Mental strength triumphs in nail-biting finals

Heroes: Ben Stokes (right) and Novak Djokovic (left) triumphed in tense matches on Sunday.

Are mental powers in sport more exciting than physical skills? Cricketer Ben Stokes and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic performed under crushing pressure to seize victories on Sunday.

Sunday 14 July, 7pm.

At Lord’s Cricket Ground in north London, the Cricket World Cup final is — unbelievably — tied. England and New Zealand must battle it out in the first-ever super over in the sport’s history.

England batsman Ben Stokes has pulled his team back from the brink of defeat.

The pressure is on. He has just six balls to score enough runs to secure England’s first-ever cricket World Cup title.

Meanwhile, on the other side of London, at Wimbledon’s Centre Court, the longest men’s tennis final in the history of the tournament goes to a fifth set tie-break.

At last, Novak Djokovic has three championship points to close out this epic battle. But the crowd is cheering the name of his opponent, Roger Federer.

Both men cope under huge psychological pressure. Later, Djokovic admits the match was the most “mentally demanding” of his career.

“For me, at least, it’s a constant battle within, more than what happens outside,” he said. The Serbian player is known to practise meditation and yoga to reach a state of calm.

“When the crowd is chanting: ‘Roger’, I hear ‘Novak’,” he explained.

It wasn’t just Stokes whose composure was tested on Sunday. The whole England team of fielders, batsman and bowlers had to keep cool.

Cool as a cucumber

Is the psychological drama the most fascinating part of sports? Or is it the great physical skills on display? Sports stars perfect their craft through years of training and pushing their bodies to the limit. Surely, it’s the beautiful tennis shots or the virtuoso cricket that the crowds truly admire.

But the heart of sport is in the emotional battle going on inside — for both the players and the fans. A true sporting hero must have the psychological strength to carry enormous pressure with the fear of heartbreak, as the crowd watches and waits to see who will fall and who will rise to the challenge.

You Decide

  1. Is cricket or tennis the better sport?

Activities

  1. Write two news headlines that sum up the drama of the Wimbledon men’s final and the Cricket World Cup Final.

Some People Say...

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.”

Muhammad Ali, US professional boxer (1942-2016)

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
On Sunday, England beat New Zealand in the final of the Cricket World Cup after both teams scored 241 runs in the main match. The winner was decided through a super over. In the same evening, Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer to claim his fifth Wimbledon title.
What do we not know?
If the focus on psychology in sports is linked to people being more open about mental health.

Word Watch

Super over
When a game of cricket is tied (which is extremely rare), teams play a super over to decide the winner.
Sport’s history
A super over has never taken place in One Day International cricket before.
Ben Stokes
This was an important moment for Stokes’s reputation because, in 2017, he was arrested for fighting outside a night club and was temporarily stopped from playing for England.
Tie-break
This year was the first time.
Virtuoso
A person highly skilled in a particular area, usually music.

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