? What attitude does this man have when a tournament starts? How and how much does he train? Is his success pure natural talent that only he has? What sets him apart from the others? What habits do you have to achieve such an epic feat? Will he be able to beat the record of tennis player Jim Connors at 40 years of age?
The truth is that the answers, although not easy, they are simple. For many years I have studied the behavior of Roger Federer, both on and off the pitch, due to my passion for the white sport.
Roger Federer is a champion because he has worked to be one. Possessing an out-of-context natural talent, he has never settled for what nature has given him. Very early, he understood that his bad temper on the court at the beginning of his career (much like that of John McEnroe in the 80s) should change if he wanted to be the best version of himself. He started a plan, executed it and reached his goal. His way of behaving like a fierce predator on the court counteracts with his humility in words and emotional expressions after several finals. There is no one who can say, upon seeing Federer enter a Wimbledon final, that his body language shouts out loud that he will be the winner, even without having touched the ball. His elegance, candor and sense of humor seem to distract us from his relentless focus on goals, results and thirst to win. His passion for continuous improvement and his high emotional intelligence in decisive sets, make him very different. His grace, consistency and the way he dominates volleys, returns, and lost balls is unmatched. However, perhaps the greatest learning of the 101 trophies won by Federer is his mental strength expressed in another number: 52. The number 52, is the number of times that Federer has lost a final of a tournament. That is, several times he has returned home without reaching his goal. He has lost big time. He has had the trophy near, but he has not obtained it. He has suffered in silence and in public. His results are impressive, but without a doubt what is most impressive is that he has achieved them with sui generis mix of attitude, system and aptitude. Three lessons that we can apply in our own tournaments are not necessarily sport-related.