You have heard of this psycho babble BS: We are motivated more by pain than pleasure.
Nadal may have just completed the pleasure part of the cycle, and may now be entering the pain phase.
Ever since Nadal burst on the scene, his motivation was mainly to be the No. 1 player in the world. Maybe that was not the layer of the onion he could look at when he started. But by now, having won on clay and even hard surfaces, the layers of that onion have come off. What he is staring at now, is the last layer – the No. 1 rank.
You see, when you start, the prospect of being No. 1 is a little fuzzy. You first have to establish yourself on the tour, by winning some prestigious titles. That is your main focus, as you begin. No. 1 rank is on the back burner, until you have peeled the top few layers.
Having achieved that, this was the year, he made a serious onslaught on the top rank. In my view, the pain of not being the top dog, did not exceed the pleasure he envisioned on getting there. He considered it as gravy, rather than air and water, required to survive.
That may be the reason, he fell short. All that other stuff, like the knees, fitness etc. are only excuses to mask the real underlying current. That’s what happens. When the will is not there, these problems become larger than life, and appear as very reasonable and understandable alibis for not reaching the target.
But when the resolve is unshakable, these are the very obstacles that are front and center, as the insurmountable impediments, an individual overcame on his way to glory. They make the journey even more sweeter. History is replete with examples in practically every field of human endeavor, where seemingly impossible odds were pushed aside to attain the goal, fueled by pain rather than pleasure. Heard of Lance Armstrong, lately?
The freaking point is that this year, it was Nadal’s attempt at the No. 1 spot fueled by pleasure. How wonderful it would be to reach the top spot, instead of being on the verge of dying if it was not attained.
But next year, the tide is sure to turn. It’s going to be all pain, but for a new goal. This is when you will see the real Nadal, if there is one, despite all the talk about his knee, the physical nature of his game, his serve etc.
What is the new goal that’s so painful? Likelihood of him being pushed out of the No. 2 spot, to No. 3 and beyond. What do they say? ‘If you are not moving up, you are going down’.
Talk about real pain. You think that’s a bigger motivator to Nadal than getting to the No. 1 spot. You bet!!! Why? Because there’s pain involved. Simple.
Whatever effort he put in this year to topple Federer, will double and triple to avoid slipping down the food chain, unless he is dead.
Federer has been able to have that stranglehold on the top rank, mainly because losing it, is like life and death to him. It’s not some cherry on the cake. There’s too much pain there for him.
It appears, from the recent comments from Djokovic, that he may have lowered his sights from the No. 1 spot next year to the No. 2 spot. Unless, what he said is different from what he believes inside, and this is just part of his strategy t0 not wake up the giant on the top. Still, on the surface, at least, it does not appear that Djokovic has felt that pain of the top rank yet. It’s still bonus for him.
Federer recognizes and studies these trends minutely. He knows where each one of his real adversaries are. What is that Godfather BS? ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’. He knows exactly what he did to kick start this four year domination. He knows he is human, and anybody can duplicate that, within reason, if he applied himself.
If you don’t believe that, just look at yourself. If you are a master of something (yeah right), you know, what you did to get there, is not a big secret. Anybody can do that. It’s just that you took it a little more seriously than others. That’s why they say ‘Genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration’.
That’s one of the reasons why Federer and Sampras look so casual and lackadaisical. They know there is a giant within every one of their opponents, and they don’t want to be the one awakening it, with their aggressive display, on and off the court. How do they know that? Because they themselves were mortals once, until that spark ignited something in them, to start the glorious journey.
If you look at the careers of successful people worldwide, there was that one turning point, that propelled them to where they are today.
Does that mean, everyone of us have the ability to be the No. 1 player in the world. Sure we do, within reason. It’s the desire that is required. Rest is all logistics, that obeys the command of a strong desire fueled by pain instead of pleasure.
Get ready for a real battle for the No. 2 spot, because the pain is equal on both sides – Nadal and Djokovic.