A Tennis Lesson For Traders And Us All


by Steven Sarnoff

Congratulations to Stanislas “Stan” Wawrinka, of Switzerland, for winning the 2016 United States Open Tennis Championship on Sunday in New York.  Stan took down top-seeded world no. 1 Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, to claim his first US Open title and the third grand slam of his career.

For many years, Stan struggled to break through against the top four players in the world: his countryman Roger Federer, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Djokovik, and Britain’s Andy Murray.

Inked on his left arm resides a quote from 20th century avant-garde Irish novelist, playwright and poet Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.

In 2013, Stan said, “It’s my vision of my job and my life in general. In tennis, as you know, if you are not Roger or Rafa and Djokovic or Andy now, you don’t win so many tournaments and you always lose. But you need to take the positive of the loss and you need to go back to work. It’s that simple.”

Now at age 31, and a winner of his last 11 consecutive tournament finals appearances, it’s clear that Stan’s perseverance is paying off.  In his post-match comments yesterday, Stan noted that he entered the tournament with no expectations of becoming the champion.  He went into each match with the mindset of doing his best and improving throughout.  The thought struck me that his approach embodies all the same characteristics of a successful trader: knowledge, courage, discipline, and hard work.

Against Djokovic, Wawrinka played smart.  After winning crucial points, it’s become Stan’s signature gesture to touch his index finger to his temple.  He had a well-thought-out game plan and he used it to keep his head through the inevitable stretches of adversity.

He had the courage to go for his shots.  When opportunities arose, he took his chances boldly and with confidence.  When he would miss, it would be right on to the next point.

He maintained his discipline, both in his play and his demeanor.  Nothing could disrupt his focus, as he steadily played out his plan.

All the hours of hard work that went into preparing helped Stan stay mentally and physically solid enough to endure the pressure of the extremely challenging conditions he faced at Flushing Meadows.

Now that he’s part of tennis’ Big Five, does Stan no longer need to embrace the words on his arm?

Life is lived going forward and Beckett’s words on Wawrinka’s arm can continue to serve as a very useful map for Stan, for other athletes, for traders, and for us all.

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