Dr. Carol's Comments
What a great weekend for great sports performances - and what a great weekend to watch the Mental Game in Action in tennis and golf. We had a beautiful weekend in the Northeast so watching televised sports was not initially on the agenda but then there was the US Open and Melanie Oudin, the prime time personification of mental toughness, competitive fire, commitment, confidence, focus, and game intelligence. In addition, she's well spoken and from her interviews and what coaches and friends say has a great awareness and appreciation of others. Ms. Oudin has the total game - physical, tactical, technical and the foundation - the Mental Game - purring along on all cylinders. And she walks her walk - her shoes say "believe." Not bad for a 17 year old.
I didn't intend to be a spectator this weekend and I hadn't heard much of Melanie Oudin until Saturday when I happened to catch the last set of her match with Maria Sharapova. Oudin had already ousted Elena Dementieva in a surprise result on Thursday so there was also quite a bit of high pitched commentary during the Sharapova match.
As I watched Oudin, 5'6" a relative newcomer and Sharapova 6'2" a seasoned player, I was drawn into the match first by the exuberance of the crowd and commentary and then by Oudin's look of focus and determination and the way she moved around the court during and between points. All energy was directed toward her desired outcome. And all that focused energy prevailed as Oudin's mental game powered her past Sharapova in 3 hard fought sets. The emotion, which had been so well managed during the match, burst forth and spilled over in exuberant warmth and excitement once the match was won.
Labor Day was another beautiful day here in Rhode Island - a great day to be outside - but watching Oudin play was now part of the plan. I was so impressed with her play and personality and perseverance that I wanted to see her again. Could she hold on? Were her tenacity and grit situational or are they part of the package? Again, as she was with Sharapova, Oudin was outsized and out-experienced by Nadia Petrova. Prior to the match both were saying the right things - they were confident, felt strong and ready to play their best game. Once the match was underway, the technical and tactical play was excellent and very competitive for both players. In the end though, it was the mental game that made the difference. In the end, it was Oudin, focusing on the task at hand, playing an intelligent adaptive game, fighting for every point, believing she could do it, taking advantage of Petrova's errors, showing remarkable emotional resilience after disappointing points, who persevered. Oudin stands on "believe," knows her game and then plays with her mind and heart as one.
I'm ready for Oudin's next match against Caroline Wozniacki, another dynamic young woman who plays with great skill, great passion and great mental skill. This is great tennis and great fun!