Mental Giants Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic Notch Wins at Sony Open Tennis

Novak Djokovic in press at Sony Open Tennis on Sunday. 

By Yeshayahu Ginsburg

March 24, 2013 — Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic each got through their third round matches on Sunday while dropping only six games each, showcasing their mental prowess and vigor. Djokovic was untroubled in his dominating match of Somdev Devvarman, strolling through a second set that was nowhere near as close as the 64 scoreline indicated. Meanwhile, Sharapova was seemingly forced to work much harder in her own 6-4, 6-2 win over Elena Vesnina.

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic, a clear favorite, will next face Tommy Haas in the fourth round, while Sharapova will go up against Klara Zakopalova, who ousted last week’s BNP Paribas Open semifinalist Maria Kirilenko in straight sets.

Though it may not initially come to mind, Sharapova and Djokovic can probably each be described as the most laid-back top players on their respective tours. Both are fiery competitors on the court, but once they step off court, each is easygoing and willing to joke around with their team and other top players. Djokovic and Sharapova, in particular, did several commercial spots together for HEAD Tennis previously, and it gives a good insight into their personalities.

But having an easygoing personality doesn’t hold these players back from being fierce competitors on court.

Djokovic, today, gave two important insights into what drives him on court. He spoke of the inspiration that he receives from his fans, saying, “It’s incredible just to see the amount of passion that the people have who support me and who feel that what I do inspires them.” That’s a strong quote and really helps the fans feel involved in the game itself.

The Serb also explained that there was a mental component that wasn’t quite there yet in his game a few years back. He was a consistent top 3 player, but he couldn’t consistently beat Federer and Nadal until 2011.

“It was a process of learning, understanding who I am, what I need to do on and off of the court, maturing. I was patient. I did have my doubts definitely through this period, but (my team) and great friends always believed in my abilities and convinced me that I could do it. I also believed very much that I could be No. 1 of the world.”

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova also gave a lot of insights into her own mental state on court today. She spoke about taking everything one match at a time, even though she can take world No. 1 at the end of this tournament if Serena loses early. She showed a personal side in her tennis too, talking about memories of coming to this tournament with her parents when she was younger.

It’s important to realize that there is a great deal that goes into these players’ games. It is so much more than just talent and executing on the court. It’s the little things that can add a mental edge or a boost in confidence.

It is wanting to inspire fans, or memories as a child, or even an intense desire to be just a tiny bit better than ever before. And for some players, that means being serious and totally zoned-in all the time. But for others, it’s about being relaxed or able to take a joke. Or, as Sharapova easily deflected when asked if her screaming has evolved over the years, “That’s not for me to judge. It’s more for you.”