David Nalbandian kicked his way in to infamy Sunday at the AEGON Championships. In the second set of the final match against Marin Cilic Nalbandian was up a set but down 3-4. Nalbandian was clearly upset about losing the point as he sprinted towards the sideline. Then he kicked the barrier in front of the linesman. What Nalbandian may not have realized is that the barrier in front of linesman Andrew McDougall was not made to block anything but maybe a slightly struck tennis ball. The kick bloodied McDougall and ended with Nalbandian being disqualified from the match.
See the Nalbandian kick on YouTube
"I never intended to hit him (the line judge), it was an unfortunate
reaction in which I wanted to let off steam after losing a point,"
Nalbandian's statement read (ESPN UK site).
Indeed it did not seem that Nalbandian had an issue with the linesman and acted with intention to harm him. However, this is why your parents tell you to count to ten when you are angry. Acting without thinking can create real problems.
Am I surprised this happened? Sure I am, but not as surprised as I am that Nalbandian blow up to this degree when he was in a winning position (up a set at that point). Clearly Nalbandian did not stop and think about his actions. This is a great example of acting off of the emotional mind and how it can lead to serious consequences.
In the heat of the moment you want to be in control of your emotions, not allowing your emotions to control you. So, even though he was quite upset, had Nalbandian taken a moment to calm himself this incident never would have occurred and he could have bounced back and still won the championship. Furthermore, had Nalbandian been at the net he probably whacks the net or slams the racket, but he would not be disqualified for those actions.
Ultimately, athletes want to be respected and this action does much to hurt Nalbandian's reputation. To his credit Nalbandian was apologetic immediately and showed concern for McDougall but it does not wash away his lack of control in that moment. If you are a tennis player reading this post use this as a reminder to get in control of your emotions so you can maintain or enhance your reputation as a player and a person. Learn to relax and compose yourself under pressure, and even change your thoughts about a negative situation.
You should have at the very least 3 ways you can calm and compose yourself on the court.
Want to learn more about enhancing your emotional toughness under pressure on the court? Check out the USTA Mental Skills and Drills handbook or contact me for a personal consultation.