Roger Federer recently bid farewell to the Tennis world with his retirement, and like most of his fans, we are absolutely gutted. However, we were fortunate enough to spend two final days with Roger before his big farewell with Rafa at the Laver Cup.
One of the days in which we attended was at the Laver Cup practice day, where we got to watch Roger play with Rafa against the other members of Team World in a friendly doubles match. It was entertaining, lots of fun, and great to be a part of as everyone at the 02 arena in London knew they were witnessing the last few moments of Roger's career. What most of the public didn't know, however, was that Roger took part in a private Uniqlo event held on the practice courts at the 02 arena two days before the Laver Cup started. We were lucky enough to attend.
The event was a unique coaching clinic that provided some of Britain's best U14 tennis talent the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hone their skills alongside Roger. The event was part of UNIQLO's Next Generation Program; its ongoing work with the full panel of UNIQLO Global Brand Ambassadors to generate social progress by developing young people through sport. Both Roger and his long term coach Severin Luthi lead the clinic and offered some of their incredible knowledge to the young U14 players. One of the most interesting things that Roger spoke about to the players was his 15 second routine that he uses in-between points to help him reach a peak mental state, ready for the next point.
On average most events set a limit of 20 seconds for the time players can take between points.to keep with the continuous momentum of the match and to also prevent time wasting. Roger takes 15 seconds out of the 20 and divides them up into three 5 second segments.
Once the point has finished, Roger said that he spends the first 5 available seconds to recognise, acknowledge and embrace the emotion he is experiencing. He can be happy, sad, angry etc. This is usually an emotion from the previous point but it can also be a general feeling. 'It's important for me to understand how I'm feeling, and it also keeps me in the present moment. Point to point my feelings can change a lot so it's important I'm aware of them so that I can either hold onto, or let go of that feeling for the next point'.
For the next 5 seconds Roger said that he spends this time purely on relaxation. Regardless of wether he has won or last the previous point he will always spend 5 seconds relaxing so that it helps him go into the preparation phase, ready for the next point. 'To be able to relax when the occasion is big and the pressure is high is a difficult thing to do. So I keep it simple and focus on my breathing and relaxing the muscles in my body.'
At this point Roger has acknowledged and allowed himself to experience the relevant emotion, and has then relaxed himself through breathing. The final 5 seconds revolve around preparation and tactics. 'Only when i'm ready will I go into this phase. This is when I plan my plan of action for how I want to start the point and how I would like it to finish. This is through visualisation. I will plan where I'm serving and my next shot. From there I will visualise how I see the point finishing in my head. This gives me confidence and a feeling that I'm in control. Now, i'm ready to start the point.'
So there you have it. We wonder how many times Roger has practiced this sequence in order for it to become natural. It's impressive that a player of his level spends so much time and is so articulate when it comes to his 'off point' routine. It goes to show that Tennis is very much an EMOTIONAL game, and that the better you can control your emotions the better the preeration is for each individual point. We hope this has given you a little insight into the importance of routines around the point. Remember, in one hours tennis match, on average the ball is actually in play for 10 minutes. What are you doing for the other 50 minutes? We know what Roger is doing!