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Serena Williams playing tennis.

How Do You Keep Going When There's Always Someone Better?

01/21/2015, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

I don't promote this lightly, but it's time to get angry.


According to’s Peter Bodo, Novak Djokovic enters 2015 as the ATA's highest ranked male tennis player. 

Federer and Nadal come in 2nd and 3rd in Bodo’s eyes, but there can only be one number 1.

On the female side it’s once again Serena Williams and then everyone else. The 33 year-old shows no signs of slowing down. Her commitment and passion for the game have never been higher as she closes in on Steffi Graf’s all-time Slam List record

So, despite being the best female tennis player in the world even Serena Williams is still aiming for someone who’s ranked higher. 

How does Williams - how does any tennis player - move forward against the odds?

Get Mad

“With (Williams), determination usually wins.”

Steve Tignor,

Determination, rage, dedication, passion - these emotions might have a different description at the end of the day but they still carpool to work together.

Getting angry at your current state or level is healthy as long as you do something about it. As we learned from tennis Dad Garry Valk, as soon you grow content with your game you’re dead in the water. As soon you let injury dictate your fate you’re in trouble. 

Tennis is about proving people and opponents wrong. There can be only one, but it’s the hardest spot to hold on to. 

Control the Controllable

For Djokovic to have the season Bodo believes he’s capable of having a lot of elements still have to break right. Getting a good start at the Australian Open, avoiding injury and keeping focussed despite the contentment (and distraction) of being a new dad - these are all elements within Djokovic’s control.

Tennis is about taking care of your own game during practice. Any time you’re on the court it’s an opportunity to build and stabilize specific skills and habits. It’s a chance to increase fitness levels and maintain good health

It doesn’t matter what your competition is doing during that time, whether your competition is Novak Djokovic, Genie Bouchard or another 12 year-old phenom. 

Opponent strategy should come into play during matches, not practice. 

1. Focus On Your Own Strengths

Whether you’re reliant on your power game like Milos Raonic or your tactical skills like Bouchard, it’s smart to maximize your strengths. The more you improve your strengths during practice, the more likely they’ll turn into habits you employ in a match.

2. Focus On Your Own Weaknesses

As we said above, while you’re exploiting an opponent during a match, they’re exploiting you at the same time. Don’t give them any ammunition. Develop your weaknesses along with your strengths so they’re not a liability in a key moment. 

The Slow Burn

Any sport played at an elite level requires thousands of hours of work. The right work, mind you. Habit-building, quality work. 

The difference in tennis is the focus on other players while not focussing on other players. This means that higher-ranked tennis players should be used as motivation, but only to improve one’s own individual skill-set. 

It may sound like a contradiction, but the key to overcoming your obstacles in tennis is patient determination. It’s perfectly alright to aim for the stars as long as you realize it might take a long time to get there (and no one is going to carry you).

Stay realistic, aim high and slowly but surely the top of the mountain will come into focus. 

photo credit: ProphecyBlur via photopin cc

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