Mental strength in sport
At roughly the same time on Sunday 1st February, Andy Murray lost the Australian Tennis Open and Rory Mcllroy won the Dubai Desert Classic. Reports on the two results were very different.
Of Murray’s defeat, Pat Cash said, "He melted down, he absolutely collapsed, he will feel he let everyone down, but he has to look at it and say 'I can't do this again'. "Things started snowballing for him once he lost concentration and in the fourth set everything went against him”.
"I feel sorry for him and he is a seriously good player, but if he is to become a great player he has to fix this. He's got to focus on why he had the meltdown. If he works on that I can see him holding the Wimbledon trophy again."
The BBC reported Rory’s comments which included:
"I played a solid round of golf and did what I needed to do to keep my nose in front.” “I felt like I was a little bit tentative over the first few holes but I guess we've seen what can happen to big leads these last few weeks with Martin (Kaymer) and Charl (Schwartzel) in Abu Dhabi and South Africa.” "I was conscious of that and making sure I didn't make any mistakes."
In both cases although the technical execution of their tennis and golf game respectively was fundamental, the need to stay mentally focused was even more important because of the stakes. Mcllroy openly admitted that he had thought of Kaymer’s recent collapse and Murray said he had been distracted by Djokovics’ apparent physical issues. It appears that Rory dealt with these thoughts differently and possibly better than Andy. Both of them will use this week’s experiences to become better players and that is a fact.
I am sure we can all remember being distracted in our own “important” games and it is reasonable to expect that your very next round will throw up some situations to cope with. The trick is to have a strong inner game and a mental toughness. Couple this with a solid strategy for playing each shot and you will be in the best place to make progress this year.