Being confronted with the very real prospect of failure seems to be a key ingredient in motivating elite athletes to elevate their game in their pursuit of greatness. It’s their ability to turn adversity into a catalyst for success that separates them from their peers.
There is no shortage of examples of this cliché in the sports world. Kobe Bryant was told he cannot win a world title without Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity team, and Lionel Messi’s career was threatened before it had even begun after being diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency at age ten.
It is no surprise to hear that Roger Federer, arguably the best male tennis player the world has ever seen, is cut from the same cloth after revealing his source of motivation.
Federer recounted his younger days and surprisingly revealed that at one of the first tournaments he competed in he was told that he wouldn't have any future in the sport.
“There was a coach at my first tournament who told me: ‘At most, you can have coffee in a bar with those hands. You have no talent boy.'," Federer said, as per The Express.
"That guy made me grow in anger and changed my personality a bit.”
"I got up at night to practice. I would put on the lights in the garden and hit against the wall hundreds of times.”
Ironically, it is this same anger that threatened his career early on. Federer’s raw talent and ability were always of elite calibre however it was his inability to reign in his emotions and temperament that often lead to his downfall in his junior years.
"Today, everyone sees me as a quiet man, but my career began a little less quietly," Federer lamented.
The junior version of a Roger Federer match was riddled with racket tosses, swearing, and other childish behaviours. He was even known to blow big leads and had a tendency to buckle under pressure, more evidence of what can then only be described as his mental fragility.
“Fighting spirit wasn’t always at its best when I was younger,” he conceded.
Once he learned to control his anger, Federer started to dominate the same players who dominated him during their junior years and the rest, as they say, is history.
“In [sic] the end of the day it’s up to me,” he added. “Everybody was telling me to get my act together. I just tried to find ways to calm myself down on the court.”
Roger Federer recently bowed out at the ATP World Tour finals in London and will appear next at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia in December.
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