Wawrinka will rise from emotional scars
Stanislas Wawrinka ... will be looking forward to resting after his epic match against Novak Djokovic. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
NOVAK DJOKOVIC faces a battle to overcome the physical pain of Sunday night's epic five-set win while his beaten opponent, Stanislas Wawrinka, has plenty of time for his body to recover. But overcoming the mental scars will define whether he makes the leap into the upper echelon of tennis.
For many years the nearly-man living in the shadow of compatriot Roger Federer, he was an emotional wreck after the five-hour loss to Djokovic, a match he had in the palm of his hand at 6-1, 5-2 before a second-set collapse.
Despite recovering to force a fifth set, Wawrinka left the arena close to tears. In a match like that, which could have been a career highlight, defeat can be crushing, but depending on your mental state, losing can be turned into a positive.
Sport psychologist Gavin Freeman, previously a senior psychologist at the Sydney Institute of Sport, says motivation comes in two forms.
''Athletes are generally, by default, self-motivated. If they're not, they're generally not successful. There are two types of motivation; the motivation to succeed and the motivation to avoid failure. You can identify an athlete as either depending on their behaviour when failure presents itself either directly or potentially,'' he said.
''If a motivator of success fails, they see it as a stepping stone to future success, and critically analyse what worked and what didn't. They're goal-oriented, process-focused and return with an effective plan of attack. If a motivator to avoid failure fails they demonstrate a variety of behaviours, mostly negative. Take Lance Armstrong, for example, he was so driven to avoid failure, he chose any mode to enable him to succeed, including cheating.
''Post-match visualisation is important. It's important to reset your goals, and prioritise and filter them and get straight back into it as soon as possible. Wawrinka probably ran through the game 30 seconds after it finished, objectively looking at it while it was still fresh.
''Whatever motivation is driving Wawrinka, is seen by his behaviour. If there's a lot of optimism, press conferences, positive language used, goal-oriented processes and tasks, he's very much motivated to succeed. If he was outcome-motivated it'll surround big picture stuff, while not being really specific. You want them to be really focused to what they want to achieve.
''I once looked after an athlete who went through what Wawrinka did, and after the game I said to them that what they were feeling was completely normal. I let them expel whatever they felt, through crying or laughing, but reminded them to keep the feelings and the thoughts separated, in terms of also being objective in not succeeding. After that we had a logical conversation about the next step to take.''
Dr Noel Blundell, who has worked as a sports psychologist for several golfers and tennis players, said keeping emotions at bay was a key element of mental preparation.
''A key aspect … is managing emotional intensity,'' he said. ''Wawrinka did as good as he could expect from himself, and Djokovic managed to adjust his emotional intensity as the match progressed. It's all tied in to whoever you are as a player, whether beginner or elite, emotional intensity enables you, or hijacks you.''