2022 brings us the 110th edition of The Australian Open, taking place at Melbourne Park, from 17–30 January. It features the world’s greatest tennis players at the top of their games battling it out in the year’s first Grand Slam tennis tournament.
We wondered ‘what are the qualities that propel these players to an elite level of performance and how can they be applied to your own career?’
Success takes more than hard work and athletic ability
Tennis is largely an individual sport, so many of the traits that push the greats to the top are geared towards achieving the Number One spot – solo. Their physical fitness is crucial but, just as important, it’s also a mind game.
For instance, they hate losing. Of course, nobody likes losing but the top echelon despises it.
Or they’re perfectionists. You can bet reigning Australian Open men’s singles champion, Novak Djokovic, constantly analyses every aspect of every stroke – tweaking and refining like the outcome of his next match depends on it. (And it probably does…)
But they also display qualities that make good character traits for a job – mental and emotional skills that any of us can emulate to our advantage. Some of these include:
- Ability to focus
- Managing your emotions
- Performing under pressure
Case study: Learning from how Roger Federer developed these winning qualities
The Swiss tennis player, Roger Federer has won 6 singles titles at the Australian Open between 2004 and 2018. He has had 103 career titles, from Wimbledon to the French and US Opens, is an Olympian and, at 302 weeks, holds the record for the longest period ranked at world number one.
Aside from his extraordinary tennis achievements, Federer is remembered as a great ambassador for the sport and for his humanitarian efforts. He is one of the world’s most influential human beings and much of that comes from his mental attitude. An all-round top bloke to look up to and learn from.
Let’s look at some of his key skills and what you can take from them…
Ability to focus
Federer has called his two biggest opponents the player on the other side of the net and distractions; the umpire, the ball kids, the crowds – all competing for his attention.
Consistent performance comes from the ability to focus on what to do in the present moment – the shot you’re about to take, the task at hand. Choosing to focus only on the things in your control means you will make mistakes less often and be able to let go of them quickly if you do.
This is especially important in a tech team. While it pays to be aware of all the potential variables, it is simply impractical to try and resolve them yourself all at once. Trust that your team is focusing on their specific tasks and reassure them that you are focusing on yours.
Getting more things done isn’t necessarily about managing your time better so you can juggle more things, but prioritising your attention and doing the most important things first.
Managing your emotions
Even Roger needed to learn a thing or two before becoming famously cool, calm and collected.
As a young player, Roger had been a bit of a hot-headed ‘racquet smasher’ – but Australian coach, Peter Carter, saw his potential and helped him gain his now legendary emotional control.
Through positive psychology and understanding his emotions, Federer matured into the calm and smooth champion we see today.
“I try to push myself not to get upset and stay positive, and that’s what my biggest improvement is over all those years.” - Roger Federer
Emotional control can be boosted with a game plan to face, address and conquer any negative energy and thoughts. Setting yourself realistic expectations will help clarity and direction. Don’t make yourself the target of criticism. As the sporting adage goes; ‘play the ball not the man.’ And remember, your career is a ‘team sport’ – get actively engaged with your colleagues through team-building exercises to share the challenges and the triumphs.
Performing under pressure
The individual nature of tennis makes it easy to feel the pressure on the court – it’s all up to you! Losing your composure can lead to greater tension, more mistakes and feeling as if you’re not performing like you know you can. Roger Federer is often praised for his ‘mental toughness’ leading to victory, but he insists it’s really just the ability to stay calm under pressure.
Federer’s trademark cool demeanour has given him: an advantage over less collected opponents, 20 Grand Slam wins, and a healthy perspective; “I just think it’s important to sometimes take a step back and actually see the good things you’ve done, give yourself time, maybe set the bar a bit lower. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure. Learn from mistakes. Whatever happened, happened.”
You may not even be aware of the pressure you are under until its negative effects make itself known. Like Federer, try to use your experience to recognise when pressure is rising and adapt to make the best of it. Don’t feel the full weight on your own shoulders. It probably sounds easier said than done but with practice and maintaining engagement with your team, you can pull together and even have fun!
“Confidence always wins”- Roger Federer after his French Open 2021 triumph.
Roger Federer goes into every championship match expecting to win. Indeed, to perform your best in any situation you need confidence in your own ability.
As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.”
And have you heard the expression ‘fake it ‘til you make it’? Say you’re facing a challenging video interview… as we say in this blog, confidence is definitely a quality your interviewer will want to see – so try to project it even if at first you don’t feel it.
Once you’re in a career environment, attitude is contagious and goes a long way to determining the success or failure of a project. Important decisions can be based not just on data but on the conviction with which it is presented. Others will see whether you are sure in yourself or not – as they say: in order to be convincing, you must be convinced.
So, be positive, be committed – and it probably wouldn’t hurt to go over that data one more time.
Tennis wasn’t the first sport that Roger Federer got into. He is a huge fan of FC Basel (his hometown) and was an accomplished boyhood footballer. Although he gave up the sport to focus on tennis, he has benefitted from the wide range of activities enjoyed in his youth. For example, he credits his hand-eye coordination to time playing badminton and basketball.
Known for his formidable forehand, and an unusual single-handed backhand, it wasn’t until later in his career that Federer added the drop shot to his arsenal, providing yet another way to keep his competitors guessing.
And his versatility? Jimmy Connors described it thus: "In an era of specialists, you're either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist... or you're Roger Federer."
Having a diverse early background can be immensely beneficial to your later career path. Those student jobs you thought were only to pay the bills can offer valuable credentials to an otherwise slim CV. We share how you might have more impressive skills that you realise in this blog.
When you’ve seen for yourself how adaptable you can be, you are more eager to embrace new directions and skills in the future. You’ll find that the more rounded you become, the more in demand you will be.
And lastly - Love the game
Federer maintained his standing as one of the best players in the world largely because he loves what he does.
And he hasn’t just recovered from crushing defeats; they’ve made him the player he is. Rather than be discouraged, he used the experiences to learn, adapt, improve and advance - and stay on top.
This is one of the most powerful personality traits for jobs. When you love what you do, you’ll never stop learning because you don’t want to stop learning. Learning from your mistakes, your successes, other people’s successes. Growth and progress are self-stimulating, self-sustaining and their own reward.
As the thousands who have successfully gone through the FDM Graduate Career Program have discovered, it’s your passion that matters.
So many of the stories we hear from graduates, like this one from India, involve not coming from a tech degree background but realising that was the path they wanted to follow.
If you’re ambitious, with a tech mindset, we can equip you with all the industry-leading skills you need to be job ready in just 6-14 weeks. You’ll then be placed as an FDM Consultant with one or more of our top tier, international clients gaining 2 years of invaluable experience.