Inner Strength + Poise = Winning

I’m not a huge sports fan and when there is an opportunity to watch an international event it creates conflict for me as I try to back my “home” country. Today’s US Open Women’s tennis tournament was no exception as USA player Serena Williams rivaled AU Samantha Stosur. The tipping point for me came clearly in the way in which the players used their personal power to overcome adversity.

I don’t follow tennis, but I’m keenly aware of the Williams sisters and how they have changed the landscape of women’s tennis. The power and force they bring to the sport has seen players like Stosur lose confidence in themselves and ultimately their game. 

Watching today’s match was emotionally bitter-sweet as it was played in New York on the tenth anniversary of the infamous 9/11 attacks. Williams had high hopes of winning the tournament not only for her professional record, but even more so for her country. And the predominately US crowd was with her, it was palpable.  

Enter Stosur who has a reputation for “cracking under pressure” despite her years on-court. Given the stakes today, I can only imagine what it was like for Stosur to walk out on the court.

Stosur began the match firmly in control. Despite being the crowd-favourite, Williams seemed to lose confidence as her first serve consistently failed. This was short-lived. Mid-match and an overdue powerful serve Williams yelled “Come-on!” which received an official warning. This sparked an undaunted Williams’ to erupt costing her a point (and for what it’s worth, my support)

“A code violation because I expressed who I am? We’re in America right now!” Serena Williams rebuttal to chair umpire Eva Asderaki

AND yet restore her self-confidence.

It was this penalty which brought Williams’ anger surging through the racket toward Stosur and additional umpire battering during the break.

“Don’t even look at me. If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way, because you’re totally out of control,” Williams said as she sat in her chair next to Asderaki’s. “You’re a hater and unattractive inside.”

It was also this penalty that restored Williams’ power and visibly diminished Stosur’s. 

The chair umpire deliberately looked away from Williams when play stopped. An already passionate crowd became frenzied. Stosur missed the next few points. It is a great example of how power can change the dynamic of a situation.

"Outbursts and Temper Tantrums"

This tactic seems to be borrowed from US men’s tennis legend John McEnroe who used this same tactic, by using such phrases as “you cannot be serious” and racking up countless fines and fans. Perhaps this tactic should have retired with McEnroe. In the 2009 US Open Williams was fined $175,000 and now may be banned from future US Opens due to these incidents. We do not want our sports figures to win because they are feared, we want them to win because they are fearless.

Under pressure there is a moment of reckoning, a choice point.  You saw it today. Stosur puts her head down, breathes deeply and faces Williams determined and focused. It is this moment that the power balance changed. Regardless of the outcome of the US Open, Stosur won. Bloomburg reporter Mason Levinson captured it perfectly

“Williams looks bewildered by the Australian’s power, precision, and composure.”

We can model Stosur’s example. When you know someone gotten to you or you’ve given power away to someone else, simply by taking a breath and refocusing, regains your person power, your belief in yourself. You are fearless. You win.

Be inspired! Watch the highlights here:

Bloomburg article referenced above: Serena Williams May Face U.S. Open Ban After Outburst in Finals Loss

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5 Responses to Inner Strength + Poise = Winning

  1. thedailydish says:

    Fascinating blog! I don’t watch tennis, but perhaps I should. Such drama!

  2. Maybe start with highlights in link above, especially since you’re time-poor. Will be curious to see what you think.

  3. I find myself in the same dilemma when I have to pick a “home” country. Not an easy job. Great post!

  4. I’d be curious to find out about sporting events in Shanghai. Perhaps another interesting and informative post idea?

  5. I am not a sports fan myself. The only thing I sort of follow is the F1 auto racing, which happens once a year here in Shanghai. My husband is a die-hard fan, now our son is a fan, too. I wrote about it last year at It is more a documentation of a family event rather than the racing itself.

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