Case Study #1: Excellence
Just before this semi-final there is lot of talk about how the gap has been narrowed - either he has improved or Federer did not develop any further to increase the gap. Thus thought the contender, Roddick. He had just beaten Fedex in an invitational off-the-record-book tournament. Roddick was meeting Fedex in the semi-finals of Australian open and coming into the match assuming he had a legitimate chance at beating him. The first set did not seem otherwise - Federx broke Roddick first, Roddick broke back Fedex; that seemed to spur Fedex on; he just elevated himself to a zone and then won 11 games in a row, including a second-set 6-0 demolition, destruction and devastation of Roddick. It was so obvious, when a point that was seemingly lost by Fedex turned around. A Roddick fore-hand drive at the net had pulled Fedex beyond the forehand tramlines; Then, Roddick seemed to have put-away Fedex’s return into the open court; Fedex scrambling back, improvised (rather innovated) a back-hand passing shot. Crowd erupts; and the man, permits himself a smile and an acknowledgement with his raised-racquet. In mid-game, quite rare. The match clearly showed that Federer comes into every match truly believing, without an iota of doubt, that he can beat anyone. To me, that itself gives him a "set" advantage. Pushes his opponent to win 3 out of 4 sets – that is almost impossible at this level; Secondly, Fedex seemed to have this great ability to evolve and dynamically change game-plans during the game.
At a young 25, his confidence, toughness and importantly, his tennis-intellect is extraordinary. I’m sure behind all these, there are tons and tons and hours and hours of practice and hard work; coupled with a steely mental determination. Sometimes I can’t make out if he is perfecting excellence or excelling in perfection. Maybe that’s an upwardly moving bar for him.
Case Study #2: Reinvention
There is one other young man, I am very impressed with. Dinesh Karthik. He was the wicket keeper of the Indian team, and then he had lost his slot to Dhoni. Seeing Dhoni perform, Karthik decided that it will be tough for him to come into the team as a keeper. So he decided to reinvent himself – he started concentrating on his batting and opened batting for his state and zonal team and made good enough scores to come into the team as reserve keeper. When he got a chance as a keeper in a tour match, he performed well with the bat; well enough for him to get into team in a 20/20 match and score runs that won him the man of the match. Then into the test team against RSA when Dhoni was injured – took his chances and into the Indian team as a pure batsman; there made a winning score to get the Man of the match one more time. The point I would like to highlight is this – there are many examples of how players have reinvented themselves as batsman. But in Karthik’s case there is another aspect that stands out, deserving italics :); Keepers, throughout their lives have stood behind and close to the stumps – hence they do not develop a strong throwing arm and cannot field in the deep. Karthik seems to have worked that one through and he is now acknowledged as an outstanding fielder either at close or in the deep; his fielding ability is talked about in the same breath as that of Yuvraj and Raina.
For a young man of 22, this is truly exceptional. He could have been a victim of circumstance. Instead, he chose to be a player – in his mind, there was no option, but to get back, even if he were to redo things completely. Including having the courage to relearn new skills. In that, he has made himself more versatile and hence increased his sustainability. I believe this has started with his mental outlook of refusing to be a victim and seeing possibilities, truly believing in his mind he can get there. And he has. Even if he never plays for
As I was on my morning run, a streak occurred to me. I usually do stretches, walk a while and then jog 3 laps on the track. As I was on the first lap, thinking about the above two gentlemen, I wonder if I could push myself. I decided that tiredness would not be an option today; and I ended-up finishing 9 laps. At the end of it, I realized that I have a legitimate shot at, what I assumed to be an impossible physical activity for me – running the mini-marathon (7km) - I will run this year at the Bangalore event. I realize it is not just physical, its mental. I have been inspired. Thank you, Raja Federer and Dinesh Karthik.