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Kevin Anderson on mental strength, net play, and the US Open
South Africa's Kevin Anderson has credited mental conditioning for his ability to focus for nearly seven hours during his epic Wimbledon semifinal against American John Isner, and lauds his psychologist for his recent surge in form.
Anderson, who has reached a career-high ATP ranking of 5 in the wake of his SW19 final appearance, is 32 now, but has reached his peak at an age when most players are trending downwards.
Despite losing to Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the final, his record-breaking match against Isner, six hours and 35 minutes long, was the culmination of rigorous mental and physical preparation, thanks in large part to Florida-based mental coach Alexis Castorri.
The therapist, who hails from Fort Lauderdale, has also worked with the likes of Andy Murray and Simona Halep, who won her first Grand Slam title at the fourth time of asking.
Anderson takes inspiration from marathon run at Wimbledon
Kevin Anderson's Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic proved a match too far for the South African, but he will head toward next month's US Open with a career-high ranking and renewed belief in himself.
Anderson advocates the value of putting mental work and visualization into practice, telling KweséESPN: "My dad, Mike, who coached me when I was growing up, was big into the mental side of sport. He always spoke about believing in yourself more than anything.
"As I carried on in my career, I paid more attention to that and working with Alexis has been great. My focus is now on how I can become an even better mental competitor because that is what it really boils down to.
"It's about being able to hit the ball really well in the big moments, regardless of who your opponent may be and what is going on out there. I feel I'm constantly getting better in that department and it'll be a focus of mine going forward."
Anderson has been lauded for his stamina and mental toughness and entered Sunday's final having played more than 21 hours of tennis in the tournament. However, it has been suggested that he almost seemed resigned to losing the final after the gruelling nature of the Isner epic.
Anderson admits that nerves, even more than physical fatigue, got the better of him in the opening two sets, and he was unable to find his rhythm and comfort level until the third set.
"Going into the match I wasn't feeling amazing physically, but I felt like I was okay in order to give myself a decent chance," he says.
"Unfortunately, I failed to discover my rhythm in the first two sets and the feeling of being comfortable out on the court eluded me early on in the match. It took me two sets to find form, but I thought I played a really good third set."
There was a moment in the third when it looked like Anderson's game had kicked into gear and he was going to pull back a set. He had five set points, but Djokovic showed his experience to save them all and control the tiebreaker.
"I had quite a few set points to take it to four sets," Anderson reflects. "I would have loved that to have happened, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. Novak hit a couple of balls, I thought were actually travelling out of the court, which ended up landing right on the line."
Anderson became the first South African to reach a Wimbledon final, when he faced eventual winner Novak Djokovic. TIM IRELAND/AFP/Getty Images
Anderson, the first South African to reach a Wimbledon men's final, is philosophical in terms of what went wrong against Djokovic, and refuses to self-flagellate. After a career-defining tournament and an "incredibly special two weeks," the understated star prefers to focus on the positives.
The big-serving player is intent on adding further strings to his bow in order to consistently challenge the best players in the business, highlighting a need to take the game closer to the net after he went against his normal instincts and did so against Nolé.
"Moving forward, I want to start hitting even more balls at the net. Shortening points is an aspect of my game, which I believe I can become much better at," he says.
Having taken home the runners-up plate at the US Open and now Wimbledon, the question is: how close is Anderson to breaking through the ceiling?
"I still have to take a step further, as I have not yet won a Grand Slam title or made it to through to the finals of the Masters Series," he says.
"It's definitely a big goal of mine and, once you put yourself in that position, it's about how you can handle yourself and take the next step. I feel like I'm getting closer to doing that and there is a lot for me to still play for."
In the coming weeks, Anderson will make the adjustment from the grass to the hard courts and is slated to play in the two Masters Series tournaments, in Toronto and Cincinnati. They will serve as precursors to the US Open.
Having tasted defeat in last year's final in the Big Apple, Anderson will be hungrier than ever to get his hands on the coveted trophy at Flushing Meadows.
"I don't know if I'm more determined to win a Grand Slam or ATP title than before because I have always been determined. However, I feel like my belief is greater than it has ever be.
Novak Djokovic: Open letter details 'mental hurdles' that led to Wimbledon win
Novak Djokovic has published an open letter on his website explaining the mental struggles he has overcome in order to claim his fourth Wimbledon title.
The former World No.1 has found it difficult to rediscover his form after an injured right elbow that needed surgery and forced him off the tour for the last half of 2017.
