In a game as difficult both physically and mentally demanding as tennis would it be possible to get yourself into a mindset that refuses to give in ? One of my chapters touches on World Tennis greatest comebacks and when you look at a situation like the Davis Cup final in 1996 being down 0-40 and 6-7 in the fifth set it takes a remarkable mind to turn the situation around , a 'refusal to lose'. When i was in primary school in grade 6 at the Inter school Sports i vividly remember losing to a guy named Phil Gilbert in the 100 m , 200 m and 4 x 100 relay , then again in the final of the 100 m and 200 m , i even remember the 200 m to this day . I started in a good lane , was equal on the turn to Phil then watched him 'disappear' over the finish line with barely a whimper from myself , I didn't push it , I was 'happy' to finish second (weak as piss) . The following year something happened , the mouse was going round the treadmill in my own head , second was no longer an option , I was there to WIN. I won the 100 m , the 200 m , the 4 x 100 m relay as the anchor man and i beat Phil in the final of the 100 and 200 m , so what changed ? We were both growing at the same rate , but the mind can be your slave or your master , I was in 'control' this time around and that final year that i finished primary School i was officially the fastest kid in my region , nice feeling.
In my last chapter i spoke of not wanting to play tennis at one point as my head was in another stratosphere , it was a pointless exercise to try to win at something if my head was not prepared to wage a war against the opponent . Tennis isn't just a physical game , anyone can hit a tennis ball , Jimmy Connors got it right i believe " 90 percent mental , 10 percent physical", smart man was Jimbo.
The Champ of Champs on that particular year put my head right again , the win in the final match to give my Club the title kick started three years of some of my best Tennis , and all after hitting 40 years of age , shouldn't i be losing to kids half my age? Look at Connors , Semi finalist at the US Open at age 39 , beating guys half his age , half his experience , do you think he was in the 'Zone' mentally ? All those years of playing has to account for something , unless you are a dummy , the game will only become easier and your shot making only smarter , it's the way the game works.
The win at the local Club vs Club Championships all those years ago got some fire in the belly , I won that year and the next , against a kid who had the audacity to call me a 'hack' just because i saw a flaw early in the match regarding his technique and i decided to use it to my advantage. I then won again against the same kid who i beat 10-5 in the deciding match tie breaker 3 years earlier. Three victories straight against kids who had rather strong reputations and games to match but lacked the 'fundamentals', the will to win and the refusal to lose . As i said earlier , Tennis is the sort of game you get smarter at as you get older , if you are getting 'dumber ,' it's time for golf......