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Investing, the Novak Djokovic Way

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Tennis is one of my favourite sports simply for the individual brilliance, fearlessness, and electric atmosphere that is on display.

Plus, as a tennis player, you have to take the entire onus upon yourself whether you win or lose, which I kind of like.

I was once a huge fan of John McEnroe, then shifted camp to Pete Sampras, and then Roger Federer. These have been among the most fearless players in the history of the game (at least since I’ve been watching it).

My favourite now is ‘Djoker’ – Novak Djokovic.

I simply love watching Djokovic take his strides while serving or returning serves, which he does so gracefully and so well.

Every time he plays (winning or losing is a different matter), he displays a super-human level of strength, athleticism and endurance.

My liking for Djokovic started in 2008, and the thing I liked best about him was his momentary “wait” before returning a serve.

Ever since, I’ve always seen him with a typical, indifferent expression highlighted by focused, peaceful face and bright, unfazed eyes…

…seemingly trying to clear the mind of any thoughts that might take his eyes off the ball that usually comes towards him at a speed of 120+ miles per hour.

That wait, that pause before the split second decision is what has made me believe that Djokovic is one of the greatest tennis players I’ve had the privilege of watching…ever since I was able to differentiate tennis from badminton!

Anyways, while I’ve really loved Djokovic’s “waiting” game, my mind never went on to a simple yet profound lesson this “wait” had for investors.

It was an article I read in Financial Times a couple of weeks back that brought me to this lesson – what we as investors can learn from Djokovic’s “waiting” game, and how this can help us move a great notch above those who don’t appreciate the art of waiting, and are instead busy running a race against time.

Here is what the author of this article has to say about Djokovic…

His advantage over other professionals isn’t his agility or stamina or even his sense of humour. Instead, as scientists who study superfast athletes have found, the key to Djokovic’s success is his ability to wait just a few milliseconds longer than his opponents before hitting the ball. That tiny delay is why most players don’t have a chance against him. Djokovic wins because he can procrastinate – at the speed of light.

Procrastinating, delaying, or pausing before an investment decision usually results in a wise decision (I have experienced it personally), as this gives you a chance to reflect upon what your gut is telling you.

And your gut, in most cases, will give you a better indication than your brain on whether the decision will turn out great or dud.

Anyways, here is an amazing lesson you will get in this article, but I’m pasting it below because I think this contains the essence of what you will read over the next five minutes…

Life might be a race against time but it is enriched when we rise above our instincts and stop the clock to process and understand what we are doing and why. A wise decision requires reflection, and reflection requires a pause.

Here’s another…

If we are limited to just one word of wisdom about decision-making for children born a hundred years from now, people who will have all our advantages and limitations as human beings but will need to navigate an unimaginably faster-paced world than the one we confront now, there is no doubt what that word should be.


Anyways, click on Djokovic’s image below to download the article. If you can’t see the image below, click here.

Here’s the link to the original article from FT.

Now let me know – Do you play a “waiting game” when it comes to your life and investing? If yes, what have been the lessons? If no, why not?

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About the Author

Vishal Khandelwal is the founder of Safal Niveshak. He works with small investors to help them become smart and independent in their stock market investing decisions. He is a SEBI registered Research Analyst. Connect with Vishal on Twitter.


  1. Again good one, Vishal…:)
    I always love the metaphors you make use of in your articles..:)
    Where is Djokovic, where is Investing but still you can relate them..:)

  2. Nice Anectodes Vishal…

  3. Well this article reminds me of wait and watch strategy that I was using from mid 2010 to Jan 2012 .. the experience was quite good .. but missed on one opportunity that was buying HUL when it came down to 220 levels ..

    • Sanjeev Bhatia says:

      Ch Ch Keyur, you are suffering from regret aversion, hind sight anchoring bias :(. Lets see what more diagnoses Dr. Vishal has in store for you, poor fellow :D.

      Jokes apart, the investing world is full of such hits, misses and near misses. It has happened to all of us, and will happen again and again too, so do not fret over it.

