In the spirit of playing a good game

This last weekend has seen a couple of great Tennis players at the US Open. This in itself is nothing extraordinary, as there are many great players. However, this week-end was different insofar as we were reminded what sport is all about. This was shown so wonderfully by the two Italian finalists.

Who won the game?

Looking at the final pictures you wouldn’t have been able to tell who actually won the game – Flavia Pennetta or Roberta Vinci? -, they both looked so happy. In fact, in this case not only Flavia Pennetta won but everybody:

– Flavia Pennetta of course for having won the women finals of the US Open 2015,

– Roberta Vinci for being so happy for her friend to have won,

– Every Tennis fan, because they were reminded of what playing a good game is all about.

Playing a good game

So, what is playing a good game about then? Is it only about winning and beating the statistics? – Let’s put it this way. If the focus is only on wanting to “win win win” and break all current records it is ultimately going to end up being an unhappy affair with the game.

If you can never get enough then naturally every so-called loss is going to be a major disappointment. And the only way out for a person of that kind of thinking is then going to be to keep on playing in order to win. In other words: it is a never ending cycle of some satisfaction mixed with disappointment. In such a case one can only hope that the ratio of winning against losing is in one’s favour. – Hm.

One of the reasons why I like Novak Djokovic is that he is a truly complete person. Besides playing fantastic tennis (as do all Top players) he is probably also one of the most compassionate players around. For example: did you see his reaction when he lost! against Stan Wawrinka in the French Open Final at Roland Garros this year?

Novak Djokovic not only shook hands but took Stan’s Head in his hands and gave him a look of compassion and love for having won the Final of Roland Garros that was worth more than all the titles anybody could win. He was clearly so happy for Stan to have won, it totally cancelled out the possible disappointment of having lost himself. In

And don’t forget. For Novak the French Open is the only Grand Slam he so far has not been able to win. So it was a pretty important match for him or at least to the media. And how did he react? – With a tremendous amount of love and respect towards the actual winner of that tournament that year. No show, no tantrums.

Keeping the right focus

Novak Djokovic shows this rare ability in a highly competitive environment to keep the right focus in life. Probably more than anybody in the Tennis circuit, he seems to be able to remain balanced and really content, despite his No-1 status. Sure, he wants to win when he goes out there. However, there is a very fine distinction here to mention:

When people are excellent at something and they know they are excellent there are two very great dangers:

  1. Ego receives a boost and may or may not go unnoticed
  2. Attachment to winning; if one doesn’t win disappointment sets in.

Both – Ego and Attachment – are two of 5 reasons that Patañjali mentions in the Yoga Sutra for suffering (see Yoga Sutras, Chapter 2, Verse 3ff) and a trap that Novak Djokovic seems to avoid excellently.

Parallel to today’s business world

It really is interesting, isn’t it, how sports mirror so much of what is considered to be great in business. In business also, the focus is often too much on winning at all cost and accordingly too much on profit with the great dangers of enhancing many individual egos and attachment to wealth and power.

Again, there is nothing wrong with making a profit or winning at a game of tennis. However, when we don’t check our own inherent weaknesses on the way up – be it ego, attachment, or other – these same weaknesses are going to become bigger not weaker!

Seeing some of Novak Djokovic’s behaviour over the past years shows a human being who has not fallen into the trap of Ego-boost or the need to beat records. He simply goes out there and plays his game. And although he is the current No. 1, I have this sneaky feeling he doesn’t really care as he keeps his eye focussed on the ball. OM.