the secret to Roger Federer’s success

When we think of excellence, a few names come to mind. Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps and Roger Federer.

Naturally, what makes these individuals stand out above the rest is ability to win. They won, over and over again. Something not easy to do as people are always gunning for those above them.

I was reminded of this earlier this week when Roger Federer added yet another trophy to his illustrious career: the coveted Davis Cup.

It rather amazing that despite winning 17 Grand Slams over the course of his career (a record), and a record 301 weeks at number one in the world, it took him till the age of 33 to do so.

Many people thought Federer’s career was over last year when he was bounced in the 2nd round of Wimbledon and 4th round of the US Open. However, he bounced back this year reaching 11 finals including the Wimbledon final where he narrowly lost to Djokovic in five sets and reached number two in the rankings. All this at the age of 33 which is no spring chicken in the tennis world.

To put things in perspective, consider that Federer is older than Andy Roddick, who retired two years ago.

So just what is the secret to Roger Federer’s success?

I sat down and thought about this the other day and came up with seven things

  1. Talent
  2. Improvement
  3. Practice
  4. Drive
  5. Focus
  6. Consistency
  7. Health

There is no denying that Federer has talent, but as John Maxwell explains so well in his book, Talent is Not Enough, a lot of people have talent, but not everyone goes on to win. Talent is just one piece of the equation.

Like all greats, Federer is always striving to be better. This year he turned to six-time Grand Slam winner Stefan Edberg to help improve his game, and it paid off big time. As my wife says, “In order to be great, you must first be modest.” Great players understand they must be willing to seek help when needed. It actually shows a great deal of character to admit that you need help.

Despite the old adage, as Keith Cunningham says, “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” The only way to be perfect is to practice perfectly and for that, we need help as we often have a blind spot when it comes to our own weaknesses.

Naturally, Federer puts in the time. Sometimes people are impressed with how good people are at magic or speaking a foreign language, but it’s not by some miracle that occurred. They worked at it. Over and over again. It’s not rocket science, the harder you work at something, the better you get.

Next on the list is drive, and it’s something not many people truly understand. Once you become #1 in the world, or achieve the goal you set for yourself, where do you go from there? It’s something that the first astronauts struggled with after returning from the moon. We must constantly find ways to push ourselves. In business it could be to reach a new sales target or increase the number of clients. In sports it could be to win back-to-back titles or threepeat. Whatever it is, people must find something because often times, once people become famous, money is no longer much of a drive for them. We need to constantly look for and set new goals for ourselves.

Focus is something that goes without saying. When you’re down by two sets to none and facing a match point, you’ve got to keep your focus. Win or lose, you’ve got to go out and give it all you’ve got, because you never know what could happen. Facing seemingly impossible odds, I’ve seen players and teams come back from despair to win the whole thing. Greats know that there are good days and bad. They also know sometimes their opponent was just too good. It happens, you can’t let it phase you. You’ve just got to get back on the horse.

Consistency and health are intertwined. As my mentor, Jim Rohn, is famous for saying, “Some people don’t do well simply because they don’t feel well.” We’ve only got one place to live; our body. In my book, iSucceed, I talk about how the body is our vehicle. There are those people who spend thousands of dollars on their car and ignore their own body. The wrong vehicle to be concentrating on. Your body will outlast any car and your body is what helps you buy all your cars.

Athletes understand this better than anyone which is why so many elite players have dieticians, physiotherapists, chiropractors and doctors. They want to ensure their body is performing at its best.

There is some discussion about who is the greatest tennis player ever, some choosing Rafa Nadal over Roger Federer, but as great as Nadal is, in my eyes what separates them is their health.

If you’re looking for ways to live a healthier life, be sure to check out this article I wrote.

Success takes time. It takes hard work. Federer understands this as well as anyone.

Adrian Shepherd