Thursday, September 29, 2011

Anger: Difference between Good (McEnroe,Murray) & Great (Federer,Nadal)

Sitting right now in a cafĂ© shop, as I sip my cup of tea, I am lost in deep thoughts about the biggest mystery of my life: Anger. It’s a small word but it can create havoc in anyone’s life.  You, me, everyone gets angry at the smallest things in life. The question that haunts me is – why we are so intolerant towards mistakes? Why can’t we just accept the reality and move on to give out our best the next time? Or in simple words why do we get angry? 

As these thoughts pass my mind, I go back to my childhood idol – Steffi Graf, and think whether she got angry in any match. Even when she lost the famous first round in Wimbledon against Lory McNeil, she still was the calm person I have always known. Be it on the court or off the field, she was a serene and graceful personality to look up to. 

Another athlete I have never seen shouting profanities is Rafael Nadal. No matter, how tough the situation gets, here is a player who, in my knowledge, has never lost his cool. Toni Nadal said for Rafael Nadal: "He has never broken a racket in anger. It would be showing a lack of respect to people who actually have to buy the equipment to play the sport." Amazing as it is, looking at the history of tennis, one would find that people have been able to realize their full potential and become the greatest only when they have mastered this thing called “Anger” in their life.

The classic examples are Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. When I watched Federer playing, I used to think what is it that drives this person- how can he be so perfect? I realized that he was also a mortal like many of us in his teen years. No doubt he had talent – don’t we all in some field or the other – but he was short tempered and not focused. But then one incident – death of his childhood coach Peter Carter and later meeting with Peter’s parents – transformed his life, made him focused at his game and relaxed on court. The result is for all of us to see – 16 GS and unending list of achievements. Djokovic has been no different. From being the brash Djoker to the funny and respectful champion – his journey this year has been incredible.

We get angry because we cannot accept mistakes but it’s inevitable in tennis as well as in life to make mistakes. But it’s very important to control anger because if we don’t then mind stops working and rash things happen and you have to bear the repercussions.

You can see the examples in tennis: Marat Safin is the first one I can think of – If only he could keep control on his emotions, John McEnroe is another player who I think could have won more GS than 7. And at present Andy Murray is also a good example. In US Open SF, one of the reasons he lost so was his inability to control his emotions. When you are frustrated after almost every point, you tend to lose focus and make errors. Showing anger is a big advantage to opponents like Nadal/Djokovic who get a message that you cannot do it. And then rest is history!

So how do you control your anger? Suppressing your anger might not be possible but then showing it to your opponent might ignite him to play even better. It’s important to learn this art as it can allow you to focus on the next point no matter which situation (winning or losing) you are in. It’s a habit that can only be developed over a period of time and cannot come overnight.

Breaking racquet or glass is the option tried out by many but what will separate you from the normal would be the ability to channelize your frustration to positive energy and vent it out in your game just like Djokovic in US Open SF (at two match points) or Steffi Graf in 1999 FO finals. Slowly you will get to a stage where nothing can rattle you (like Federer & Nadal) and no matter how tough your situation is, you can still try to battle it out rationally rather than losing it out.

There are many techniques available to do the above on net and I am not going to write it down as it can be different for everyone. For me, what seems to work, at times, is that I close my eyes whenever I am angry and visualize my favorite player and think how he/she would have reacted.

So coming back to my original question – We get angry because we make mistakes and breaking things and shouting is the easiest way out. "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person keeps himself under control." What I have learnt in this half an hour time is that if we need to realize our full potential, this is one art I, you and everyone will need to learn in order to become great champions in our lives. It’s tough and really hard but I am ready to set it out on this journey: Are You?

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  1. Humn, better not close my eyes and focus on my favorite player--it's John McEnroe. (Murray is my favorite current player, so no luck there either.)

    I do object to referring to McEnroe as only good, as in, meh. He is likely the most creative player in the history of the game, and many (myself included) place him high on their all-time-greats list. Granted, he probably could have won more majors, but in fact his flame burned brightest for only a brief period.

    You are right about Murray. To my eye, he clearly has everything he needs to win GS titles, but he has not mastered himself. He needs to take a step back and take a close look at this friend and rival Djokovic and what he's done this year, and take a few deep lessons.

  2. Excellent article. Sampras was also cool on the court. You are right that Macnore could have won more GS. you must chanellised your energy in positive way then you can achieve your objective.

