Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 tennis player, beat Rafael Nadal in four sets, 6-2 6-4 6-7 6-1, in the US Open final. This makes for his 2nd grand slam championship of 2011. Djokovic attributes his strong performance in the final to his mental game, confidence, and positive attitude. He really hasn’t changed his tennis game technically, but rather has begun to believe in himself more, which has helped him have a fantastic year. “At this level you need those matches, those tough matches against top guys to win in order to get confidence, get self-belief on the court that you can really win majors and win the big matches. So I guess it just clicked in my head,” said Djokovic.
Two years ago this was not the case. He admits that less belief in self caused him to play more cautiously, waiting for opponents to miss, and not really be aggressive with his shots. “In last couple of years that wasn’t the case. I was always kind of trying to wait for their mistakes or being out there and playing my best tennis and not really having the positive attitude and kind of believing that I can win,” Djokovic said.
You may wonder how long Djokovic can maintain such a high level of success for so many tournaments. How does he get momentum and extend his winning streak? Positive mental attitude and confidence! “I think that positive attitude is actually something that keeps you on top of your game.” He wants to keep his winning streak in tact as long as possible, but he’s also feeling the pressure from others who think his streak must end. “I try not to pay attention to that. I try to really take one match at a time, keep things very simple, and, you know, believe that this streak can go forever.”
The higher the level of competition, the more important your mental game becomes to performing your best. Your skills alone are not enough today. Top players have a strong mental game and use their focus, confidence, and creativity to perform well. “The way I look at it, it takes a lot of mental energy and physical energy to win against these guys, especially Rafa. He never gives up. You could see that today. Two sets and a break down and serving for the match and he’s coming back. That’s why he’s a great champion. I’m not as fit as I was in the start of the match, so I needed to take chances, and I did. It was an incredible set for me,” said Djokovic.
So what motivates Djovokic and other players to endure adversity and overcome the highs and lows of tennis? For Djokovic, the love of the sport drives him to excel along with the feeling he gets from winning. “There is still a lot of things to prove, to myself, to the tennis world. I still want to win many more events, many more major events. It’s not just habit of standing up every morning and being focused on what you do. It’s just that love for the sport that keeps me going. And winning on the court, that feeling, as long as it stays with me, I will keep fighting for more trophies.”