Djokovic New Age Warrior?

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Djokovic New Age Warrior?

Post by socal1976 on Thu 07 Apr 2016, 7:26 am


Another crucial but less discussed factor is Djokovic’s innovative approach to tennis psychology based on mindfulness meditation.


Consider Djokovic’s near supernatural ability to overcome adversity in matches. Remember his victories from match point down against Roger Federer at the US Open in 2011 and 2012, and against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Roland Garros in 2012? How about his comeback victory against Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon last year? Consider his ability to recover from the most heartbreaking loss of his career in the 2015 French Open final, only to win Wimbledon a few weeks later. Where does this mental strength come from?


In his 2013 book ‘Serve to Win‘, Djokovic explains that he practices mindfulness meditation for 15 minutes every day. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to your experience as it happens without judgment. A mindfulness meditation typically involves focussing your attention on the breath, or on physical sensations, and bringing your attention back to that focus every time your mind wanders from it.


Djokovic says that meditation has enabled him to let go of negative emotions such as self-doubt, anger and worry, and that this has made all the difference to his mental approach on court. He sees mindfulness training as just as important as his physical training, and believes that dedicated regular meditation practice leads to consistent positive rewards.


You don’t just have to take Djokovic’s word for it. Sports psychologists the world over are now paying attention to mindfulness. The study of mindfulness as a way to enhance sports performance was pioneered in 2001 by clinical psychologists Zella Moore and Frank Gardner. The pair analysed decades of research into the traditional sports psychology method known as Psychological Skills Training (PST), but could find no evidence that PST was effective, and even noted that sometimes PST led to a deterioration in performance.


PST attempts to change an athlete’s negative thoughts and emotions, and replace them with more positive and helpful ones. Given PST’s poor results, Moore and Gardner developed a new method called the Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment (MAC) program. MAC turned PST on its head by training athletes to mindfully accept negative experiences without trying to change them.


The mindfulness approach suggests that athletes will perform to the best of their ability when they give up on trying to control internal experiences, and instead hold thoughts and emotions in a non-judgmental awareness, accepting whatever their internal experience is at any moment. This non-judging acceptance frees the athlete to place his or her attentional focus on the task in hand, rather than grappling with thoughts and feelings.


Fifteen years after Moore and Gardner’s innovation, multiple studies by a range of psychologists have demonstrated that mindfulness enhances athletic performance by improving concentration and accuracy, and by making it easier to play ‘in the zone’.


In this light, Djokovic’s use of mindfulness can be seen as a very smart move, taking advantage of the latest sports psychology research to get a critical mental edge over his rivals. Djokovic joins a growing number of elite athletes, including Michael Jordan and the Seattle Seahawks, who have used meditation to achieve enhanced performance.


Mindfulness isn’t just useful for achieving better results on court. There’s plenty of research that shows it boosts personal wellbeing and compassion for others too. That’s another aspect of Djokovic’s use of mindfulness that impresses me. Have you noticed how Djokovic is the only one of the big four players to regularly applaud outstanding play by his opponents? He’s also very generous in defeat, offering warm congratulations even after tough losses. Sure, Djokovic remains a fierce competitor like all top athletes, but he displays a rare grace in defeat, which is arguably another by-product of his commitment to mindfulness.


Djokovic remains the only top player to have gone public about his meditation practice, but given his phenomenal success and the growing body of research evidence supporting mindfulness practice for athletes, we can expect more and more tennis stars to embrace this method.


Neil Endicott is an author, coach and founder of Mindfulness-Based Tennis Psychology, an online mental training course for tennis players.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/neil-endicott/post_11514_b_9616446.html

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Re: Djokovic New Age Warrior?

Post by socal1976 on Thu 07 Apr 2016, 7:30 am

This is another very well publicized aspect of Novak's holistic approach. He reads self help books, gets into eastern philosophy, meditation etc. It is actually what was part of Novak's story when I first heard it that drew me to him as a fan. Is this all new age mumbo jumbo? Or can you train you mind in a manner to make you better under pressure when it counts? Is this part of Novak's formula and does it make a substantive difference?

It is interesting what it says about Djokovic in light of his diet, training, CVAC, lifestyle etc. This is one guy who has left no stone unturned. I do wonder if this stuff is effective, I don't use it in my life. I do know a lot of people that swear by it and they do seem to cite certain studies, which indicates that you can train the mindset of a winner.

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Re: Djokovic New Age Warrior?

Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 07 Apr 2016, 9:00 am

Thanks for the info. I've tried mindfulness recently for a couple of months and it did help, both on and off court. Why did I stop (and indeed, why did I start)? Well, that's another story, if anyone wishes to PM me.

However, I shall read up on that online course and probably purchase it. The web-site lists such things as 'Between Points Meditation' and 'Changing Ends Mediation' - which sound very useful as they are obviously targeted specifically at tennis scenarios.

Djoko's holistic approach to tennis (and, I suspect, life in general) is to be admired. He's probably tried many ideas and found the ones that work for him.

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Re: Djokovic New Age Warrior?

Post by HM Murdock on Thu 07 Apr 2016, 9:12 am

I think it's more to do with being very content with his lot in life (happily married, loves being a father, nearly $100m in career prize money) and having a lot of experience of playing under pressure that makes the difference.

I think Becker has been a positive influence too.

He's not a serene presence on court by any stretch of the imagination. He is however, very resilient under pressure. This wasn't always the case, so I do give him credit for developing in this way.

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Re: Djokovic New Age Warrior?

Post by CAS on Thu 07 Apr 2016, 10:13 am

It's impressive but Federer and Nadal have all come back from bad losses, Federer in 08 after losing badly at the French and a heartbreaking loss to Rafa at Wimbledon he then somehow brings it back to win the US Open.

Then under immense pressure he won the French Open in 09 after Rafa was out, saving a virtual match point against Tommy Haas with THAT forehand and a awesome Del Potro.

Rafa after being on the losing end to Novak 7 times in a row and losing that crushing final in Australia he shrugged it off and went on an incredible tear even cleaning up Novak a few times on the way.

Novak is immense but less than 2 years ago he hadn't won a slam in 18 momths and was losing Grand Slam finals all over the place, even double faulting on match point against Rafa succumbing to pressure.

They are all incredible champions with immense will power and never say die attitude and it's why they are arguably the best 3 players playing at the same time. I wouldn't say it's a stand alone quality Novak has


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Re: Djokovic New Age Warrior?

Post by socal1976 on Thu 07 Apr 2016, 5:01 pm

@Julius, cool I am glad that there is somebody does have some first hand experience in this area. Interesting that you think it could be an effective tool for a tennis player.

@Murdock, I get that sort of zen like cool Novak has on the court. I think to beat him now you have to find away to break the comfort zone and even when he gets down in the match it doesn't seem that he gets rattled. How often does he break right back after giving up a break, he has to lead the AtP in that stat.

@CAS yeah I mean of course Nadal and Fed have the same championship mindset. But I think Novak is the only guy who publically talks about his training regimen even for his mind and spirit that isn't something we have seen before that a player specifically and publically focuses on it with this kind of planning.

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