• Shweta Gogna
  • Published: 18 April 2019

Friday Reflections | Shweta Gogna

What we can learn from Roger Federer?

A couple of weeks ago, Roger Federer won his 100th Tour title, defeating an up and coming Greek youngster, almost half his age.  For those who follow tennis and the career graph of a man who is possibly the greatest player ever in the Open era of professional tennis, this was just another reminder that he isn’t done yet.
Being a huge fan of the maestro, I look at his story as much in awe as in disbelief, admiration and inspiration. Like most people in any profession, he had to work his way up from the bottom, with every milestone taking innumerable hours of toil and determination. Yet at 37, in a profession that requires tremendous strength of both mind and body – how is he still going strong?
Yes, he is talented, far more than any we have seen in recent times. Yes, he did put in his 10,000 hours – (Outliers is one of my favourite reads!) But it takes something special to succeed in a battle ongoing for more than 20 years, where new warriors with fresher legs and talent to match, keep entering the field every single year. 

Success can become a habit, one that is difficult to give up. So, for those ‘high performers’ that have been successful for a long time, the realisation that they will hit a plateau at some point, is unthinkable. But they will. And it is how they keep themselves motivated during those plateaus and perhaps even troughs, is what will be key. Having won Wimbledon for five years in a row, when Federer lost to Nadal in 2008 on what was arguably his own favourite surface, it could have sounded a death knell. Yes, he was older, yes, he broke down, but how did he come back? He came back to win it the next year and over the next ten years, won it four times again.

Acceptance is key. Acceptance that you can make mistakes, acceptance that on some days and in some situations, someone else will be better than you. Accepting that you will not be number one in the world all the time. For a setback is not a failure. And if you don’t have setbacks, you stop learning.

Secondly, keep the focus. Yes, it is easier said than done. Being dethroned from your favourite tournament can cause tremendous emotional upheaval and it doesn’t take long for insecurities to set in. But Federer knew his strengths and believed in them. He also knew his weaknesses and worked on them. What can be tougher than ascending to the number one position? What can be tougher is slipping down from the position and focusing on getting back to that again, step by step. It is so easy to lose yourself in the emotional storms of the mind, but positivity and fearlessness is crucial in reaping richer rewards. 

For years, we have heard about Federer’s ‘effortless’ play. When he moves around court effortlessly, we don’t see the hours and hours that have gone into the practice, into the physical training. We don’t see the injuries, we don’t see the steadfast willpower to stick to diets.

Nothing comes easy. To be smarter and faster, you need to work harder. No matter what the field, no matter what the profession, there is no substitute for hard work.Roger Federer is not done yet. Whilst this is great news for his diehard fans like me, he has also taught us some invaluable life lessons. The answer to his phenomenal success does not lie entirely in his indisputably supreme talent, but also in the strength of his mind.
All of us face different challenges and have different ways to deal with it. But the biggest weapon we have is our willpower. We must choose to use it wisely.