Leadership

Bill Gates says he was nervous playing tennis with Roger Federer—here's how he dealt with the pressure

Bill Gates and Roger Federer at a fundraiser for the Roger Federer Foundation
Suzi Pratt | Getty Images
Bill Gates and Roger Federer at a fundraiser for the Roger Federer Foundation

Public appearances are nothing new for Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and richest man in the world.

"After years of giving speeches, I am usually pretty comfortable appearing in public," he writes on his blog. "But this past weekend I did something in front of a crowd that made me a little nervous: I played tennis." With tennis legend Roger Federer, that is.

In a fundraiser for the Roger Federer Foundation, Gates partnered up with the 18-time Grand Slam champion in an exhibition doubles match against top-25 ranked John Isner and musician Mike McCready.

Gates is an avid tennis player, "but it is one thing to practice drills with your coach or go up against a friend," he writes. "It is another to play in front of 16,000 people in a basketball arena."

He dealt with the pressure by controlling what he could control.

That meant putting in hard work on the practice court ahead of time. "No one wants to watch a match where two of the players keep double-faulting and returning serves into the net," he writes. "So last week I put in a lot of practice time."

Whether you're playing tennis or running a company, there are always going to be intangibles. But rather than fretting over what was out of his control, Gates chose to focus on solutions — what he could fix, change or do better — rather than problems.

When the actual match rolled around, he continued to focus on what he could control. "During the match, I tried to just stay focused on what I was doing," Gates writes. "Keep your arm up on your serve. I settled down after I got my first one in."

His preparation paid off. "I think he did not miss a first serve," Federer said after the match. "I missed a lot of first serves today, so he did better than me."

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