Does calmness make the player?

Jan 22, 2012

Although Roger Federer beat Ivo Karlovic in straight sets, there were moments when you would have forgiven Federer for acting out in frustration.  In any given match, no matter how good you are, there must be moments when things just don’t turn out the way you want them to. In those moments you’d forgive a player for venting his frustrations.

But what if you are Roger Federer? His reputation for having a cool, calm head no matter what the circumstances is well deserved. He has gone through hellish matches with the same measured calm as when he is comfortably winning (at least, on the outside). After his match with Karlovic, Federer told reporters that he sometimes just wants to go crazy. Like other players who scream and shout and throw their rackets around, Roger sometimes feel the emotions sizzle and wishes for the chance to throw a wobbly.

So why doesn’t he? Apparently, it’s because nobody remembers his early days. Anyway who does know Federer’s history knows that he used to throw some tantrums in his time. He threw rackets, kicked water bottles, all relatively minor stuff but completely unheard of in the Federer nowadays.

After 10 years of being the Buddha of the tour, he now has a reputation to uphold. As he states himself, he is now a role model to thousands of people young and old. He needs to maintain his calm because that is what is expected of him. When it comes to incentives to stay cool, that’s a pretty useful one.

As one of the best players ever to grace the sport of tennis, is that what makes a champion? Calm? Nadal has a fiery passion but he is rarely known for breaking a racket. Andy Murray is known to hit the court with frustration on occasion, but temper tantrums are few and far between generally in him and in the rest of the top 5. Further down the rankings, it becomes more apparent. Marcos Baghdatis threw all of his toys out of the pram and broke four rackets in a single match. Surely that’s nervous breakdown territory. Mikhail Youzhny is also well known for his temper. And David Nalbandian was fined only a couple of days ago for throwing water at an Australian Open member of staff after his defeat to John Isner. After the game he widely ranted about the quality of the umpire, so the water was only the start of it. The reputation surrounding Serena Williams’ temper is growing year on year as her escapades only increase.

Still, many of history’s greatest tennis players are known for their tempers. Maybe calm doesn’t always win? John McEnroe famously lost his temper at almost every point. In fact he’s created a whole personality and catch phrase out of it. Greg Rusedski has flipped on a couple of occasions. In fact back in the old days there was plenty of racket smashing and chair-kicking.

Perhaps it’s not just that the players nowadays have reached a new level of mental calm. Maybe it’s because the rules governing behaviour on the pitch have tightened. McEnroe would probably have found himself in much hotter water if he got up to his antics in the modern tour. It must be better to behave when you have a strong incentive to.

So whether keep calm or being explosive helps or hinders is probably too tricky to tell. But, for Federer, it looks like he’s found the mental state that works for him. Next time you see him prowl around the baseline, think about what might be going on in his head. And if he starts eyeing up a racket after losing a particularly frustrating point, just think what he would be doing if he hadn’t decided to keep a cool head all those years ago…

Written by: SophieG

(7) Comments

Don says:
Jan 23, 2012

Nice piece. I would argue that mores have most definitely changed, and that the behavior of the past would not be tolerated in the present, which is our great loss.

For instance, I remember Ilie Nastase flipping off the chair umpire and fans. I’m pretty sure it was in a major. The US Open maybe? What do you think they’d do to somebody today for that? Nastase also swore fluently on court — in multiple languages, if memory serves. That, of course, has not disappeared entirely, but no one does it with anything like Nastase’s flair.

Ilie was thought of at the time as a charming, colorful and definitely vulgar character, who was tennis’ #1 bad boy and biggest villain, no doubt, and who was loved by most. Later he became mayor of Bucharest.

Similarly with McEnroe. The more outrageous he was — especially at Wimbledon, where the stuffed shirts practically swooned over it — the better people liked him. At least in the USA, and, I would argue, worldwide as well when you consider the entire universe of tennis fans.

Finally, Sophie, please rejoin Yoda Cup. I know you were having a tough outing, but you’re not the first to struggle first time out. We humbly request the honor of your presence.

SophieG says:
Jan 23, 2012

I didn’t even know I had dropped out of the league! How do I get back in? Believe me, I want to fight to the death for my place at the bottom of that league table!!

Arvis says:
Jan 23, 2012

Geez, how many leagues are you in, Sophie?

I’m in three and I would definitely noticed if I suddenly wasn’t in one of them! :D

………..I guess not everybody is as obsessed with tennis as I am. :(

-Arvis

Thomas says:
Jan 23, 2012

Sophie, nice piece! Don posted on the Yoda Cup that he sent you an e-mail invite. Once you re-join, just make your match predictions and you should be good to go.

Don says:
Jan 24, 2012

Sophie,
I sent you an e-mail (actually, two) inviting you to (re)join the league. Look in your inbox. The e-mail comes through the league. It’s good you’ll be back in Yoda Cup soon!

Don says:
Jan 25, 2012

Sophie,
Perhaps you’re having difficulty figuring out how to turn Auto-Pick off? If so, here’s how:
look at the top right and next to “Log Out” you will see “Account Options” click on that.
Scroll down to the last “Yes/No” question just above your avatar photo. It asks you:

“If you forget to select the winner of a match, would you like us to automatically select the higher seeded/ranked player for you?”

To be a member of Yoda Cup, this question must be answered “No.” Hope that’s helpful.

SophieG says:
Jan 26, 2012

Hi Don, sorry I didn’t see the emails but I can’t access the emails that this account is linked to. But I have asked to join again. So I think I should be back in soon!

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