As his losses accumulated, his ranking fell out of the top 20 for the first time in more than a decade. He grew so frustrated with his form that he spoke ahead about skipping the grass-court circuit and a drop in motivation for off-court reasons.
"In 2017, the injury of my right elbow was so severe that I was forced to be out from the Tour for 6 months," Djokovic said on his website.
"Injury was one of the issues, the other big one was any motivation. I didn't have problems to practice and to enjoy the tennis court but I had mental hurdles when I had to compete. "One day I will share more in depth what kind of challenges I had to face and how I felt.
"I have always respected people that share their most vulnerable moments as their turning points in finding true strength that inspires so many people. I was vulnerable so many times in the last few years. And I am still vulnerable. I am not ashamed of it. In contrary, it makes me more true to myself and others. It allows me to get closer to people. It allows me to "dig deep" and analyze what is truly happening inside of me. When I find that out, I am able to create a strategy to overcome this occurring issue and move on as a stronger, wiser, happier human being.
"For the last 2 years, I wasn't patient with my tennis expectations. I wasn't wise in strategizing. And I certainly wasn't clearly hearing my body telling me that there is something serious happening with my elbow. I was trying to find solutions somewhere else and solution was always inside of me."
Djokovic also thanked his family enthusiastically and described his straight-sets win over Kevin Anderson as one of the best of his career.
"The feeling of having my son in my wife's arms at the trophy ceremony in the Players box was the most wonderful sensation I have had at any tournament that I have ever won in my career.
"Everyone keeps on asking me to describe the feeling. I have said it is unforgettable, special, fulfilling, wonderful, joyful. But most of all, it is Magical! When I thought that moment could not get any better, he shouted "Daddy, Daddy!" That's when I completely melted. Overwhelmed with emotions. Happy and joyful beyond belief. I am so GRATEFUL to have experienced that."
Andy Murray's psychologist helps Simona Halep finally land grand slam title at French Open
Andy Murray continues his grass-court training block, in the hope of making his long-awaited comeback this summer, he will surely have kept an eye on Roland Garros this weekend. And particularly on Simona Halep’s maiden grand-slam title.
There are several points of comparison here, starting with the multiple major finals that both players appeared in before finally landing their first trophy: three in Halep’s case, four in Murray’s. More strikingly, though, they both used the same psychologist to address their internal conflicts: Alexis Castorri.
Castorri’s first professional encounter with tennis came in 1985, when she prescribed Ivan Lendl a programme of aerobics, “Jazzercise” and yoga. Seven months later Lendl beat John McEnroe in the US Open final, in what he still considers to be his greatest performance.
Since then, Castorri has struck up strong relationships with Murray – whom she once suggested was in danger of losing his “zest” after repeated setbacks – and more recently with Kevin Anderson. It is no coincidence that Anderson reached last year’s US Open final after Castorri had encouraged him to practise his fist-pumps and “Come on” shouts in front of a mirror.
Castori lives in Fort Lauderdale, near Miami, and is part of a web of Floridian tennis connections. Remember that Lendl was introduced to Murray in 2011 by Halep’s coach Darren Cahill, and also plays golf with Anderson, a South African expat.
After Halep’s superb 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Sloane Stephens on Saturday, Cahill spoke about the importance of psychology in modern tennis. “The sport in general has changed a lot in the last 15 or 20 years because of social media, the money, the pressures,” he said. “Every player has a minibus full of people travelling around. So that pressure around the player is much more than it ever used to be.
“Alexis has been really important for Simona the last couple of years. In my era as a player [the late 1980s], maybe admitting to that was a bit of a weakness. You had to suck it up and be tough. Now I think players are turning over every stone and making sure they are professional.”
A robust mental approach was essential for Halep on Saturday, especially Stephens had opened up by playing near-flawless tennis. Trailing 6-3, 2-0 at one stage, Halep could so easily have disappeared into a fug of negativity. Instead she began to hit with more loop and spin, pushing Stephens deeper behind the baseline and then darting forward to finish points at the net.
“It's not easy sitting there because you can't do anything,” said a delighted Cahill afterwards. “You hope that she can go out there with a good game plan and then if it doesn't work, adjust a little bit and throw some different things at her opponent. She did that today, she took a bit of pace off the ball, mixed it up and stayed in the rallies a little bit longer.
“Credit to Simona for working it out, hanging in there,” added Cahill. “In the last couple of years she has been kicked in the stomach a couple of times when she's had chances. They say the destination is more beautiful [as a result]. It was a bit of a bumpy road but this is a magical moment for her and she did it the hard way against a great opponent.”
