It’s one year since I wrote the post called Learning from Wimbledon. Andy Murray had just lost an emotionally charged final to Roger Federer. His tearful speech in front of a packed Centre Court and millions more on TV was hard to watch. But, despite the despair and pain that he (and his followers) felt, it was clear that something had changed. His raw talent was clearly good enough to win the major prizes. His tactical awareness was not in question. His physical fitness had been transformed such that no-one in the game worked harder to ensure they were able to go the distance. The final piece of the jigsaw for Andy was conquering his Inner Game. For years his temperament had been called into question. He cracked at the big moments. The pressure placed on him by the British media and public, hungry for a British Wimbledon men’s champion, was becoming unbearable. If Andy was to succeed, it was going to be a victory inside his own head that would secure the breakthrough.
The Inner Game is played out completely inside the brain. To succeed in the Inner Game one must quieten the ‘voice’ in the head that judges, criticises and worries. It can act in many subtle (and not so subtle) ways, but basically it does one of two things. It either causes us to dwell on and regret past events (e.g. a poorly executed drop shot at the end of the last rally that cost you the game), or it worries about and raises anxiety levels about future events (e.g. if I don’t win my next service game, my opponent will be serving for the match). Neither of these thought processes are useful or conducive to delivering your peak performance. To perform at your best, you need to be operating neither in the past nor in the future, but with total concentration on the present.
This applies, of course, not just to Tennis, sports or games, but to our everyday lives. How much of your thinking time in work is preoccupied with concerns or regrets
On that Sunday in July last year, as Andy let his emotions loose in public, it seemed to me that something had changed. Two massive opportunities, in the shape of the Olympics and the US Open, presented themselves within the following two months to prove that it had. Murray was about to go in to those as a changed person, with a new Inner Game playing out inside his head. And, he indeed took both of those tournaments by storm.
On the same Centre Court at Wimbledon that had been the site of such pain, just 28 days previously, he swept to Olympic Gold, by beating his great rival Novak Djokovic in the semi-final, and the undisputed king of Wimbledon’s Centre Court, Roger Federer, in an amazingly one-sided final. Fantastic. He had buried some ghosts, but winning a slam was still how he would be judged. One month later, at Flushing Meadow, he made his biggest breakthrough yet. He out-played, out-thought and out-slogged his great friend and rival, Novak, in a nail-biting US Open final, and his place in grand slam history was now secured.
Wind forward one year, and we find ourselves back at Wimbledon. Despite all his success, there is still a monkey on Murray’s back. Wimbledon is the pinnacle, especially for a British tennis player, especially given the 77 years since Fred Perry, that he is reminded about every time he is interviewed or opens a newspaper. What a difference a year makes. No-one would have taken a bet one year ago on Murray beating Djokovic in three straight sets. Probably not even Murray himself. He wouldn’t have had the belief, or the Inner Game to handle what he did yesterday. His resilience, his focus, his temperament, and his absolute unwavering belief were astounding to watch. It was pure drama, better than any fiction.
Andy Murray, I salute you. I have been enthralled by your journey. I have watched your transformation with joy. And, I cannot wait for the next chapters to be written, in what I am sure will be an all-time classic.
If you’d like to learn more about the secrets of Andy Murray’s success, then I would recommend you read Tim Gallwey’s seminal work, The Inner Game of Tennis. A hugely recommended book for tennis (and non-tennis) fans. It’s simple messages about quieting our inner voice, and questioning traditional ‘teaching’ and ‘coaching’ methods, are every bit as applicable to how we operate, function and interact in our personal and working lives, as they are to tennis. For a longer summary of what’s behind Tim’s thinking go to my previous post on this subject Learning from Wimbledon.
I can help you to discover your Inner Game. Learn how to recognise the obstacles and derailers that damage our ability to perform at our best. Discover how to unlock your potential, free from interference. Simply contact me through the Contact Us page. I will be delighted to have an initial chat about your personal or business objectives.