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What runners can learn from Novak Djokovic

You can learn a lot about failures from the world’s best tennis player

In a recent report on tennis.com, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic said he almost walked away from the sport in 2010 after two years of struggle and failure. Luckily, he didn’t quit, and he went on to be the most dominant tennis player of the decade on the men’s professional tour, winning 16 of his 17 major titles between 2011 and 2020. Tennis and running are very different sports, but Djokovic’s lesson can still apply to runners. It might be tempting to throw in the towel when you’re in an extended rut, but no slump lasts forever, and you’ll be able to work your way out of it if you’re persistent.

Forget past successes

In 2008, Djokovic won his first major title at the Australian Open, and then he went quiet and didn’t make another major final until more than two years later at the 2010 U.S. Open (which he lost to Rafael Nadal). Djokovic felt pressure—both internal and external—to repeat as a major champion after his win in Australia in 2008, and it broke him down.

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As runners, we constantly judge ourselves based on past results, like PBs, best race performances and great workouts. We’re always looking back as we try to move forward, just like Djokovic was doing. These memories can certainly help us, and they give us something to chase (we all want to run a new PB), but it can be detrimental to our psyche if we don’t take time to appreciate today’s performances. Sometimes it’s good to have a short memory, because your past successes might weigh you down from time to time.

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Don’t quit

Following a loss at the 2010 French Open, Djokovic said he was ready to call it a career.

“I cried after this knockout,” he said. “It was a bad moment. I wanted to leave tennis because I saw everything black.” He, of course, didn’t quit, and he and the world of tennis have benefited as a result.

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Thomas Edison is quoted as having said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” When Djokovic considered quitting, he was less than a year away from starting his reign as the greatest men’s tennis player of the 2010s. What major success could you miss out on if you decide to quit running today? You’ll never find out if you give up now, so do yourself a favour and keep pushing forward.