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I’ve been thinking a lot about the French Open final since the tournament ended a week ago. It’s the only grand slam the current #1 men’s player has never won. He made the final this year and I was so hoping to see him win.

But before I get to that, let me back track a little for those of you who don’t follow tennis. There are four major tournaments during the professional tennis season that are referred to as “grand slams” These tournaments are two weeks long and on the men’s side of the tournament, every match is best of five sets and to make to the final, you’ve got play and win five of these. These tournaments are a grueling exercise in physical agility and mental endurance.

The grand slam tournaments are the crown jewels of the professional tennis world. They provide players with the most ranking points and the most prize money. The term Grand Slam also, and originally, refers to the achievement of winning all four major championships in a single calendar year. This is a very difficult achievement. Many of the very best players will win one or maybe even two of these in a single season but all four is a rarity.

The grand slams are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

The current #1 men’s player in the world is Novak Djokovic. I’ve been watching him play since he burst on the tennis scene in 2006 – his breakthrough year. I have seen him grow as a person in his professionalism and his sportsmanship. While he still occasionally smashes his racquet into the ground when he is losing, he’s learned to better control his temper and you will often see him applaud his opponents when they hit a great shot against him, something no other player regularly does. It’s a classy move!

Here are some stats so you know why he’s so good:

  • Djokovic has won eight grand slam singles titles and has held the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a total of 150 weeks.
  • By winning three Grand Slam titles in 2011, Djokovic became the sixth male player to win three Grand Slams in a calendar year.
  • He also won the Bronze Medal in men’s singles at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
  • He was the youngest player to have reached the semifinals of all four Grand Slam events both separately and consecutively; the first and only man to win three consecutive Australian Open titles in an Open Era, as well as the only man to win 5 Australian Open titles overall.

So when Djokovic made the French Open finals a week a ago, I had high hopes. I really wanted him to win the tournament. ThR way he would have finally won all four grand slams even if not all in the same year. But alas, while he did make the final, he did not win.

It was a nail biter of a match. Both men played at an exceptionally high level. It appeared that Djokovic came ready to play to win. But…so did the other guy! It really came down to a battle of will and a battle of mental swiftness. Given the emotional and physical pressure Djokovic was under, he fell short but not before he put forth a great effort. He simply didn’t have enough gas in the tank to pull out a victory.

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about. Technically, that is to say statistically, Djokovic should have won. After all he’s #1 in the world and his opponent was #4. But the thing is, sometimes even when you come to play to win, you still lose. Even when you’re the best, you lose. Even when the odds are in your favor, ultimately, things just don’t go your way. No matter how much you prepare, no matter how much effort you put forth, no matter how hard you work, life is a series of wins and losses.

You aren’t always going to get what you want or what you work for but just because you lose some, it doesn’t mean you should quit. It doesn’t mean you should give up. You simply have to learn to dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. This thinking applies to having a chronic condition too. You will win some battles with your disease and you will lose others.

You can do all the right things by eating a healthy diet, keeping yourself physically fit, take all the right medications, see the best doctors and still there will be times the disease kicks you in the behind.

Djokovic’s loss, offers a valuable lesson. One loss does not mean defeat overall. Instead, not unlike a professional athlete, you pull yourself together for the next battle and you never count yourself out. And while you might only be as good as the last match you played…never look back! Acknowledge your defeats for what they are, opportunities to grow and press forward in the knowledge you will be better prepared for the next round.