Do Both Osaka and Stephens Have Fear of Success?

How Pressure Impacted Osaka and Stephens

Fear can hold back a tennis player from their potential. When thinking about fear, most tennis players think of the fear of failure.

Fear of failure is when you worry about making mistakes, losing, embarrassing yourself or what others may think about you if you don’t perform up to a certain standard.

There is no doubt that fear of failure or imaging the worst case scenario is a crippling experience that takes away from the joy that you once had playing tennis and prevents you from being on top of your game.

There is another fear that is often misunderstood… the fear of success.

Many tennis players question, “Why would any player fear success, winning or climbing up the rankings?”

It is true that most tennis players want to achieve as much as they can in the sport. That is the reason tennis players work so hard on the craft.

With success, some tennis players experience greater pressure. These tennis players become weighed down by the expectations of others, whether real or imagined.

Heightened expectations can make a tennis player feel that they need to be perfect or else they will let everyone down.

That “need to be perfect” can cause a tennis player to spiral downward after even the slightest mistake in a match.

This fear of success and the accompanying sense of pressure can become self-sabotaging for some tennis players.

Being on top isn’t the easiest of tasks as Naomi Osaka can attest. In 2016, Osaka was named Newcomer of the year.

In 2018, Osaka won the US Open by beating Serena Williams for her first Grand Slam singles title. Then, in the very next Grand Slam event, Osaka beat Petra Kvitova to win the 2019 Australian Open and earned the No. 1 ranking.

Since her victory at the Australian Open, Osaka has under performed, lost her No. 1 ranking and was defeated in the first round at Wimbledon.

After the Wimbledon loss, Osaka talked about the pressure of being No. 1.

OSAKA: “Mentally it was way more stress and pressure than I could have imagined. I don’t think there was anything that could have prepared me for that.”

Sloane Stephens, who won the 2017 US Open then lost her next eight matches, can relate to Osaka and understands how the fear of success can affect a player’s mindset.

STEPHENS: “There is obviously a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations, and you put pressure on yourself because you want to do well and you want to live up to whatever it is that everyone is writing and talking about. Sometimes you get overworked and overwhelmed.”

Both Osaka and Stephens have experienced the negative effects of success, high expectations, and pressure.

The fear of success is very real and, if you are to be successful on a consistent basis, you need to arm yourself with mental skills to proactively cope with higher expectations.

Overcoming the Fear of Success:

What’s your ultimate fear about being successful?

-Fear of high expectations and demands?

-Fear of jealousy from others?

-Fear of being under a microscope?

-Or another fear?

Once you identify your fear, you can deal with it head on. You have to focus on the benefits of success and also rationalize with yourself about why success is not a curse.

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