In between breaks of the World Cup, turning our attention to Centre Court at Wimbledon for the Men’s final match offered a refreshing display of “true” sportsmanship that dispersed the focus on Suarez’s biting incident and was a timely reminder that traditional values and spirit are very much alive and well in sport at the elite level.

RESPECT AND ADMIRATION
Playing in his 59th consecutive Grand Slam, Federer was bidding to become the oldest major champion since Andre Agassi won the 2006 U.S. Open at age 35, take the Wimbledon crown a record 8 times, and silence the critics who have suggested that his slam-winning days are behind him.

For Djokovic, who has lost his last three gram-slam finals and five of his last six, he was looking to change that force of motion into victory.

It was clear that both players faced defining moments in their career, but their pre-match interviews outwardly displayed immense respect and adoration for their opponent over and above a focus on personal achievement.

Wayne Coffey’s article in New York Daily News shared Djokvic’s pre-match comments. “To come back and play finals of Wimbledon again, it’s incredible what he’s doing,” the 27-year-old Djokovic said. “His level (in this tournament) has been very high.”

It is these actions that define the essence of “true competition” or sportsmanship.

A true competitor expects their opponent to bring their “A-game” and welcomes it, because it is an opportunity to bring out the very best in their own game.

Many youth athletes I see who fear losing hope to catch their opponent on an “off-day”. I listen to players talk about their opponent’s recent poor performance as a good omen, and on the flip side see recent great performances by their opponent as a sign of doom.

True competitors do not see a tough rival as a threat, but rather a chance to push their limits, take risks, and simply learn about themselves through the experience, regardless of whether they win or lose.

COMPOSURE AND POSITIVE REACTIONS
Often you will see Novak Djokvic’, applaud his competitor’s great shots. Rather than letting seemingly lucky or impossible winners get to him, he is unfazed. Novak expects these things to happen, and it is this expectation that allows him to get on with the game, focus on himself, and the next point.

NEVER SAY DIE ATTITUDE
The Straits Times’ Rohit Brinath, summed up the incredible intensity of this finals match. “It is not merely the skill at work but the relentless intense expression of it. Evert shot, First hour, Fourth hour.”

Persistence is a habit of the true competitor. This type of athlete is always reminding himself or herself that it’s not over til it’s over, and mistakes are not permanent, they can be changed or rectified. In the second set Federer made a string of unforced errors that would lead many players and spectators a-like, to throw in the towel but instead he answered every error with a brilliant play that kept us all on our toes.

GRACIOUS IN VICTORY AND DEFEAT
Following an extraordinary match, both players gave remarkable speeches praising each other’s performance, and emphasized the experience and privilege of being involved in an epic final over and above their personal triumph or defeat. Novak said of Federer; “He is a magnificent player, he is a role model, and I have great respect for all he has done for the sport of tennis.”

PASSION FOR THE GAME
In order to achieve consistent high performance over a long period of time, you must love what you do. A love for the game means a love for all aspects including the ups and downs. It is about the journey not just the results. Federer said to reporters he is savoring every match, every stroke, appreciating what he has even more than he did when he was 21 and all this was just starting.

Federer’s statement in the New York Daily News earlier this week sums this up perfectly, “You’ve got to love the game, because if you don’t love, then it’s just going to be too hard”.

Dr Jay-Lee Longbottom
Book an appointment to further develop your true competitive edge with Dr Jay-Lee at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre.