In Roger Federer's loss today at the 2011 US Open to Novak Djokovic, Federer was asked to comment on Djokovic's winning forehand. Was it lucky or confidence?
"Confidence, are you kidding me?" Federer asked. "Please. Some players grow up and play like that. I never played that way. I believe that the hard work's going to pay off."
Hard work is the quality of a champion. An athlete of Federer's caliber hits the shots in competition that he has done over and over again on the practice courts. This is why Federer has won 16 grand slam titles and is one of the greatest all time champions. For the champion, there are essentially no chances taken in a match that have not been rehearsed in practice. Virtually, every shot is calculated and practiced to a level that is superior to the skills of any opponent.
This is not to say that Djokovic did not deserve or earn his victory. He beat Federer. He took a chance and he won. This is the beauty of sport. Chances produce victories and also excitement. In Djokovic's words: "If it comes in, it comes in." "It was a risk last year. It was a very similar situation. I was hitting the forehand as hard as I could. You're gambling." "I was lucky today."
Champion's take shots that they have practiced and know that they can hit. They gamble knowing that they already have the winning hand. Djokovic might win this US Open and finish with an incredible season. A season for the record books. However, if he hopes to attain the winning record of Federer he will need to turn that forehand into a shot that he knows will be a winner.