How important is losing?
‘Winning isn’t every thing, it’s the only thing’ A famous quote from Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. Winning has always been considered one of the most important elements of sport. Whenever we talk about the greatest athletes of all time, the top of the list are always the people with the most championships and titles. That is what success is based on in sport. However, should that really be the case? In the 2017-2018 Premier League season, out of 20 teams, only 5 won more games than they lost or drew. The 2018 BMW PGA Championships started with a field of 150 golfers, it ended with only 1 winner.
These sort of numbers are the same in tennis. In the 2018 season, Adrian Mannarino, a player currently ranked 40th in the world, recorded 26 wins, against 30 losses. He did however reach a career high 22nd in the world, reached the finals of 2 ATP Tour events, had a career best at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and earned over $1 million. All in all, a very successful year, even though his match win percentage was only 46%.
Rafael Nadal is widely considered the king of clay. He has won 11 Roland Garros titles, more than any other player, as well as 11 Monte-Carlo masters, 11 Barcelona Open and 8 Rome Masters titles. He has lost only 36 matches on clay in his entire 18 year career. Between 2005 and 2013 Nadal was particularly dominant, especially at Roland Garros. He won 8 titles in that 9 year period, winning 59 matches, and only losing 1, with a win percentage of 98%. In those 9 tournaments, he won 177 sets, losing only 19, for a 90% win percentage. In all those sets, he lost 635 games out of the 1,804 he played, for a win percentage of 65%. Between 2005 and 2013, Rafa Nadal played over 10,000 points at Roland Garros. He won the tournament 8 times. He only won 56% of the points he played. If he played 10 points, he would on average win only between 5 and 6 of those points, losing between 4 and 5. For a player who at the time was simply unstoppable, he suffered lots of ‘losses’ in points.
It shows us that winning is very important, however it is not the only thing. To be able to get back from a loss is crucial, to be able to deal with going behind and still get success at the end. Progress requires failure, and it is important to understand that.