Challenging yourself with your toughest opponent

When you’re world class, you have to do things differently to keep challenging yourself and to ensure that you’re still moving on and improving. This example of Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal practising together may seem surprising on first look. However, these guys are world class, incredibly confident in their performance capabilities, so are able to balance up the benefit of practising with a competitor against any information that they might give away about themselves.

Murray and Nadal train together

Equally, when you’re world class, you need to ensure that the quality of practise you get is world class. If you’re not challenged by the person that you practise with, are you really able to learn anything about how to improve yourself. Imagine Murray and Nadal constantly practising with players ranked many places below them – instantly lower quality practise, so less chance of personal development.

Tim Henman once told a story of how he’d practise a lot with Pete Sampras and would typically win their practice matches very easily. In this situation, Sampras was using a high quality opponent to actually try things out – he really was practising, experimenting and trying things off quality shot making from the other end of the court. Sampras knew that with this kind of training he could really redfine shots and build his shot making repertoire, so that when it was time to play for real he would take an armoury of shots into competition in which he had maximum confidence.

When you’re absolutely clear that your goal is 100% about self-development and challenging yourself, you stop focusing on outcome goals and just immerse yourself into learning about yourself with maximum conviction. So, what can you do to develop yourself? Who’s you’re Nadal equivalent that you can learn from and challenge yourself against?