17 July 2017

Garbine Muguruza, Sun Zi's Art of War & The Keys for Winning

The purpose of this article is to show the relevance of Sun Zi's Art of War to modern day business and competition, even in a sport like Tennis. The popularity of Muguruza turnaround success is a good case study for the application of the Art of War.
The great story from the Wimbledon Tennis Competition is not Federer winning his 8th Wimbledon Titles but rather Garbine Muguruza winning her 2nd Grand Slam events. Federer winning was largely expected. But Muguruza's winning was not after her French Open loss and quick exits from two earlier grass courts events. In fact, since her 2016 French Open win, her ranking has been going southward and dropping down to 15. What happened that caused her form to drop after her big win in 2016 and more importantly what caused her winning form to return?

Most players drop in form after a big win. The pressure from having to sustain the top level performance and to coping with found fame. They were monitoring how far would Ostapenko, the 20-year-old 2017 French Open Champion to progress in Wimbledon. Some were expecting her to drop out in the earlier round, not making it to the 2nd week. But she did well to reach up to the quarter-final. The reason for Ostapenko's success was attributed to her 'fearlessness', each point is a new point to fight for. Back to Muguruza's turnaround.

The one big factor that accounts for the change in Muguruza's turnaround was the change of coach for the Wimbledon competition. The regular coach was on leave for his new born and Conchita Martinez became the coach just for this tournament.

What did Martinez do to Muguruza and what has their story to do with Sun Zi's Art of War?

While they may know nothing about the Art of War, the things they did to bring about the success actually follow the teaching of the Art of War.

By googling for this story, we can find many articles that describe roughly the same things. Here is my summary of what Martinez did:

1. Encouraging Words to restore a player confidence and calming the emotion:
  • "Martinez’s calming influence has been ideal for the emotional Muguruza, ..."
  • Sun Zi Art of War:
    • Bold and Calm:
      Sun Zi listed 5 attributes of a good commander(1v7). Being bold and calm in face of challenges is one for them. Sun Zi's tactics for getting the enemy to make mistakes are to get the enemy to lose his cool. He tells us to irritate the quick-temper, make the humbler proud(1v23) to shame the one who is righteous and to disturb the ones who love his men(8v11).
2. Strong Mentality to Win:
  • "Inspired by the soothing words of former champion Conchita Martinez, Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza believes she is ready to follow in her fellow Spaniard’s footsteps." (Martinez was the 1994 champion). 
  • “I lost two years ago, so I look forward to this one and to try to change that.”
  • Sun Zi - Win first then Fight"
    4v15 The winners prepare to win first and then start a war; the losers start a war then hope to win.
3. Point by Point - No Concern over Glory and Fame and just focus on the task at hand.
  • "She plays relaxed, but with a lot of intensity. Just point by point, I try to tell her, don't think of anything else." and "Sometimes you're going to win playing unbelievable, sometimes you're going to win playing ugly. The semifinals, I just told her, it's another match, not a semifinal. And today, it's another match, another day."
  • Sun Zi - Focus on the mission and nothing else.
    4v12 The win of the skillful commander is not about the fame of wisdom nor rewards for boldness.
    10v27 - Hence, advance not for gaining fame, retreats without fearing disgrace, the only concern about protecting the people, benefitting his superiors, such man is tthe treasure of the country.
4. Improving Your Skill:
  • "Martinez also said they worked on Muguruza's serving, including using more slice and going into the body."
  • Sun Zi - That's what the Art of War was written for - improving your strategic and people management skills for winning.
For more on Sun Zi, see Sun Zi and Other Strategists

Lim Liat (c) 17 Jul 2017

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