So what can we expect from Halep at Wimbledon? It usually takes a little while for a player, even a world No. 1, to settle back down after such a long-awaited triumph. But Halep’s experienced manager Ion Tiriac – a Romanian compatriot who also steered the career of Boris Becker among many others – suggested on Saturday that anything could happen.
“She is capable of losing in the first round and she is capable of winning it,” said Tiriac of Halep, a hugely popular figure whose success on Saturday inspired tweets of congratulation from Petra Kvitova, Johanna Konta and many others. “She often played badly here and she still won. A big part of her is that she will die on the court if she has to, a bit like Rafael Nadal.
“[At Wimbledon] she needs to stand a metre inside the baseline and hit it. Her low centre of gravity will help on grass. She is one metre 65 [5ft 5in] and doesn’t have a big serve but she has everything else. She can be too emotional but she has a huge heart, she is a very good person. I am so happy that she won, as happy as she is.”
Last edited by Grossefavourite on Jul Fri 20, 2018 9:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
Mental aerobics: exercises for a stronger, healthier mind
B. Alexis Castorri, Jane Heller
Carol Pub. Group, 1992 - Psychology - 104 pages
Top mind coach Alexis Castorri, who has worked with tennis champion Ivan Lendl, offers a sensational new mental workout for the high-pressure '90s. These fun, simple and effective exercises show readers how to flex their memories, focus on important goals, combat procrastination, control fears, and even rekindle passion. Photographs and line drawings throughout.
The psychologist who Andy Murray put on winning path to US Open success
Part of Andy Murray’s path to his maiden grand slam title in New York involved “bringing back the zest” into his life and his tennis, according to the woman who has helped him achieve his long-held dream.
Castorri has a number of clients on the tennis circuit but also works with golfers and business executives. “I’m interested in helping a person become the best they can be,” she said on Friday. “That means talking about their lives in total. Tennis is part of it but not the whole of the conversation.”
In Murray's case, Castorri saw a man frustrated by his inability to live up to his own high standards, at least at the final stages of grand slams.
“When I looked at early films of him playing, he played with such happiness and excitement, so my initial thought was that he needed to bring back the zest. But I believe you start that off the court.
“Andy is a creative genius, a tactical and technical genius, so he needed to reconnect with his inner strengths.
"It’s natural that when someone puts their heart and soul into what they’re doing, they sometimes forget how much enjoyment they once took from it. Andy has lofty goals and he is hard on himself. In that situation, you need to remember that you love the battle, that’s why you are out there.”
Murray was once described as “one of the most negative people I’ve ever met” by his former coach Brad Gilbert. When the two men were working together in the mid-2000s, Gilbert suggested that Murray was depressed and that he should see a psychologist – though the one he eventually visited could not find anything wrong.
Since then, Murray has dramatically improved his demeanour on the court and, for the most part, stopped shooting dirty looks and sarcastic comments at his players’ box. It is hard to see him ever beaming his way through life like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but his practice sessions with Lendl are quirky and fun, and the strength of their relationship can be judged by the way he invariably smiles when he is asked about his new coach.
“I have never found Andy gloomy,” said Castorri, who speaks to Murray every two or three weeks and meets him whenever he visits his American base in Miami.
“I love working with him: he’s a delightful, sensitive, happy, funny, sensitive young man. And he was completely open with me from the first conversation.”
Castorri has known Lendl since 1985, when she approached him after a defeat to Stefan Edberg to promise that she could to turn him into a world No 1.
Her solution was unorthodox, involving aerobics, “Jazzercise” and yoga, but seven months later Lendl beat John McEnroe in the US Open final in what he still considers to be his greatest performance, and moved to No 1 for the first time.
“My instinct with Ivan the minute he came into the room was that he was a very stiff person – he even walked in a stiff way,” says Castorri now. “So we worked to loosen up the body a little bit and add some flexibility. He is very much a one-off, and that’s what I find when I work with high-profile people: they are unique personalities.
“In Andy’s case, I have heard that he hasn’t always been fully supported by the whole of the UK but he is tenacious and he sticks to his mission. After the way he spoke when he lost the Wimbledon final this year, perhaps more people have warmed to him, because he was revealing a side of himself that they hadn’t seen before.
“It’s a simple lesson but if you can learn to be yourself – the most positive form of yourself – then good things tend to happen.”