We like watching tennis because it's exciting and entertaining, but--as I've written before--we also become emotionally involved in the fate of the players because they are, to some extent, presenting little dramas about our own lives. Professional sports competitions, in general, allow us to project our own fears, insecurities, hopes, and triumphs onto the players.
This subject of "sports as micro" was presented today, in a different context, by Laura Siegemund, during a Volvo Car Open press conference, after Siegemund won her quarterfinal match against Anastasija Sevastova.
Siegemund, like so many players on the tour, has been through hard times, including having to take an extended forced break because of torn ligaments. At the press conference, she was asked: "At what point did you kind of learn how to win again?" Her reply got my attention:
"It's not that easy, yeah. People like to always draw like black and white lines. It's not like that at all. It's a process you're going through, and you get certain opportunities, I would say, throughout a career as well as throughout a match. It's kind of a micro life out there sometimes, these matches. So you keep getting opportunities, and then you either take them or you don't.
"Different reasons why you don't take them sometimes. Maybe it's lack of courage. Maybe it's too much courage, you know. You can want something too much. That's also what happens to a lot of people, what happened to me."
Well, there you are. Laura Siegemund explains attachment anxiety, just like that. And a tennis match, whether you're playing it or watching it, truly is a kind of micro life. You have a chance to be in charge, and you can take it--and maybe crash, or you can hang around and hope your opponent makes an error all on her own.
Too much fear freezes you; too much confidence causes you to take foolish chances. Excessive attachment to outcome will get you in trouble, one way or the other, which is why we always hear professional players say "I just play it point by point." They are, to return to the Buddhist metaphor--attending to the present. The previous point is a thing of the past, and who knows what's to come in the next point (or game, or set)?
And what does this have to do with the rest of us? Everything. We get opportunities, and we don't take them, but then we get new opportunities. We dwell on the lost opportunities, or we don't. We act with courage and let go of the outcome, or we cling to the outcome and lose the moment.