Novak Djokovic won the Miami Open over the weekend, breaking all kinds of records in the process. His 6th Miami Open title, 27th Masters title, and dangerously close to earning more prize money than the untouchable one… Roger Federer. Nobody can beat him, or even win a set off of him. He’s won 22 sets in a row without much resistance, and has rendered even the best servers unable to hold serve. What is he doing that’s so special? It begins and ends with the brain, duh.
During the Sunday final, commentator Darren Cahill described the situation this way: “While most players lift weights in the gym, Djokovic lifts mental weights.” Another Cahill-ism worth noting. Indeed, the mental component is crucial in every sport, but even more so in individual sports like tennis. When you’re having a bad day, there are no teammates to take the game over. This is why Djokovic’s current run is so rarefied. Not often is a player able to remain so mentally astute every single day. While his opponents miss easy shots in pressure situations, Djokovic plays even stronger.
Hatred Toward Losing
With Djokovic, and other dominating folk in both sports and life, there’s a win or bust approach to every situation. Yes, winning matches is important, but it’s even more rudimentary than that. When Djokovic is leading his opponents by a set and a break, or two breaks, he still treats every point like gold.
When faced with an opportunity to break Kei Nishikori’s serve in the second set of the Miami Open final, Djokovic missed a backhand to give Nishikori the game. Being up a set already, most players would shrug it off. But Djokovic dropped his racket in anger. Why? Because every point counts. Sorry for the cliche, but it’s a statement people routinely forget.
Winning a match every now and then can happen by pure luck, but domination is no accident. It’s a state of mind that can be taught, but rarely implemented to the extent of a Djokovic. The ability for one man to build such a lead from the rest of the field is almost unprecedented. In Djokovic’s case, it could be once in a lifetime.