Roger Federer has dominated the ATP Tour in 2017 with wins at the Australian Open and his record-setting eighth Wimbledon. He is once again playing at the top of his game. Add that to the fact that the fans in New York absolutely love him, and he is poised to make a deep run at this year's US Open.
However, after taking six months off last year due to injury and a five-year drought without winning a major, many of the sports experts were ready to write Federer off at the beginning of the year.
His remarkable resurgence to the top of the game is something we can all admire and learn from. Here's how he's been able to do it.
Take time off to heal your body and mind
The pro tennis tour is a major grind just like the corporate world or being an entrepreneur can be. The players are expected to play so many tournaments that their bodies cannot simply keep up with the grueling schedule. We've seen many of the top players dealing with injuries in recent years that have kept them away from the tour for months at a time.
In the business world, there is always pressure to keep hustling to get ahead. Heck, I've written about it myself several times. But I also realize the importance of taking time off to be with my family and to get exercise.
Many people are so consumed with their work they don't even take vacations.
After being injured himself and off the tour for six months last year that led many to speculate about his future in the sport, Federer is now playing fewer events.
Playing fewer events has enabled his body more time to recover, and he is fresh by the time the next tournament rolls around.
After winning the Miami Open earlier this year and the 91st title of his career, when asked about his lighter schedule, Federer responded: "The body needs a break; the mind needs a break."
Always keep working on your game
Unlike other all-time greats in the sport, at 36 Federer has been able to play deeper into his career and stay at the top. When you consider that other tennis greats like Boris Becker retired at 31, Andy Roddick at 30, and Bjorn Borg at 26, it makes Federer's continued run that much more impressive.
Most players have peaked by the time they hit 30. The reason Federer has not only been able to play longer than his contemporaries in the game but make a resurgence to the top is that he has continued to improve his game.
Many people reach a point in their career where they stop learning and growing. They become content to keep doing things the way they've always done them.
However, things evolve, and everyone reaches a point in their career where what got them there is no longer good enough. There will always be someone younger coming along that is looking to do things better, faster, and smarter than the previous generation. To keep pace, you have to continually be bettering yourself and learning new things that will help keep you relevant.
For Federer, that meant improving his backhand. Earlier in his career, the rest of his game was so good that his opponents were unable to figure out that his backhand was a weakness. Then came along Rafael Nadal, who changed the game with his heavy topspin. Nadal was able to find a chink in Federer's armor by hitting his heavy topspin forehand crosscourt to Federer's backhand.
Nadal's heavy topspin made the ball bounce up over Federer's shoulders and out of his comfort zone, which forced more unforced errors than in the past. Other top players figured this out too and began to exploit Federer's backhand.
So what did he do about it?
He consulted with the some of the game's greats and sought their advice. Despite all of his success, Federer remained coachable. He put in tons of hours of work on the practice court improving his backhand.
Former ATP player and current high-performance coach, Jeff Salzenstein knows a thing or two about career resurgence himself. In his early 30's he became the oldest American to break into the top 100 for the first time.
Salzenstein had this to say about Federer's return to the top, "The single biggest reason for Federer's resurgence is his ability to stay open minded to making changes in his game. For example, during his layoff, he committed to coming over the backhand more which is something he was hesitant to do in the past. He also made a key tactical change and is taking the ball earlier. Other tennis greats were unwilling to change."
So many people stop listening to others once they achieved success. They think they know it all and are beyond the point in their career that they need to be coached or mentored.
And in case you haven't noticed, at 36, Federer is hitting that graceful one-handed backhand topspin better than he ever has in his career.
Maintain the love for what you do
As we get older sometimes it can be hard to maintain the passion for what we do. However, to stay at the top you have to continue to be able to be passionate about your career and optimistic about your ability to continue to achieve top results.
I briefly spoke with former Wimbledon quarter-finalist, current world renown sports psychologist, author, and speaker Dr. Allen Fox and got his opinion on Federer's resurgence. He added, "Federer, like most champions, has a "hopeful" gene. Deep down, he feels he "might" win another major tournament. That, and the facts that he enjoys the game, and he has nothing to do that he likes better, keeps him competing."
Embrace new tech
For many years, Federer played with the same racket. He won countless matches and all those majors with that racket, so why should he ever change it?
Well, he saw the younger players embracing the new technology used in the latest rackets each year, and the frustration with his backhand grew. He realized that he needed to upgrade his equipment or get left behind. He credits the racket change with helping improve his backhand and turning it into the weapon it is today.
What do you think? Will Roger Federer continue his resurgence by electrifying New York and winning his sixth US Open title?