Break Chances

Gimme a break.

I spent too much time watching tennis on TV over the Labor Day weekend.

I always think I’ll be able to just check in on the matches, watch a couple of points, and get on with my life. But when it’s the U.S.Open, or any of the majors, really, I get sucked in. Break points, set points, match points – in a good match the drama keeps ratcheting up, like in a no-hitter between two gritty baseball teams when everything comes down to that last inning.

Anyway. To try to justify this obsession I tell myself that it’s instructional viewing. You get to see what to do (Roger Federer any time) and what not (Svetlana Kuznetsova – the mistress of self-destruct). But, as much as physical stamina and shot making determine the outcome of most tennis matches, the greatest challenge for all athletes is actually mental.

It’s so hard to stay focused, positive and calm while in the tumultĀ  of the battle. When I see Kuznetsova mishit easy overheads, or over hit easy volleys, I feel her pain. Been there, done that.

This is part of the pleasure of watching the pros, the recognition of their vulnerability. We can identify with their weaknesses. And on the other hand, it’s inspiring to watch some of them execute shots far beyond the abilities of most of us.

Every sport has a dynamic of its own, a constantly changing combination of challenges and opportunities which provide players with chances to win or lose. In the game of tennis, break chances can be the ticket to triumph, but only for those brave enough, skilled enough, and strong enough to make the most of their chances.

It’s a lot like life. We all get some chances to push forward, leap over the obstacles in our paths, climb higher, live larger. Sometimes we make it, sometimes we don’t. Some players fall apart when they miss a break chance. But the best players dig in, dig deep, and stay alert. Because you never know when that next chance will come along. And you don’t want to miss it.