Novak Djokovic – The mentally strongest tennis player and what we can learn from him
Novak Djokovic is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time and is known not only for his phenomenal on court game but also for the extreme mental toughness he exhibits while playing. There is a famous saying which says “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and Djokovic is an embodiment of this saying. Djokovic’s mental strength is one of the main reasons why he has dominated the 2010s decade winning 16 grand slams in the decade which is more than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal combined who won a total of 15 grand slams in the decade, further cementing his dominance.
Since 2011, Djokovic has been the best player in the world part of which can be attributed to a change in diet and an improvement of serve. However, the main reason for his dominance is his enhanced mental strength on the tennis court. He has won matches on numerous occasions after facing match points. Most recently, he saved two match points in the 2019 Wimbledon Final on center court against Roger Federer and ended up winning the championship. Also, he defeated Nadal at the Roland Garros 2021 Final handing Nadal his third ever loss at the French Open bagging his 19th Grand Slam title in the process. Let us now delve into how Djokovic has evolved into the mentally strong player that he is and how we can learn from him to enhance our mental strength in various aspects of our lives.
Breathwork & Meditation
Djokovic has stated that breathing exercises are one of the main reasons for his mental toughness and also states that breathing exercises are criminally underrated. He believes that taking 15 minutes out of your day to do breathing exercises is a key to understanding and improving our own mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Additionally, performing breathing exercises as soon as you wake up gives you more dynamic energy to operate at a more energetic level for the rest of the day which enhances productivity and mental wellbeing.
For professional athletes, meditation and breathing exercises is all the more important for mental wellbeing owing to the overload of information and news articles circulating around these athletes especially after the emergence of social media platforms which are ever growing in popularity. Djokovic has been practicing these breathing exercises for the last 10 years and it is quite clear that these practices have enhanced his game and his lifestyle off the court as well. In this modern world which is so dynamic and there is always pressure, it is always good to take a bit of time during the day and dedicate it to breathing exercises for calmness, dynamic energy as well as improving mental toughness and wellbeing.
Using past struggles as motivation
Another factor that attributes Djokovic’s mental toughness is the experiences that he has endured while he was growing up. He grew up in the 1990s in Serbia when there was a lot of war, crisis and sanctions, which him and his entire family had to face. This gave Djokovic the mental strength and ‘never give up spirit’ which he exhibits today on and off the court. A lot of people have been through various difficulties growing up which may be financial, personal or emotional struggles. The ability to translate these struggles into success is what makes the elite standout. People should use their struggles as motivation to succeed in whatever they choose to pursue in their lives.
He also attributes his mental toughness to his thinking and his ability to always stay in the present. This is obviously easier said than done, however the ability to mentally live in the moment possesses great powers and provides you with the strength to enable you to do your best. Many people are distracted thinking about stuff that has happened in the past or what is going on in the future which affects their ability to perform the task at hand. Mental strength gives you the ability to solely focus on what needs to be done in the present and helps you perform the task at hand to the best of your abilities.
There are numerous players who can hit a forehand as well as Djokovic and serve better than Djokovic. However, no player comes remotely close to possessing the mental strength he has, which makes him the player he is today. This should be used as a catalyst for other professional players and developing players to inculcate mental development exercises into their training regime as this is a slept upon aspect of tennis. After all the man has won 19 Grand Slams, so clearly Djokovic giving enhanced importance towards exercises which enhance his mental strength has paid its dividends.