      Another thing, you said you followed this strategy from mid 2010 to Jan 2012. What happened after that? Got impatient or what? 😀


  4. Sanjeev Bhatia says:

    Great Work again, Vishal. If these are the gems you come up with during your Vacation, I am already drooling what your comeback will bring.. 😛

    While going through the article, I was reminded of Prof. Bakshi’s “Reflective Vs Reflexive” brain response. Waiting game can effectively lead to removal of so many biases that we have once the initial reflexive euphoria is gone.

    I can first hand relate to the difficulties faced by OPPONENTS of such players. We have two players in our courts where I play badminton. Normally, all coaches advise to strike shuttle as early as possible, and as above the net as possible. There are a whole lot of videos advising the same. But the two players I am talking about are masters in delaying. They will keep on delaying till the last second and then lift the shuttle almost from ground. That way, the opponent is kept guessing till the last second where they are going to hit the shuttle. Many a times we think that they have left the shuttle, when thery suddenly strike out of nowhere, at the last millisecond.

    What we call as “experience” is basically a vault, a databank, of various situations and results that we have encountered in our life upto that point. Similarly in games, we are sort of automated to react swiftly to different combinations. When they delay, that automation part is reduced to nothing. Believe me, playing against these two is more mentally draining then physical since you can’t commit to any reaction till the last millisecond. The typical shuttle cock speed during smash is about 52 m/sec (120 mph), so you can well imagine the speed required to process and act in such a small time.

    I love the way you utilize mnemonics to make retention of concepts easier. This makes it much more interesting.
    Similarly, the WB quote:
    //Buffett likens buying stocks to hitting a baseball – except without the strikes. “I call investing the greatest business in the world because you never have to swing,” he says. “You stand at the plate, the pitcher throws you General Motors at 47. US Steel at 39 … All day you wait for the pitch you like; then when the fielders are asleep, you step up and hit it.”//
    explains it so, so well.

    That partly explains my “delayed” response to the post. I, well, waited till I had truly understood (I hope 🙁 ) the concept fully before commenting… :D.
    Let’s walk the talk, no?

  5. Manish Sharma says:

    Bhatia Ji… aap aur badminton !!!!

    • sanjeevbhatia says:

      Yes Manish, I play at premium indoor courts Shastri Hall here in Ludhiana, five days a week, 2-3 hours per day. It is a like a wonderful therapy for me. Can’t miss it.

      I am shocked the way you are surprised 🙁 , any particular reason?

      • Manish Sharma says:

        No, I wasn’t shocked, but yeah mildly suprised at knowing this unknown aspect of your personality.
        I am sorry if u felt bad, wasn’t my intention 🙁

  6. The space between stimulus & response, it is so very critical & useful. And you just amplified it so vividly, Vishal. Need to remind myself constantly of it ….

  7. Another investing lesson from Djok is stick to your circle of competence. Don’t try unnecessary new things and take extra risks. Djok is a hard hitter from the baseline, he rarely ever changes that style and waits for opponents to make errors.

    I am a die hard federer fan. To the core. One of the issues with federer is he keeps trying to improvise, sometimes even when not required. His upside is higher number of winners, which may or may not win him the match. But downside is he makes relatively higher number of unforced errors, and if those are at crucial points (and they are indeed!), they cost him the match.

    Instead, Djokovic’s idea of sticking to what he knows, staying in his circle of competence, gives him results the way Mohnish Pabrai would be happy to see. Heads I win, Tales I don’t loose much.

    All this is evident in plenty in today’s final.

  8. Another investing lesson from Djok is he sticks to what he knows. He is a hard hitter from the baseline, and follows that rigorously and waits for opponents to make errors. This is unlike federer, who tries to keep improvising, sometimes even when not necessary. The upside for federer of this strategy is more winners. These winners may or may not win him the match. But downside, is relatively more unforced errors, which could be at crucial points. And indeed they are!. To my mind, this approach has cost him many a match in the recent years.‎

    I am a Federer fan. To the core. But after him, I like and respect Djokovic. Djokovic’s steadfastness of sticking to what he knows, his circle of competence lets him have results, which Mohnish Pabrai would approve of. Heads I win, Tales I don’t loose much.




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