Roger Federer: Embracing the mindset of a world class champion

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Prior to his retirement, Roger Federer had forged a playing career of peerless achievement: the first man to win 20 Grand Slam® singles titles, six ATP Finals crowns, more than 1,200 career victories, two Olympic medals, a Davis Cup triumph with Switzerland and 310 weeks ranked World No. 1.

A world class champion, his calm presence, modest personality and discipline, no doubt, contributed to his achievements, making him a household name. Driven by his personal values, this great tennis player cemented his place firmly in sporting history, and there’s a lot that we can learn from Federer’s determination and winning attitude. It’s no wonder that he has also become the face of many leading brands, such as Rolex as Rolex watches are the epitome of class, elegance and excellence, qualities that Federer has in both his personal and professional life.

Here are some qualities we can learn from the man himself…

Mental strength

In Federer’s early career, he struggled a lot with anger on court, and often lost his concentration. It might be tricky to remember any of it considering we mostly had seen him as a calm, measured player. But as a pre-teen and young teenager, Federer found it difficult to control his emotions and occasionally threw his racket around the court and swore. According to former Swiss star Marc Rossett, the first time he practised with Federer, Federer was the new talented guy in Switzerland but he was lazy. He played like he didn’t care at all, and when Rossett beat Federer at a tour event in Marseilles in the third set, Federer was crying at the ceremony. In fact, Federer recalled a match in 2001 in Hamburg that he lost which changed his behaviour. It was a match that he should have won, but because of the loss, his behaviour was so unbecoming that he felt upset with himself, and decided to keep calm. He struggled to find a balance between anger and calmness back then, but over the years, successfully managed to control his emotions on court. His mental strength to control his emotions in stressful and pressured situations is something that we can all learn from.

Being brave enough to seek help

Federer consulted a psychologist to address his anger issues in 1998 and 1999. His former coach Paul Dorochenko revealed that Federer’s sports psychologist was also the player’s counsellor for about 3-4 years. This here shows a hero who was open and willing to ask and seek help when needed. It takes a brave and courageous person to admit that there’s a problem and to want to fix it. This is one lesson that we can take away from Federer’s experience.

Versatility

Tennis wasn’t the first sport that Roger Federer got into. He’s a huge fan of FC Basel (his hometown) and was an accomplished boyhood footballer. Although he gave up the sport to focus on tennis, he benefitted from other activities and sports that he did during his youth. By his own admission, playing badminton and basketball improved his hand eye coordination. Jimmy Connors described Federer: “In an era of specialists, you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist or a hard court specialist… or you’re Roger Federer.” Hence, having diverse skills, interests and passion that may or may not result in the career of your choosing, will still come handy at some point in your life. The range of skills, knowledge and experience will add to your life experiences.

Loving the game

Roger Federer is one of the best tennis players in the world largely because he loves what he does. He never gave up when he experienced crushing defeats. Instead of feeling discouraged, he used the experiences to learn, adapt, improve, advance and stay on top. What distinguishes him from everyone else is also the pure joy with which he plays the game. Anyone who watches him would agree that you can feel the way he loves tennis. His happiness and joy are indeed inspiring. Loving your job is essential because then you look forward to starting work every day, and you never want to stop learning. You’re always finding ways to improve yourself, your failures are the stepping stone to your next success, and your growth drives you to sustainably continue with the work you’re doing.