Keep your eye on the prize because focus is the name of this game.
Why would you do it? Why would you stand in the blazing heat for hours, facing a little green ball being hit towards you at 200 km/h?
Watching the Australian Tennis Open, one of the highlights of our summer sporting calendar, is always entertaining, often thrilling—and sometimes uncomfortable. It can be hot. Really, really hot. Anyone who has watched from the stands on a searing Melbourne January day can only feel sympathy for the players battling it out on the court in front of them.
Last year when the mercury hit 39 degrees, the reflected court heat was more than 65°C. But professional tennis players are tough and champions are even tougher. As temperatures climbed into the high 30s, Roger Federer downplayed the extreme heat on news.com.au. “I remember the days when we had four days of 40 degrees in a row a few years back. We know it can be very hot here in Australia [but I] used to go to Dubai when it was 45°; 38° seems almost okay.”
Watching these champions play in the heat reinforces that they’re not some breed of super-heroes with genetically-modified bodies that are somehow superior to us lesser beings. They sweat, they wilt and they drink a lot of water, but it’s their focus that sets them apart.
Danish player Caroline Wozniacki is a prime example; when she defeated Simona Halep last year to take out the Australian Open women’s title, she became the first Danish player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
“Doesn’t matter what the score is, I never give up,” she says. “When I am on court I am so focused on what I am doing, that’s all I think about—trying to win the next point.”
This steely determination, this ability to ignore distractions, this unwavering focus as they strive towards victory are powerful attributes. As Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal succinctly puts it: “I play each point like my life depends on it.”
If they’d played tennis in Philippi around 50 AD when early church leader Paul wrote his letter to the Christians there, he might have used it to illustrate his message to them. As it was, he used a sporting reference to describe how being a follower of Jesus requires motivation, determination and focus.
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13–14).
Like Paul, let’s resist the urge to look back at past mistakes or missed opportunities and strive for an unwavering focus on Jesus and the life he promises us.