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Djokovic's Mental Strength: Talent or Training?

In December, Djokovic made a number of interesting comments about mental fitness during a 60 Minutes interview on CBS. Early in the conversation, interviewer Jon Wertheim says, “One of the hardest things about covering you is… people understand big muscles, and speed and grace, but mental strength, which what I think is your great gift, is much harder to articulate…” Djokovic then interrupts him and says: “I have to correct you. It’s not a gift. It’s something that comes with work!” We’ll take this as the starting point of a short exploration into Djokovic’s approach to mental fitness, and we’ll see whether and how that applies to junior tennis performance.


It comes with training

Clearly, Djokovic appreciates that mental strength requires putting in the work. When Wertheim asks if Djokovic approaches training for his mental side as he approaches his serve or forehand, his answer is “Absolutely!” It’s both illustrative and intriguing that nowhere in the subsequent conversation are the words sports psychology or counseling mentioned. Training, however, appears to be a mantra.

Although the exploration of what that training means precisely lacks some depth, Djokovic does explicitly refer to techniques and abilities. He mentions conscious breathing and refers to managing the time spent on negative thoughts. These are all ‘-ing’ words that refer to executing a task, illustrating that Djokovic appreciates that it’s not about knowing what to do; it’s about being able to turn knowing into action. That said, there is also something to say for being able to turn not knowing into action: What do you do with doubts?

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