Why Federer, Nadal and Thiem have everything a leader needs

May 20, 2019

New Special Workshop "Game-Set-Grow"

What makes the three exceptional tennis players Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem so special? They owe their unbelievable success to their extraordinary ability to concentrate, their ability to move on after having setbacks and stressful situations, and their passion for endurance, precision and flexibility. The new Special Workshop Game-Set-Grow of the WU Executive Academy shows that the exact same skills are important in everyday business life. In individual tennis lessons, the participants work together with tennis and management professionals to further develop skills that not only improve their athletic performance, but also significantly improve their professional skills.

Pic of the workshop trainers
The coaches of the workshop: Werner Eschauer, Bettina Fuhrmann, Roland Berger

In the confrontation with the opponent, the tennis player must call on all his/her skills at exactly the right moment: assess the situation quickly, decide in fractions of a second and play the ball with pressure and precision at the same time. If the player loses a point or even a set, he must be able to move on immediately, look forward and refocus. Also, running, swinging and striking and simultaneously observing the opponent requires a certain level of finesse.

Endurance, coolness and flexibility are required

"This is also the case in a business setting: we are confronted with stressful situations in which we have to maintain our nerves, withstand pressure, quickly gain an overview, hold our ground and react flexibly to the unexpected in the truest sense of the word. In order to achieve our goals, we must always be prepared to adapt our strategies if necessary and to constantly re-prioritize our tasks. And this is exactly where we can learn so much from tennis - apart from the classical cognitive transfer of knowledge," says Prof. Bettina Fuhrmann, Head of the Institute for Business Education at WU, who developed the new Special Workshop together with the WU Executive Academy, international coach Roland Berger and former tennis professional Werner Eschauer.

Pic of a tennis ball on the sideline
Improving management performance in tennis training units - made possible by the new Special Workshop. Photo © CC0 Licence

Learning outside your own comfort zone 

The new Special Workshop Game-Set-Grow aims to train exactly these skills, while stepping away from daily routines and being outside your comfort zone. The goal is to bring the experiences back into your professional everyday life. In the workshop, lasting three days, the participants work with both management and competitive sports trainers. After an individual situation and needs analysis with the coaches, each participant receives an individually tailored training unit, which takes place either in small groups or in individual training sessions.

Portrait Helga Pattart-Drexler

Helga Pattart-Drexler

  • Head of Executive Education

The coaches analyze which strengths and skills, such as the ability to concentrate, and the frustration tolerance and resilience levels are already present and what skill should be built on accordingly. What is essential is how confident the participant feels in the individual "techniques" and which skills he/she wants to develop in concrete terms.

Cooling-down for transfer into practice

After the session on the tennis court, a physical and mental "cool down" takes place, in which the participants, under the guidance of the experts, transfer their experiences and newly learned skills to their individual professional situation. "This can be, for example, a management situation that has repeatedly led to conflicts in the past, or it can be quite concrete negotiations in which, as in tennis, there are two or more opponents. The aim is to use the acquired skills and strengths to create new framework conditions that enable difficult situations to be viewed from a different angle and thus find innovative solutions," says Pattart-Drexler. Anyone who would like to deepen their knowledge can do so in a follow-up seminar or individual coaching.

Facts about the Special Workshop Game-Set-Grow

Target group

The workshop is aimed at participants who are working in a very dynamic professional environment, who would like to better direct their focus and improve their concentration. This workshop can be part of a leadership or employee development program, but can also be conducted stand-alone.


The workshop is basically designed for 3 days, but can also be shortened if desired and can be part of a larger continuing education program.


Portrait Bettina Fuhrmann

Bettina Fuhrmann

Professor for business education at WU, Head of the Institute for Business Education and trainer in management and social skills for 20 years.

Portrait Roland Berger

Roland Berger

Coach on the professional tennis tour and player developer with over 25 years of experience, founder of the Tennis-Zone International (Tennisleistungsakademie), deaf national trainer and wheelchair tennis trainer. Coached Werner Eschauer (Nr. 52 ATP), Grega Zemlja (No. 48 ATP), Aljaz Bedene (N. 68 ATP), Gerald Melzer (No. 98 ATP), Mario Kargl (Deaf World Champion), Nico Langmann (Wheelchair tennis No. 1 in Austria). Currently coaching and training Lucas Miedler (ATP 271).

Portrait Werner Eschauer

Werner Eschauer

Former player on the ATP Tour, best ranking No. 52 in the world rankings (including matches against Rafael Nadal in Wimbledon and Monte Carlo), Davis Cup for Austria, coach (together with Roland Berger in the International Tennis Zone) of Jürgen Melzer, Gerald Melzer, Andreas Haider-Maurer etc. Currently coaching and training Lucas Miedler (ATP 271).

For more information about the Special Workshop, please click here.

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