Rafael Nadal showed in the Australian Open final against Stanislaus Wawrinka, that despite a crippling back injury, which severely curtailed his service speed and movement, the result, still is not a foregone conclusion.
Juntally to lose the match. Wawrinka lost focus completely in the 3rd set and had he not regained it in the 4th, it’s very possible Nadal would been the victor instead in the 5th!
Wawrinka became unsure of how to play Nadal, how to think, and lost focus as well as the 3rd set.
Just by staying on court and doing everything he could to play on, Nadal gave Wawrinka every opportunity mentally to lose the match. Wawrinka lost focus completely in the 3rd set and it is a very real possibility that Nadal could have stolen the trophy from right under his nose in the 5th!
Wawrinka, to his immense credit, ruthlessly closed it out and in doing so, he gave Nadal the greatest respect you can ever give any opponent – your total focus and commitment to the win!
When your opponent is injured, if they choose to play on, then you must treat them as if they were at 100% health. The greatest respect you can give them is to focus completely on the correct tactics and to play point by point to close it out. This is what many people call ‘killer instinct’.
Otherwise, you will risk falling into the trap of ‘playing not to lose’ and more often than not, you will end up wondering how you lost!
The old guard of Australia’s glory days such as Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Tony Roche played by a sacred rule.
If you choose to step on the court, you were fit to play.
This meant if you lost, you could never blame any injury you had either before or during the match. This is what sportsmanship is all about. The better person won on the day.
Rafael Nadal displayed his sportsmanship quality in spades by choosing to play on and giving Stanislaus Wawrinka his best during the final. Afterwards, he refused to discuss the injury in depth and chose to focus on Wawrinka’s exceptional play which was the real reason for his triumph.