Venus v Serena and Roger v Rafa, it must be 2007 right? Sports fans love an inspiring comeback story and seeing these 4 true greats playing the 2017 Australian Open finals this weekend will be a delight for many.
I want to take a look at two lessons in particular that we can take away from Roger Federer's performance in Melbourne.
Go back to 2013 and Federer had a disastrous season. Knocked out of Wimbledon early, out of form in other tournaments and the wrong side of 30, people were ready to retire him. Instead Roger took a long, hard, objective look at his circumstances. He understood that the context in which he was playing was changing. His old baseline rival Nadal was fading and the new kids Djokovic and Murray were fitter than any players had been before, meaning they could play at a higher intensity and for longer. Add to that the inevitable physical decline in a player who had been on tour for more than 10 years and Federer realised that to remain competitive he needed to change his game. He need to play shorter points and that required changing some tennis habits of a lifetime. Turning to serve and volley maestro Stefan Edberg, Federer re-modelled his game and played the most aggressive tennis of his career during 2014 and 2015 during which time he made another 3 grand slam finals.
The first lesson: honestly evaluate your situation - both the context you find yourself operating in and your capabilities for that situation. If they don't match you need to adapt and change something. Whether its sport or business, as Australian rugby coach Eddie Jones and many others have testified 'the only sustainable competitive advantage is to learn faster than your competitors'.
Parting ways with Edberg at the start of 2016 Federer spent much of season injured before returning to competition with a bang in 2017. What has surprised many is how both Roger and Rafa have been able to play so many hard matches and sustain the intensity over 2 weeks. This just goes to show that after years of hard training and competing the body (and mind) often benefit from an extended rest to allow full regeneration and super-compensation to take place. When many Olympic sports were less professional athletes often took a down year between Olympic games to let themselves recharge. On a smaller scale I witness this all the time in sport when athlete have taken a proper end of season break and after a short training build up they can perform at the same level or higher than the season before.
The second lesson: learn to love recovery. Plan an occasional longer break in both sport and work to fully regenerate mind and body.
Roll on the finals and hopefully that classic that all fans want to see.