Shift With US Open Tennis
Let's take a long, deep breath.
I've been watching US Open tennis for the last ten days or so.
And man, has it been fun and inspiring.
I'm a huge tennis person.
But I have to admit that over the last five years I got out of being really interested in watching, for whatever reason.
You know how your interest in ‘your thing’ can ebb and flow a little bit?
For me, there were a variety of reasons related to the way the game was going.
For one, my favorite player, Roger Federer, wasn't able to play a whole lot over the last couple years because of injuries.
I looked forward to seeing him, and associated seeing him play with what watching greatness is — which is what watching great tennis is.
When it's great, what it does for you is just so amazing.
And that's been happening again at this year’s US Open, particularly in a match between two young players.
One is a teenager, 19 years old. The other is 21.
Another standout is a 23 year old, Casper Ruud, who played in the men’s singles final against Alcaraz on Sunday.
Alcaraz won the hard fought final by a score of 6-4 2-6 7-6(1) 6-3.
All these guys clearly have enormous talent.
It’s been obvious to anyone who's seen them play over the last few years — and probably, throughout their entire playing lives.
These are exceptional athletes and competitors.
Having seen generations of tennis, when I see talent like that there's something obvious about their gifts.
One of the things that you can notice, that is obvious, is that at that age especially, their fitness is not just about traditional fitness.
Somehow, it seems like they can go forever.
That's not true of every 19 year old, or even every 19 year old who is in great shape.
There's something specific about these athletes.
When they have “it,” they have the capacity to keep going.
One of the beautiful lessons that flows out of this observation is that when these guys lose a point — when they make a mistake — they snap out of their disappointment of it so quickly that it’s almost immediate.
There's something about that attitude that's associated with not getting tired and not wearing out.
I would never take away from the training necessary to having your body in the right place to be able to do that.
But the mental aspect of letting stress flow through you is a huge contributor to where your level of energy is at any given moment.
Your capacity to manage that stress changes throughout the course of a tennis match.
These new tennis greats are phenomenal at harnessing the ups and downs of a big-time US Open match.
Outside of my respect for the level of tennis and their talent is the recognition that these guys learned from the guys who came before them.
They watched Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray — and Agassi before that, and Sampras.
You can go back into history.
McEnroe, Borg — you're going to naturally leave some out.
The different ways that Edberg, Becker, Lendl, Chang and Currier each broke through were special too.
And, of course, the greats on the women's side...
Women's tennis is a thread of history.
From today's marvels — all-time epic Serena left it all on the court, retiring at this US Open. And Venus, of course, the most graceful champion I’ve ever seen on a tennis court.
You can track back from the Williams sisters through the incredible greats who so many tennis fans grew up with:
From Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Hazel Wightman — a champion of tennis and namesake of the Wightman Cup — to the lore of Margaret Court’s dominance, and Suzanne Lenglen ushering women’s tennis into the public’s consciousness at the turn of the 20th century.
The list goes on and on — these contributors to the development of the game.
The women's game is a different strategic game from the men's game, but in both cases you see the evolution of sport, and the evolution of culture through sport.
If you’re a fan and you watch closely, you’ll notice how the game has evolved over time as our talents and cultures have evolved.
I come from a tennis family.
All of this history was part of the lore and the foundation of our family — this thread of tennis life that flows through us.
The story of tennis flows through our history here in the United States, and in England, and in many other places around the world where tennis is loved.
There's a unique thread of story that tennis tells.
Each generation watches and loves the greats that came before them.
They love them so much — just as if you were a musician you would learn to play your favorite songs exactly.
You’d learn them precisely and beautifully to honor their original author.
And you’d learn so much more from having done that.
You’d know the movements, the experience of grace under pressure.
You’d develop your mastery in the same way that a tennis player learns from watching and imitating the greats.
By practicing with 100% of your attention.
So you’d see the evolution of the game through the lens of greatness.
Not only does all of the equipment and training get better with each generation, and everything that goes into making your body as optimized as it can be — the food, the sleep — but also connecting to the deep peace that flows through you.
You’d learn to master coming into presence at any moment.
You’d learn to shift your state of mind when you needed to, as we practice here together with Shifts.
Every moment contributes to embodying greatness.
But what I would argue contributes the most to tennis greatness is that you’ve watched those who came before you redefine the sport in the particular ways that they have.
You watched them elevate it in their own personal ways, so you came into the game as a player who believed in what had been shown as possible.
It wasn't possible before those who came before us demonstrated that it was.
But now, to you and because these are your recent idols — what they do is possible.
It may even be necessary.
It’s part of the game, if you want to live your journey fully.
And so, you learn.
I'll admit that I’m a little bit on my tennis ball can soapbox here, but these are some of the things about tennis that are such great metaphors for, parallels to, and lessons for life and living.
I have a lot of gratitude that love for tennis came into my life as deeply as it did.
Everything you love has implicit metaphors for life that you can learn from, and all of those lessons point back to presence — to having all of your attention in this moment — to living right here, just as a tennis player does when playing at the peak of their powers.
There is full presence in the moments of great matches.
It's part of why we love playing so much.
It's part of why we love watching so much.
We see and experience our own presence as we witness presence being occupied by the greats.
So thank you, tennis, and thank you US Open 2022.
Thank you to the players and everyone who supports them.
Let’s take another long, deep breath.
Thank you too, for indulging my tennis rant today.
Let's set an intention of being fully present together for 30 seconds or so now.
Just listen to life.
And feel your body blending into life.
Blend into the miracle of life.
Immerse with it.
Immerse in it.
Allow it to immerse in you.
Feel and be.
Let's do another 30 seconds of listening to life.
Listen to the sounds in your environment.
Listen to life with 100% of your attention now.
And feel life now too.
Fully present now.
Nice little dive into presence there.
Let’s set an intention to remain present and grateful for the rest of the day.
There's a lot to be grateful for.
Presence always fuels you.
Have a great day.
I'll talk to you soon.
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