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

Sitting right now in a café 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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