Djokovic'south New Tennis Psychology

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 3:21 AM

By distant the most consistent of the 'huge four' players since two thousand eleven, Djokovic presently holds more ranking points than his two closest rivals (Murray and Federer) combined.

Djokovic'south New Tennis Psychology

Novak Djokovic'south extraordinary dominance of men'south tennis shows number sign of abating. By distant the most consistent of the 'large four' players since two thousand eleven, Djokovic presently holds more ranking points than his two closest rivals (Murray and Federer) combined. His success is underpinned by his remarkable physical fitness and stamina, his incredible talent for returning serves, and his excellence in nearly every aspect of the game.

Another crucial but less discussed factor is Djokovic'south innovative approach to tennis psychology based on mindfulness meditation.

Consider Djokovic'south close supernatural skill to overcome adversity in matches. Recollect his victories from match point down against Roger Federer at the US Open in two thousand-eleventh and two thousand twelve, and against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Roland Garros in two thousand-twelfth? How about his comeback triumph against Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon latest year? Consider his skill to recover from the most heartbreaking loss of his career in the two thousand fifteen French Open final, only to win Wimbledon a few weeks later. Where does this mental strength arrive from?

In his two thousand thirteen book 'Serve to Win', Djokovic explains that he practices mindfulness meditation for fifteen minutes every day. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to your experience as it happens without judgment. A mindfulness meditation typically involves focussing your attention on the breath, or on physical sensations, and bringing your attention back to that focus every time your mind wanders from it.

Djokovic says that meditation has enabled him to let go of negative emotions such as self-doubt, annoyance and worry, and that this has made all the disagreement to his mental approach on court. He sees mindfulness training as just as necessary as his physical training, and believes that committed regular meditation practice leads to consistent positive rewards.

You don't just have to get Djokovic'south word for it. Sports psychologists the world over are presently paying attention to mindfulness. The study of mindfulness as a way to enhance sports performance was pioneered in two thousand-first by clinical psychologists Zella Moore and Frank Gardner. The pair analysed decades of research into the traditional sports psychology method known as Psychological Skills Training (PST), but could discover number proof that PST was effective, and even well-known that sometimes PST led to a deterioration in performance.

PST attempts to modify an athlete'south negative thoughts and emotions, and replace them with more positive and helpful ones. Given PST'south destitute results, Moore and Gardner developed a new method called the Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment (MAC) program. MAC turned PST on its head by training athletes to mindfully accept negative experiences without trying to modify them.

The mindfulness approach suggests that athletes will carry out to the best of their skill when they give up on trying to control internal experiences, and instead keep thoughts and emotions in a non-judgmental awareness, accepting whatever their internal experience is at any moment. This non-judging acceptance frees the athlete to space his or her attentional focus on the task in hand, rather than grappling with thoughts and feelings.

Fifteen years after Moore and Gardner'south innovation, multiple studies by a range of psychologists have demonstrated that mindfulness enhances athletic performance by improving concentration and accuracy, and by making it easier to play 'in the zone'.

In this light, Djokovic'south utilize of mindfulness can be seen as a very bright move, taking advantage of the latest sports psychology research to obtain a critical mental edge over his rivals. Djokovic joins a growing no of elite athletes, including Michael Jordan and the Seattle Seahawks, who have used meditation to attain enhanced performance.

Mindfulness isn't just useful for achieving better results on court. There'south plenty of research that shows it boosts personal wellbeing and compassion for others too. That'south another aspect of Djokovic'south utilize of mindfulness that impresses me. Have you noticed how Djokovic is the only one of the huge four players to regularly applaud outstanding play by his opponents? He'south also very generous in defeat, offering warm congratulations even after tough losses. Sure, Djokovic remains a ferocious competitor love all top athletes, but he displays a scarce grace in defeat, which is arguably another by-product of his commitment to mindfulness.

Djokovic remains the only top player to have gone public about his meditation practice, but given his phenomenal success and the growing body of research proof supporting mindfulness practice for athletes, we can expect more and more tennis stars to embrace this method.

Neil Endicott is an author, coach and founder of Mindfulness-Based Tennis Psychology, an online mental training course for tennis players.

Chase Neil on Twitter: www. twitter. com/tennismeditator

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