Looking at one of my favorite players, Maria Sharapova, in my favorite sport, Tennis, for inspiration on what it takes to be a winner.
I took time out this morning to watch the Australian Open 3rd round match between Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams. The 6-1, 6-3 score doesn’t tell you how intense the game really was. Nor what it took for Maria to win over such a formidable opponent. Maria is one of my favourite players because of her intensity, commitment and determination to play and win. I find in her approach to her career real motivation on what it takes to be successful in any realm.
Maria, along with another favorite of mine Rafael Nadal, is known for playing each point as if its match point and each game as if it is championship game. That was evident in her approach today, which contributed to making a 3rd round game so exciting to watch. This takes a great deal of focus and determination. To win its true we need to understand the big picture of the overall game. We execute the win by focusing on the here and now and giving it our all.
Working with your strengths
In tennis we call it weapons. Maria’s weapons in the game come from her power and intensity. Maria is known for often dominating a game, dictating play and over powering opponents. She understands her strengths so well, she is able to capitalize on them. Sometimes it seems she shows up with only the A Game in mind, and no B Game in her back pocket. It’s go big or go home. In any career, it’s important to understand our strengths, and use them to our advantage.
Maria is the only player to win a Major tournament after coming come back to the game after major shoulder surgery. It took her a few years to get back to the top of the game, but she did it. She’s currently ranked #2 in the world. She has had to adapt her game. After the surgery, she has really struggled with her serve and double faults. Watching Maria the last few years, it almost seems to me that she has relaxed into knowing that her serve can be off, and draws strength from her other weapons and persistence. With the end result that the serve is a little better. Today, in windy conditions, she only double faulted once. Though her first serve percentage was not that high, she made a lot of points on her second serve by battling through the point. To succeed we need to understand our weaknesses, work with them, and just include them into our overall game.
Maria’s game enabled her to win early career championships on hard courts and grass, though she used to struggle on clay. Determined to join the select small group of women who have won all 4 majors in their career, Maria set her sights on improving her clay game over the past year. She achieved an outstanding clay season in 2012 that was crowned with winning the French Open. To be leaders in any field we need to always be looking at our game, where we can improve, and where are our next opportunities for growth and success.
Tennis is a game of momentum. Often the front runner remains the front runner because of the confidence that winning gives you. At one point in the middle of today’s first set, the commentators observed how this confidence/non-confidence translated into Maria moving very quickly on the court, and Venus moving very slowly. Venus did push through towards the end of the second set, which allowed her to win more games. The take away for me is to allow the momentum of success to carry you from strength to strength, and to use your other weapons to ignore the setbacks.
To Maria: congratulations on the win today. Good luck, I wish you well for the rest of the tournament.