One excellent model is the woman many regard as the best tennis player of all time, Serena Williams. She has said, “My game is my mental toughness. Just not only to be able to play, to win, but to be able to come back when I’m down. Both on the court and after tough losses, just to continue to come back and continue to fight, it’s something that takes a lot of tenacity.”
Williams uses her tenacious approach to the game to develop a mental calm that allows her to focus and find internal strength. The advice she gives herself can apply to any of us. In a 2015 video she completed for Sports Illustrated, she explained, “When I am behind in a game, that’s when I become the most relaxed because I realize, usually, it’s not going to get any worse than this. You have nothing to lose at that point, and someone with nothing to lose can be a very dangerous opponent.”
Her strategy when playing from behind is to apply a WIN mindset and focus on one point at a time. “Focus on one point and then the next one, only as they come.”
Williams has applied her same WIN approach when battling larger adversity. She’s been attacked by the media, she’s been the victim of racial slurs, her physique has been questioned. She’s had to overcome tremendous challenges, both physically and as a victim of the media sensation that has attached itself to her, including the difficulty of her return to tennis a year after giving birth. After winning 2017’s Australian Open in the early stages of her pregnancy, she later nearly died while delivering her daughter.
As if the recovery from near-death and pregnancy wasn’t enough, because of the rules governing international women’s tennis, she was ranked #453 when she competed in her first Grand Slam event upon her return. The outrage of the policy that ranked her as an unseeded player sparked a rule change, allowing her to enter Wimbledon as the twenty-fifth ranked player and the US Open as a seventeen seed.
We would be hard-pressed to find a better mentor than someone like Serena Williams. She’s not just an athlete who possesses the “it factor” on the tennis court, she lives by the credo of intelligent tenacity.