Top 5 things you can learn from Australian Open
Australia has been gripped by tennis fever during the past few weeks. But there’s more to take away from the Australian Open than awesome down-the-line winners and neon headbands.
You might not have noticed but what happens on the court can help us with what happens in our lives.
1. Experience of age
Like heaps of stuff in life, sport is usually the arena of youngsters. But the Australian Open 2017 smashed that, serving up Men’s and Women’s Singles Finals full of players well on their way to 40 years old. Yes, 40!
The Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, are 35 and 36. Roger Federer is 35 and Rafael Nadal is the spring chicken of this awesome foursome – the Spanish star is only 30.
Impressive to see older athletes competing at such high levels and coming out on top. Part of the secret to their success seems to be the difference made when years of tennis experience turn into tennis wisdom.
The Book of Job in the Old Testament isn’t a coaching guide but, long before Australian Open 2017, it summarised what can happen as we get older: “Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life.” (Job 12:12)
That shrewd statement isn’t limited to Rod Laver Arena, though. Wisdom and understanding are on offer as we go through life, and Job goes on to express how God himself can share them with us.
2. Example of youth
On the other hand, Australian Open 2017 also showcased plenty of younger talents who should go on to bigger things in the coming years.
Grigor Dimitrov had already been causing a ruckus in global tennis, but Alexander Zverev’s five-set tussle with Rafael Nadal clearly signalled the 19-year-old as one to watch.
Closer to home, it was two relatively unknowns (in their early 20s) who sparked most Aussie high-fives. Despite taking on better opponents, Australian representatives Jordan Thompson and Ash Barty played the best tennis they could. How they carried themselves on court reminded me of helpful advice given in the apostle Paul’s first letter to church leader Timothy.
The young, keen Timothy was having some trouble because of his lack of years. Instead of telling Timothy to step back or step aside because of his age, Paul encouraged the trainee to be the best version of himself that he could be – no matter what his age is: “Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
3. Keep your cool
You probably have already forgotten but, early on in the Australian Open rounds, Nick Kyrgios had another of his trademarked meltdowns. He was going along nicely against Italian player Andreas Seppi until the third set and, well, Kyrgios slumped into a sluggish, negative heap.
I’m not bringing it up so we can have a go at him. Instead, there’s something that his public loss of composure can stir us to go after.
Whether we are on Centre Court – or at work, or home, or studying, or lining up at Centrelink – we don’t have to totally lose our cool. There are plenty of times when it’s hard to not be overwhelmed or stressed out but, even when things are going horribly wrong, we can keep our head screwed on.
The God who knows everything and everyone promises to provide us with his own peace – Peace! – if we invite him to help us with whatever we are dealing with (Philippians 4:1-7). Including when we are playing a shocker during our Australian Open campaign.
4. Hang in there
Plenty of matches went to five sets at this year’s Australian Open. Some times as I stayed up to watch late matches, I felt tired and irritated as players failed to secure the winning set – and the match went on and on.
Then I stopped and thought about what it must be like for them as they slog it out for hours and hours and hours. Turns out my complaints from the couch about wanting to go to bed, hardly compare with what’s happening on court after midnight.
Perseverance can be a massive weapon in a tennis player’s arsenal. Same goes for the day-to-day life of someone who wants to live with Jesus as their leader, inspiration and example.
At the best of times, it can be tough to live life like Jesus did. But hanging in there will lead to amazing results: “The one who remains in Me and I in [them] produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5) Jesus said that and his fruity language is a tasty indicator of why it’s worth going the distance with him. Because when we drop away and don’t stay connected with him, our output becomes meaningless and empty.
5. Win or lose, it’s how you play the game
Whoever wins the Women’s and Men’s Finals at the Australian Open this year will be celebrated and Facebooked and discussed for a while. After the fanfare dies down, though, all of our lives will go back to normal.
That’s not meant to be as boring or bland as it sounds. What it can help us to recognise is that while winning – or losing – can get a lot of attention, it’s all the stuff in between that takes up most of our time. And daily life shouldn’t really about trophies or titles. As the New Testament letter to the Colossians beautifully describes, the way we play the “game” of life is what God calls us to.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-14)