I'm watching Milos Raonic at the French Open
in Paris , France. It is now May 25th, 2014.
Raonic has arrived at this Grand Slam Event
with difficult wins and tennis trials in his
He has played well against and beaten many of the top ten players. Raonic is currently ranked # 8
in the world coming in to the French open.
He has a shorter and more military
haircut... and an air
of not quite calm, but intense concentration.
This is rattled in
the 2nd second set as he starts out playing a young talented Australian.Krygios displays some magnificent backhands, but is beaten by Milos in straight sets.
Raonic goes on to beat Simon,also,
who is a crafty player with terrific ground strokes.
The fact that he beat Simon
proves that his is baseline play are much
and more regular.
This is a terrific victory for the
23 year old Canadian.
He fires off a fantastic backhand
passing shot to beat Granolliers with a passing
shot at the net.
Now he is the first Canadian male
to make it to the 4th round of a Grand Slam
As the announcer states, he knows
how to end points when he gets to the net.
Krygios is 19 years of age and still
has a tendency to hold onto his anger.
Stay angry for 5 or 6 points, and you're finished.
Your loss of concentration can be fatal. While
you're busy kicking a ball, and having a tantrum, the other player is taking aim... if he is more balanced
emotionally. Raonic is... by some considerable margin.
In tennis it's important to forget, rapidly, your
mistakes of the recent past.
This is the beauty of tennis. The
psychological element enters into the game
quickly, far faster than in golf.
But the mental distress that is throwing a player off can dissipate just as rapidly... It can leave
just as quickly as it arrived.
There's an old zen tale about
two monks and a beautiful woman on the
bank of a shallow but fast-moving river.
The monks had sworn a vow of chastity.
The beautiful woman
is staring at the waters, knowing that
her hair is going to get messed up
pretty badly by the river - and her
makeup will be shot.
One of the two monks acts
quickly. He walks over to the woman,
nods to her and picks her up in his
arms. Immediately, without any more
thought , he carries her across
Gently, on the further shore,
he assists her to step out of his arms,
and walk along the road with her habitually
As the two monks walk farther
along the road, the one monk is fuming.
He keeps muttering under his breath and
from time to time he violently
kicks a stone.
The monk who has helped the lady
asks the angry monk what's wrong.
The angry monk says, "We've
sworn a vow of chastity! And there you go,
you break your vow with the very first
pretty girl we see! How can you live
with yourself. You should be ashamed!"
The helpful monk says, "Yes,
I helped the pretty girl across the river. It
was a pleasand experience, but I didn't
break my vow of chastity..."
"Bah!" says the angry monk.
The helpful monk says: "I put her down
when we reached the other shore. Are you
still carrying her?"
The same point applies with
tennis.You cannot carry your rage forward.
Just because you're still pissed off
at your own last idiotic mistake, this doesn't
mean you ought to carry your anger
thru the next five points. For you will
likely lose that set.
If you keep blaming yourself
and if you keep making negative
judgements about the state of your
play - you are out of the flow.
You are no longer there to play tennis.
You are self-flagellating.And this
plays hell with your reaction time.
In your head, "I just made a bad
backhand shot," becomes, "I have a bad
backhand." This is thinking that will
Raonic wins this first round match
easily, with difficulty only in the 2nd set,
where he had the brief tantrum and displayed
anger he did not carry for long.
I'd say he has a better grip on things.
But of course the point is - not to grip too
tightly. Loosen up that hand around the
racket handle...relax and play the game.
With regard to your mind, grip
nothing at all, but let the river of your
thoughts flow on. Don't stop the flow.
Don't attach yourself to any thoughts.
Pay attention, have a drink of water,
knock the grit out of your shows...
let your mind flow back up
The flow within your mind
becomes an easy focus, when you're
warming up... and a hot, keen silent
focus... when you're into the match.
Let the endorphins rise up
within you. Feel your body relaxing
and at the same time becoming more alert.
This feeling is the joy of the game! It is
also the mental approach we all must make
to play winning tennis.
'Sports stadiums are now our temples."
I was thinking about that statement today,
while watching the woman's quarter finals
in Paris... Where else do you see 10,000
people sit in total silence, concentrated
And why not? Who's to say that a temple
to the beauty of physical movement is wrong?
Tennis, at it's best is very close to dance -
focused danced with a purpose.
The other beauty of tennis is there's
a cosmic feel to playing it. The balls are
round, like planets, and we hit them through
all kinds of space, especially when we play
in the open air.
I hear the announcers discussing what's
"in the heads" of the players, what they are
thinking about or what they're worried about -
'WHAT'S IN HER HEAD'?
Well, or course the goal is to have nothing
in your head, nothing but the acute burning
focus of the endorphin-fed mind.
I noticed Kusnetzsova (sp?) kept tugging at her
dress... thoughts about your dress, your costume,
your clothes.... Even this brief thought: "My dress
is too short with the wind blowing it!" This is too
much of a thought to have in your mind.
Even such a little bit of a thought will
throw off your balance.
The goal is to have an empty head. This
way nothing impedes the reflexes.
Now watching Bouchard vs Sharpova.
After watching the first few games, I heard
a comment I made inside my own head:
'NOW IT'S ALL IN THE MIND.'
Indeed it is - whoever manages the mental
aspect of this game better will win the match.
Bouchard did great. She took the
2nd set. Serving wide to one side, then goiung
down the line on the other side of the
couirt, this gave Sharapova some real trouble.
Which no one else really did, not until she played
Halep in the finals.
Chris Evert made the comment about
the Bouchard vs Sharapova match: "That
was the final."
And I agree with her. Chris also said:
"Sharapova's playing a younger version of herself,
when she plays Bouchard. That's not easy to do."
But Sharapova has been playing
brilliantly in her own relentless manner.
And no one was going to beat her
This is not to take anything away
from the Romanian, Halep, who displayed
terrific footwork and leg movement,
almost a sense of dance as she moved
lightly around the court.
She hadn't lost a set all tournament
until she faced Sharapova. But her serve
did not have quite the SNAP of Bouchard's
serve. So Halep was not able to take Maria wide
the way that Bouchard did, and then finish
her with a cracking drive down the line.
Halep, however, not only has fine
footwork; she has exceptional balance,
persistent ability to return the ball,guts,
and admirable mental equanimity.
And it has just paid off. She has just won
the second set of the woman's finals
But a championship this year for
Halep was not to be. She came so close.
I hope to see her back at the French Open
Tomorrow comes the men's final.
It's Nadal vs Djokovic. Both men move from
offence to defence in a fluid manner. They
are #1 and #2 in the world, respectively.
It ought to be terrifically entertaining
One other point I would like to make
is: it's good to see Gulbis finally come into his
own. He beat Federer and he gave Djokovic
a tough time with his superb, surprisingly
Gulbis has all the shots. All he needs
is a consistent mentality in order to start
winning some big tournaments.
I've been watching him develop for
years. All he needs is a tenacious focus over
a three hour period.
For this talented player especially,
his difficulties are 'all in the mind'.