Last week I had the opportunity to watch champions in action while attending the French Open. One of the matches that I saw - Alexander Zverev vs Damir Dzumhur – stuck out for me because of the quality of the competition, and because of what happened near the end.
At 21, the young Zverev has already risen into the top five in the rankings, and Dzumhur, at 26, currently has a career high ranking of 29. Their match was a clash between two tennis players competing at their highest levels.
Dzumhur played exceptionally well; he got up two sets to one and was serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth set against the #2 player in the world at one of the biggest tournaments in the world. I wondered to myself whether he would be able to hold his nerve (and his serve).
Zverev ended up breaking Dzumhur’s serve with ease and went on to win the match. At the most crucial moment of the match, Dzumhur was unable to find his next gear but Zverev was. That was the difference between winning and losing. Dzumhur did everything right to get his chance to win but faltered right before the finish line.
I saw similar patterns in the other matches I watched at the French Open. The difference between victory and defeat for many of the players was their ability (or inability) to find their next gear at the most critical moments. Some players were overwhelmed by the moment. Others overwhelmed the moment.
In sports, the best teams and most elite performers in the world are the ones that know how to find their next gear in the key moments. Zverev, the #2 player in the world, was able to step his game up when he needed it most, and because of that, he moved on to the next round.
Sport provides one of the more salient examples of how important it is to find your next gear, as it manufactures turning points where an athlete must either step up or step out and go home. Our daily lives produce these same moments - less frequently but no less important than the ones faced by these world class athletes.
These moments challenge us to find our next gear, to step up and perform in key moments so that we too may attain the levels of success that we desire. And, just like the athletes we see on television, if we don’t step up, then we too may never reach the levels of peak performance we desire.
Until we meet again, busy seeing the Champion in you.