Leadership lessons from the underdog: Roberta Vinci’s win against Serena Williams

I don’t know why, I am, most of the time, for the underdog, the outclass, the one that the pundits put down. I savor more the victory from the least disadvantaged, the one that everyone expects to lose than the favorite, the beloved, the most probable to win.

I learn more from those who have the courage to turn the wheel of life in their discipline and mount to the top than from those who have been there and repeat their success.


Italian tennis player Roberta Vinci beats the amazing Serena Williams and ends her quest for a grand slam this year. What a surprise, and what an opportunity to learn from an underdog who just plays her game, finds the courage to be consistent, and make history.

Reflecting on the spot about Vinci’s win today, I learn three lessons that I like to share with you:

1.- Just play your game.

2.- Have fun

3.- Give credit away

In a short interview after the game, she was asked what did she had to fight in the other side of the net besides Serena Williams who was there, she responded: “In my mind I say ‘just play your game’, put the ball on the court, don’t think about Serena Williams, just play your game, send the ball on the other side.”

This is the very first lesson I learn today  play my game , talk to myself, do the basics,  keep it simple.

The interviewer asked her what was her mindset when she woke up this morning for the game knowing that the media said  she was a 300 to 1 as an underdog, Vinci replied “I said to myself this is one more game. I’m already blessed to be for the first time in the semi final of the US open, and I will be playing against the great Serena Williams, I have nothing to lose, and everything to win. I will enjoy it.”

This is the second lesson I learn from Italian tennis player Roberta Vinci: count your blessings, appreciate what you have, and go from there.

Answering her last question, she thanked her coach several times, and the camera went away from her and zoomed in on the coach who was clapping in the tribune.

That’s my third lesson from Vinci. It takes a team to win even in a solo sport as tennis.

Vinci will face fellow countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in Saturday’s final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

She entered the tournament ranked 43rd,  gained more and more confidence, and played a stellar match agaisnt Williams who also succumbed to the pressure by committing more and more unforced errors.

In Latin the meaning of the name Vinci is: Conqueror. Serena was serene, calm, and peaceful when she spoke her mind at a news conference and gave full credit to Vinci to have played really well.

I will conclude these leadership lessons learned from underdog tennis player Roberta Vinci with a quote from bestselling author Orrin Woodward: “Find a victory in every defeat and a defeat in every victory.”

Your victory arms you with confidence and courage while your defeat brings you humility and perspective.

God bless,


Published by Roosevelt

Roosevelt JF is a Global Leadership Fulbright Research Scholar from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) where he taught Haitian Studies as an Adjunct Instructor (2005-2010). Roosevelt was also a senior admissions adviser at Kaplan University. Roosevelt JF is the President of The JF TEAM, INC; a full media marketing and business development consulting firm based in Fort-Lauderdale, FL. He is a sought out radio and TV business show host. He is also a guest for several mainstream medias including NPR, the Miami Herald and Newsweek. He also leads the Center for Communication of AIDS, a network of journalists committed against AIDS in Haiti and South Florida. He speaks fluently Creole, English, French and Spanish. He is the author Of "Leadership sur le vif: Des idées pour le changement et la création de richesse en Haïti".

2 thoughts on “Leadership lessons from the underdog: Roberta Vinci’s win against Serena Williams

  1. Roosevelt, I enjoyed reading your text and truthfully this match is full of great leadership lessons. This match should be a lesson and a great example for all leaders to overcome the fear of failure which automatically relieved all emotions and increased the belief to succeed.
    Such is a great example of Vinci’s determination.
    Joseph Adelson

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