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Maria Sharapova Making a Strong Comeback in Tennis

The Williams sisters are out of the game and the field has become wide open. Maria Sharapova is looking to be in the spotlight. Unlike the men’s game, there is no one favorite to watch. Sharapova, the Russian player, is stepping onto the court at the French Open with confidence after winning her 23rd WTA title in Rome.

Sharapova has a collection of championships, but the French Open has been elusive for her until now. After two years off the courts due to injuries, she has redefined her career, appearing to be on more solid footing.

Unlike other tennis competitions, the French Open is a clay court tournament. Clay courts, unlike traditional hard or grass courts, contributes to longer matches and longer points. The strategy for clay court, therefore, is different than the other courts. Aerobic fitness and maintaining focus for long periods of time is the key to winning on clay. Strong tennis players on the traditional hard court or grass may not survive the longer sets, posing challenges for many players.

Sharapova has shown turnaround performance. On the court she has dramatically improved her physical game. Many players improve technically without ever having a dramatic surge in performance. So what has changed?

What is noticeably different with Sharapova is her mindset. While playing in Rome she was clearly in the zone. With pure, focused attention the speed of the ball appears to slow down, making it easy to meet the ball where it lands on the court. Sharapova is poised to master her inner power.

Three elements have aligned in a dynamic balance, providing the impetus to her current opportunity to win the French Open.

  1. Vision – is powerful. Connecting to her goal to finally win the French Open Title, believing she is capable of achieving her goal sets the bar to win game after game. Now Sharapova is playing in a power position coming into this tournament instead of just staying alive on the court. Her ability to see herself as a winner is empowering and defines her current strategy when playing on the court.
  2. Motivation – is the desire to do whatever is necessary to turn a vision into reality. Now that she is playing to win Sharapova is taking more risks then before. Risk is necessary to win.
  3. Action – effectively utilizes motivation, turning it into focused energy. Winners take inspired action. Each action takes Sharapova one step closer to her goal for winning the French Open Title. A positive focus is energizing, providing the momentum to push further than her opponents.

These three elements are shared by all highly successful athletes. Vision, motivation and action combined overcome other shortcomings. Winning is 90% mindset. Players stepping onto the court with confidence, believing in their ability to win, play in a different manner than players who compete wondering what place they will finish.

Sharapova appears simultaneously relaxed and confident on the court.  A relaxed manner creates focused, concentrated energy. Mental clarity, focused attention, emotional stability during long matches combined with physical preparation led to her previous win in Italy.

Will Sharapova discover her reason to play a better game this week? Basically, she must be driven to win. Connecting to her purpose strengthen her position, overcoming her weakness on a clay court. Her drive to train and play at a higher level becomes fueled by her purpose.  This tournament will determine if her actions are aligned with her vision and drive. Sharapova has the ability to do whatever is necessary to win no matter what.

Vision, motivation and action.  This combination makes an average individual unstoppable.

Activity: Consider your goals, drive and actions. Is each area equally strong? If not which trait is lacking? Explore where you are stopping yourself. Next consider the underlying reason that area is not that strong. List all the reasons you are stopping yourself. If you want to change, write different approaches you could adopt. When you are ready, try out the new approach. It might appear uncomfortable at first. By continuing to try this new approach, change does happen.