What I’ve learnt from Wimbledon

Once upon a time, there was a man who got a wildcard to get into the Wimbledon tournament. He was ranked 125 in the world. He had been in a Wimbledon final on three other occasions, twice involving tense battles with the likes of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. He had always dreamed of winning Wimbledon. His serve is a weapon still remembered to this day, as he has just been voted as having the 2nd best serve of all time in an online BBC sports poll. Second that is, only to Pete Sampras. Why am I even mentioning this player? Because he entered Wimbledon in 2001 on a wildcard, ranked 125th in the world, and yet went on to win the tournament. He seemed to have ‘god’ on his side. He beat a very humble Pat Rafter in a superb and incredibly close and tense final, one which could not be forgotten by anyone who saw it. His name was Goran Ivanišević.

My interest lies in the fact that this guy somehow beat all the odds. ALL OF THEM. Mentally, the loss at the last hurdle three previous times must have been huge. The idea that he was also a man from a small country no-one really cared about and hadn’t grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth also makes it all the more surprising. The fact that he had to beat the odds of there never, ever having been anyone entering the Wimbledon tournament on a wildcard and actually going on to win the championships must also have been an enormous mental block to overcome. The fact that rain disrupted his semi-final match to such an extent, that the championship final actually took place on the Monday, not the traditional Sunday was also a factor that set his victory apart as unique. To align all these factors, to result in a Wimbledon triumph is something even Goran could never have actually planned. He knew it was largely down to fate, god, the universe, or whatever outside force he trusted in. And yet, he didn’t dismiss that element of the situation, quite the reverse.

Here’s a clip of the highlights of that epic match:

All of this inspires me and reminds me of the important mental discipline that is required to achieve any big goal that feels like a huge mountain to climb. It’s part of the kind of thinking that I have been trying to incorporate into my own life, especially with regard to my ‘Patsy Pioneer’ alter-ego and the necessity to combat the evils of the things that oppose my progress. The things in my life that are like kryptonite to me need to be renamed as something silly, so that I remember not to place too much importance on them. Old-school thinking such as, “no-one earns any money from music” or “there’s no way I can make a career out of this with my background” has to be eradicated, and indeed, laughed at. Because it’s irrelevant. If a guy from a town called Split can win Wimbledon on a wildcard, despite no-one else in the history of the championships EVER doing this, then I can beat my own family background, class, lack of music education, lack of piano access and so on, too. It’s my choice where I place my focus, where I choose to hang my thoughts and beliefs. It’s my path and mine alone, and although tennis also reminds me that having a coach and a team of people helping you to achieve your goal is absolutely vital, and therefore going it alone is not an option, I also recognise that the responsibility for keeping my thinking focussed on what I’m trying to achieve and why I’m trying to achieve it (and expressly not on asking ‘how’ all the time) is entirely mine.

Finally, the one other thing about this unique Wimbledon final that also bears mentioning is the fact that in defeat, Ivanišević’s opponent, Pat Rafter, was an incredible example of how humble, kind and fair someone can be. The way he reacted to the outcome of the match, the way in which he dealt with his own sense of missing out on the title despite two near-misses is admirable. When something is truly out of your hands, there comes a time when remaining open, optimistic but accepting of where you are is an incredible set of qualities to have. I aspire to hold those too.