The stage for the exciting Olympic face-off between Murray and Federer was set after the Wimbledon final where Murray lost to Federer in an extremely emotional match. In fact, Federer’s Olympic fate was probably decided and sealed that day itself!
When you try to win something that someone else wants equally badly, the stage is set for a really great competition: Sport is all about winning and losing. The spirit of the game, and the satisfaction of participation is important, but champion sportsmen play with their body, mind, and soul with an aim to win. That is why, at the end of intense competition there is so much emotion all around; and let’s face it, if it was not emotional, it would not be sport.
After the Wimbledon final this year, Murray left in tears, his fierce determination to win further whetted; Federer left in smiles, his sharp competitive spirit probably slightly blunted with the satisfaction of a big win.
Motivation is the foundation of athletic success. Motivation directs all effort to a focussed single point. Motivation can be external or internal, positive or negative; and sometimes, failure or success can themselves act as motivation. Top level athletes can use acute failure to transform their game, change their circumstances, focus their efforts, rise up and win a big one.
Federer is a great player, but then so is Murray! In a clash of equals, each with his own set of strengths and weaknesses, game-plans are made in advance keeping these in mind. Federer does well in longer matches, and he knows it. His strength lies in the fact that he can out-play opponents in lengthy four and five set matches with seemingly no change in form, and no hint of tiredness. To use this strength, he has to lure his opponents into long matches. He plays tennis like he is running a marathon. He starts slowly, running across the court at leisure: he loses some points, sometimes a few games and sometimes a set. He doesn’t let that affect him: he knows his opponent is getting tired. Federer slowly builds up his game from the second set onwards hitting powerfully and running with agility just as his tired opponent starts faltering.
His game plan worked well at Wimbledon this year. But less than a month after that epic final, at the same venue on a larger stage, a highly motivated and on-fire Murray did not allow the match to spill over into a tiring fourth set.