    It is difficult to control anger. How you express it that matter.
    Keep it up

  3. @Anonymous- 6:51 Apologies but my intention was not offend McEnroe or his fans! What I meant was he could have won so more with his talent & creativity but he squandered so many opportunites! He did injustice to himself because of his anger.Thats why he is only good in my book.
    IN McEnroe own words: "Sometimes when you wear your emotions on your sleeve it may fuel an opponent who is down and out. Perhaps it has cost me at times when the other player said to him•self, ‘I’m going to keep trying because this guy is such a jerk.’”.

    Things might not be working out for fed right now but with this approach he has won 16 GS (the highest ever), Pete has won 14, Graf-22, Nadal 10 whereas McEnroe has won 7, Becker-6, and Serena- 13.Anger is a very bad habit and probably the difference between Very GOOD and BEST. Its important to be motivated but to show negative emotions somehow or the other does effect your play and probably important matches which could have taken these terrific players (McEnroe,Becker etc) GS tally to many more!

  4. @Anonymous 8:10 - Thank a lot for the kind words:).

  5. Aperksha HA, not faulting you, just disagreeing that McEnroe doesn't quality as great. I'll even agree that his lack of control probably cost him at least a couple of GS titles. As he has said (paraphrasing), he didn't have many issue when he played Borg, because he knew that he had to put everything he had into besting the Swedish Iceman. Had he kept his emotions in check he would probably have won the French over Lendl, earning himself a career GS.

    All that said, I don't think he can be left out of the "great" category because when he played his best he did things on court which were almost beyond imagination I've always said that Federer is is explicably brilliant, but that McEnroe was inexplicably brilliant.

    My 2¢.

  6. @Anonymous- 11:48- In my book, Borg and McEnroe were equally talented (their match record is 8-8) but Borg won 11 GS.1984 defeat against Lendl was the bitterest defeat of McEnroe's career. I just wonder if only he could have won it-things could have been so different!

    Although to qualify as great, i have a different perspective on the definition. In my dictionary, people like Federer,Graf,Billie Jean King will always stand out because inspite of being a mortal like us and champions like Mcenroe, they chose to stand above the rest! They chose to channelize the grief, anger in a positive manner on and off the court to make the best use of their talent and game thus setting example to people all over the world.

    Not to offend anyone, but from my point of view- McEnroe could have done so so much more with his amazing brilliance but he chose the other way round! So 7 might seem enough but for me with his class, it should have been a minimum double digit GS tally! Hence only GOOD.

  7. Not offended (Though how anyone could disagree w/ me, ME, is beyond reason. What's the Universe coming to?) and your points are valid. I also agree w/ each of the players you list as belonging on that "great" train. It's just that in my view McEnroe is on the train, while I guess you might say he got left on the platform, watching the train pull away.

    I guess I might also say that McEnroe is great in spite of his modest GS record. I'm not saying this is your POV, but many folks only look to GS titles as the yardstick for measuring greatness; that's not my view. So, in my opinion, Jimmy Connors is not quite on that train, even though he has more GS titles than McEnroe.

    Anway, it's all an interesting discussion. McEnroe is my all time favorite player, but in my book, Laver still qualifies as the greatest of all time. (Dang, did I just open that can'o worms?)

  8. @Anonymous 12:28- :):). Good one!

    As I said that my yardstick to measure great is not only GS-otherwise Billie Jean King wont be there-12 GS. It's the complete picture I look at: On and Off the court! (Consistency, Surface, GS,Temperament/Behavior,Role model etc.) For few even Pancho was the greatest but I have my own doubts there!

    I agree with you on the Laver part- He is no doubt on that train( he won all the 4 GS in a year 2 times). A technically faultless player!

    I admire Connors for his never give up spirit. He won us open at age 31 and continued to compete till 41. This needs some guts:

    But if you have to ask me the greatest- I think Federer/Graf will win as they have been nearly perfect in all the above parameters! Oops- Did I now just open a can'o worms:):)

  9. Good discussion. There will be no end who is best. It depend on condition at that time. With time every thing changed. Winning 7 GS at that time may be greatest achievement but now it is not matter. Rod lever won all 4 GS in a year twice that may be greatest.
    Similarly, after 10-15 years. These things will be good.

  10. Thank you for this amazing article!!!!!!!! BTW who is your favorite (male) player?????? PLZ answer

  11. Remember McEnroe had lots of anger, but then channeled it back into the court and his play. Murray seems to internalize that anger and let it unravel him. Both angry, but it affects each one differently.

    And McEnroe has the distinction of being widely considered as perhaps the finest doubles player of all time. Grand Slam titles do not only greatness make.