Injuries, resolve and Del Potro

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I rarely blog these days. Maybe I don’t have the time, maybe it’s just low on my priority list, maybe I don’t have enough ideas for posting with frequency. But I tweet occasionally and today I got another update in my Hootsuite feed from tennis player Juan Del Potro.

For you who aren’t tennis nerds, Del Potro is a spectacular player who won the U.S Open in 2009, beating Roger Federer and preventing the Swiss maestro from taking his sixth straight US Open title.

But then the injuries came for the Argentinian grand slam champ. First one wrist, then the other, then the other wrist again. Injury, surgery, injury. He came back a few times, but not for a long enough stretch to make an impact on the tour.

He posted this today:

Inspiring stuff. But what a struggle it must be! I’ve had a knee inflammation myself for a few weeks and played tennis for the first time in a while today. Sadly, it had to be in a tournament game, the local national championships – The Malta Open. I came in with the naive hope that I would be able to run fully and compete, but during the warm-up I felt my knee tense up and then the paint came and went for the duration of the match, preventing me from even giving something like 70 percent.

I’m 33 and pretty fit, yet my body feels older. All the running, tennis and gym over the years has taken its toll on it perhaps, I don’t know. What I do know is that I need to change something. Do yoga, do different kind of stretches or exercises to loosen up and improve mobility. Otherwise I don’t think there’s much point to be on a tennis court. It’s simply not fun when you can’t give your hundred percent. That’s why I started thinking of professional athletes and the kind of work it entails to remain injury free and in physical and mental top shape, match after match, tournament after tournament. And it must be so hard not to be able to play. To work. To do what you’re best at. What you’re meant to do. That’s why I feel for Del Potro. Besides all the hassles, pain and costs of surgery, he has to feel trapped. He wants to play, wants to be where he’s his most natural self, yet, if he’s not fully fit, there’s no point. So he has to work hard, very hard, to even have a chance of stepping on the court as a professional tennis player again. His posts indicates he’s giving it all he can.

I’m impressed by the resolve it takes to be a professional athlete. You must really have a strong passion for what you do to put in all the hard work. And especially at the time of rough setbacks; like difficult losses and injuries. So I want to send my regards to Juan Martin. May you recover and bless the tennis court once more with your fierce forehand.

Will end with another Del Potro post. This time published on the excellent content site Medium.

Comino tennis weekend

Lots of things going on right now. Lenah’s father just had a golfing gang over who left yesterday, my parents and uncle are here now, we have been going to loads of dinners and events, Lenah is busy with new work stuff and her blog and besides loads of projects at work, I’m trying to write a collection of short stories (initially called Six Strings). Tomorrow there’s a wine tasting and on Saturday we’re taking the boat to Comino for a tennis weekend.

Aiden is playing one tournament and I’m playing the other. It’s mostly a kids focused trip but will be fun. I borrowed the pics below from the sister Island of Comino from Lenah’s blog.

Tennis training with “Bob” Caruana

Aiden (aka Bob) and I had a tennis session on Saturday. It was almost too hot to play but he hit some decent shots. Lenah also came by to say hi, looking beautiful and tennis Summery in a white dress.

And on Sunday we were walking the streets of Valletta and stumbled upon this declaration of love for Roger Federer covering a MEPA application. Nice to see fans of the Fed Express in full force also in Malta!

The Inner Game Philosophy

I’ve been reading this excellent book on tennis called The Inner Game of Tennis and I think it could apply to many things and not only different sports. It’s about reaching what many sports enthusiast call “the zone” through finding a term that author Timothy Galway call relaxed concentration.

So how do you reach that stage where every stroke or movement comes natural to you? A lot of the book deals with being less judgmental of yourself, you know how you want to scream “Idiot” or something even worse every time you mishit a shot or do something stupid on the court? What happens when you start belittling yourself and force yourself to improve your technique or rotate that wrist, throw the ball higher on the serve, and move your feet better is that your muscles tense up and you end up not improving at all, but getting more and more negative and starting a downward spiral which might end up with you breaking a racquet (this has happened to me at least, several times).

What you need to do instead is more of a zen approach, to look at the situation and the performance more objectively, and analyze where your racquet head is through the swing, how you’re feet are moving before the shot, and if something isn’t working not to scream at yourself, but to say to yourself with some distance: “Aha, I think I was hitting it a bit behind me or, I didn’t come through properly on my forehand. I need to pay attention to where my feet are or how the racquet head travels through the swing.”

This kind of thinking will help your muscles and mind to stay relaxed (relaxed concentration!) and identify what is wrong in your game. If you don’t know you should probably ask a coach or a tennis pro to help understand what you lack in your technique. The key is definitely to quiet your negative thoughts and to evaluate your play in a more balanced and objective way.

The Inner Game philosophy has a lot going for it and can be applied not only to tennis but to other sports and areas of life as well. I can very much recommend this and other books in the series.

Go improve your Inner Game now, / J.


Winners and Losers

Novak Djokovic has had the best year of his life in 2011, winning three Grand Slams but today he had to retire in the Davis Cup semi-final between Serbia and Argentina, giving Argentina a place in the finals. I write about this because I find the picture terribly strange. Can you really celebrate when someone is on the ground in pain? I don’t like Djokovic, but this is a bit much even for me.

Sports can really bring out the best and the worst in people.