The favourites among the seeded players are world number ones Rafael Nadal (mens) and Caroline Wozniacki (womens). They are the best in the world. They are expected to win. But despite the matches they have won, have you ever considered how many losses they have had? Nadal turned pro in 2001 and has to his name 102 career match losses. Wozniacki turned pro in 2005. In this time she has lost 82 matches. Or what about some other players? American Andy Roddick has lost 182 matches, Roger Federer 174 matches, and Venus Williams 143. These tennis champions know the feeling of defeat. It is part of their career. The lesson is that they use these defeats to help move them forward.
What are the important lessons they have learnt?
Lost matches help players identify their weaknesses. These provide areas for training and tutoring. Pete Sampras lost the 1992 U.S. Open final to Stefan Edberg. He explained that his loss was the "wake-up call" he needed to learn what it takes to become a champion.
The loss provides motivation. It is easy for top athletes to cruise through training, practice matches and local competitions. But when they play in the Grand Slams, such as the Australian Open, their hard work, or lack of it, is there for all to see. A loss at the Australian Open might just be the motivating factor a player needs to work harder (or smarter) for the next tournament. Ivan Lendl lost four Grand Slam finals before winning one. He eventually won many more. Andre Agassi lost three Grand Slam finals before winning his first title at Wimbledon. These players reached the top because they bounced back from defeat. They knew how to lose.
These players also see loss differently. Often when children compete at a sport or perform a skill and are not successful they stop. We often do the same. We internalize the performance. A bad performance, we convince ourselves, means we are a bad person. A lost tennis match, we think, means we are losers. The top players understand that loss is not who we are. Instead, they see it as a lamp highlighting areas they can improve on and a motivation to keep going.
So when you are watching the qualifying players struggle through their games, or the seeded players suffer defeat, consider the numerous matches they have lost in their careers. Consider how it is part of their sport and how loss is actually a pivotal step in making them the champions they are.
Well-Being Theologian reflects on this principle, applied not only to the Australian Open, but also to life. A Christian cannot internalize defeats and losses. Instead, the Bible explains we find our true identity in Christ. Reading the Bible letter to the Ephesians it says in, chapter 2, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." We are "in Christ." The Christian finds his/her success in Christ's death (the greatest loss) and resurrection (victory over sin and death). This fact gives the Christian a completely new perspective on loss.