Between me and Tennis hardly anything exists. As a school student at Kozhikode, Malabar Christian College School, I used to cross the boundaries set for the tennis games that used to be played in those evenings. My close friend and classmate Dado Pavamani, son of Principal Dr. Pavamani used to play tennis and I used to look around as my games were something different in hockey and basket ball – Though my name came from Lala Amarnath. Later my father who used to be one good at cricket and football took me to the Cosmo Club at Kozhikode when Ramanathan Krishnan played. No wonder when I first went to England and went past Wimbledon I felt that I should get into the stadium.
Every failure is a lesson to be learnt. So is every success. Roger Federer who set up the 19th record breaking Grand Slams in July 2017, appeared to me as a success in his pursuit of achievement. I went on to understand and appreciate his story and found an equation:
P+P+P = P
The following is based on this – P for passion; P for Power; P for Perfection = P for Performance. And a hidden P is for being Positive and that P comes on both sides of the equation.
René Stauffer who wrote about Roger Federer after meeting him when Federer was 15 years old tells the story of the boy who made history. Every story becomes a history only when accomplishments become either in creation or destruction.
“He appeared to have mastered every stroke, which was quite unusual for juniors in his age group. He dominated with his serve and his forehand, but his powerful one-handed backhand and the occasional volley also looked like something taken from tennis textbook. Federer was a diamond in the rough, no doubt.”
Like a diamond that turns from carbon black, it takes years of pressure to glitter- Sweating it out. Federer’s athletic maturity stood in stark contrast to his behavior. He was a hot-head! Being hot is a phenomenon that is evidenced in many successful giants in history – they chase and every failure makes them grind – grind their teeth. “Hunger for results” – my MD of British Oxygen Company late Mr. Prasad used to advise.
In that interview when Federer was just 15 years of age, with René Stauffer, Federer said “I probably am among the 30 or 40 best in his age class in the world and I want to become a top professional but still had to improve his game. That is his attitude”. That arises out of the first P – Passion.
“I hardly forgive myself on any mistakes although they’re normal. One should just be able to play a perfect game.”
That takes the dominant and the third P – Perfection, in that equation.
It is written about Federer: “He seemed to sense his great potential that he was capable of doing great things—but he was not yet able to transform his talents into reality. His unusual attitude towards perfection had a positive side effect in that he did not consider his opponents as rivals who wanted to rob the butter from his bread. His opponents were more companions on a common path. This attitude made him a popular and well-liked person in the locker room. For Federer, tennis was not an individual sport with opponents who needed to be intimidated, but a common leisure activity with like-minded colleagues who, as part of a big team, were pursuing the same goal”. My friends like Indrajit Mukherjee and Anil Batra who are veterans in the game of golf used to tell me that that game is a fight between you and you.
Successes eludes even for bright youngsters, because some lack in their persuasive and persistent behavior and lack of commitment including health issues. Federer was once quoted as an underachiever. For years he was dogged by the label “best player without a Grand Slam title.”
“To the contrary, Federer developed quietly and not be subjected to the pressures of expectations, from his parents and from the public.” This is what we call as focus. He grew. Like the game of golf, he played to improve himself.
“He was very vibrant, a bundle of energy, and was sometimes very difficult” said Lynette his mother. This energy of Federer is in the equation the second P – indicating power and the fuel is that energy that he built both physical and mental.
Being positive is on both sides of the equation. Federer had his streaks of being negative. Negative emotions also often took control of him on the court. “When things weren’t going the way he wanted, he would curse and toss his racquet” Kacosvky once said “It was so bad”. But Federer himself understood and probably corrected in his journey to win the 19 Grand Slam and set a record. That silent P – being positive made his reach the current position. In his own words – “I was constantly cursing and tossing my racquet around. It was bad. My parents were embarrassed and they told me to stop it or they wouldn’t come along with me to my tournaments anymore. I had to calm down but that was an extremely long process. I believe that I was looking for perfection too early.”
“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure”- Peter Marshall.