Novak Djokovic...the greatest men's Grand Slam champion of all time.
In the end, I guess because we've grown accustomed over the years to epic Slam finals featuring 2 of the big 3, this one seemed like a slight anti-climax. Here's hoping that Alcaraz can get his cramp issues sorted so we can see some Djokovic-Alcaraz slam battles go the distance before Djokovic retires!
But as I reflect on Djoker's tournament, 2 things stand out...
One perhaps the most amazing stat I've ever seen, and one a reflection on Djokovic's genius.
1.) First the Statistic
When I saw it I couldn't quite believe my eyes... As I scrolled through my Instagram feed there it was. An image showing that in 56 tie-break points throughout his historic French Open run, Novak had not made a single unforced error!
Considering many of the points that he played in those breakers it really does seem impossible. In total he won a brain snapping 42 of 56 tie break points (75%). Incredible!
2.) You Just Never Know When...
What an incredible rollercoaster that was!
A perfect example of why tennis is the ultimate sporting mental test. Tough circumstances…Massive momentum shifts…And ultimately an incredibly brave effort from Iga Swiatek to win her 3rd French Open...
There’s a lot we can learn from such a great battle. Because tennis is so challenging it never has been and never will be about perfection. Instead it will always be about dealing with frequent challenges just a little better than the person down the other end. And beneath massive momentum swings that are so common in matches usually lies the same predictable psychological processes for all players who are willing to put it on the line as these 2 ladies did.
Here’s my most important takeaways:
1.) Compete Your Hardest When Your Opponent Is Ahead, As This Is When It's Most Likely They'll Play Their Worst
The moment that a player realises they are in reach of winning a set or match, but have thoughts to do with the...
What a great effort by Holger Rune!
Particularly since he suffered a heartbreaking match tie break loss at the Australian Open in similar circumstances...
After all, losing final set tie breaks can quickly become a habit that's hard to break. With each consecutive loss the chance that it will happen again next time increases.
But why is this so?
It all comes down to the way our emotional memory system works...
For example, if you'd been bitten by a dog and later came across a similar looking dog you might automatically see the dog as dangerous, experience anxiety, and have the urge to run away. So being bitten by a dog later influences your response to a similar looking dog without feeling like a memory of the day you were bitten.
Our brains adapt to all types of ‘emotional memories’ by continually preparing us for the future based on what has happened in the past, invisibly guiding our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
When it comes to lost...
Last summer in Australia, Aryna Sabalenka was a broken competitor...
Struck with a severe case of the yips, she served 21 double faults in a single match to lose in Adelaide...
Occasionally serving underarm at the Australian Open just to get the ball in...
The start of 2022 saw her exit the pre-major Adelaide International event at the hands of a qualifier, her serve so poor she was left in tears and rolling them in underarm as her double fault tally hit 21.
Fast forward a year and she is our women's Australian Open Champion!
But how did she get here from there?
She first had to endure serving 428 double faults throughout 2022....151 more than any other player on the WTA Tour.
All the while demonstrating incredible resilience, determination, and bravery to improve her yips, which is in my experience one of the biggest challenges any player can face in tennis.
You see, when a player has the yips, the fear to face them is immense. But that is exactly what Sabalenka...
I've talked a lot about the importance of competing our hardest when our opponent is trying to finish us off because it is the time that they are most likely to get tight and play poorly.
And this possibility of playing poorly as the finish line approaches increases the closer that finish line is and the closer we are in score to our opponents when it nears.
The reason for this is simple: Our opponents will feel more fear of losing (and therefore nerves) the closer the score…So trying to serve for a match at 5-4 will cause more nerves than serving for it at 5-2.
And so when losing it is vital that we improve our ability to do things:
1.) Throughout the Match
When a match is not going well and we are moving towards loss it’s vital to tolerate and respond well to the inevitable difficult emotions that we will feel.
The 2 most common internal experiences that we feel when in dire situations in matches are helplessness and frustration. Quite simply, not getting what we want...
What an enthralling Aussie Open 1st round!
Now the title of my message may seem strange given that Nadal won his 1st round.
Let me explain...
The choke, which comes in all shapes and sizes, is the most common competitive challenge that I see in tennis.
The reason it occurs is that all players naturally fear failure because our evolutionary brains tend to mistake playing a tennis match as being a life and death battle.
And as we saw in the 1st round, even the best players in the world are vulnerable to choking.
1.) Nadal vs Draper
In Nadal's case, his challenge came when tied and 1 set all and Jack Draper began to cramp.
With Draper unable to move at all, Nadal went ahead 4-1. But then, just when it looked like Draper was close to defaulting, the cramps abated.
This put Nadal in very difficult mental position. When playing an opponent who is injured or cramping, the pressure to win (and therefore the fear of losing) escalates.
Nadal began to choke, playing 3 terrible games, and soon...
When Lorenzo Musetti was down 2 match points and fighting for survival during his first round match against Dusan Lajovic in Hamburg, having been ill and not certain that he would even be able to finish the match, I wonder if he imagined the possibility of what might lay ahead.
My guess is probably not…
But 6 days later, he was still standing holding his 1st career title after taking down Carlos Alcaraz in a pulsating final.
His incredible run is a strong reminder of an often overlooked keys to tennis success….
This key is that because of the one on one match play structure of tennis, how players compete on their worst days is often more important that what they do on their best.
So, in golf for example (unless in a match play tournament), players’ performance over 4 rounds in averaged out to decide the placings. This means that golfers can often survive a round where their score is beaten by many players in the field, and still do very well in the...
What an incredible effort by Ash Barty :-)
Whenever we hear Ash talk about her tennis, one thing that is clear is the incredible relationship she has with her support team.
As she talked about her victory post-match, her pride in the fact that her complete support team has remained the same since her comeback to tennis in 2018 after taking 18 months away from the game was obvious. This is incredibly rare in tennis, and almost unheard of in the womens' game.
This, above all, says a lot about Ash's loyalty, and tennis families and players can learn from it.
Listen here to her dad Rob talking to me about the pressure from outside the team for Ash to sack her coach Craig Tyzzer in 2018 when her comeback wasn't meeting some peoples' expectations...
And how Ash responded at the time.
What a match!
Each player winning 182 points...
But it was Medvedev who found the finish line.
Please take a few minutes to listen to his post match reflections (he was incredibly candid) and my thoughts on the vital learning lesson we can take from it.
I hope you had the chance to enjoy the festive season!
I spent a great couple of weeks with family before a busy start to the year working at the Aussie Open.
It was also great to see my colleague at MTT Pat Flynn experiencing being a member of the winning Canadian ATP Cup Team in Sydney.
It's sure great to be back in the thick of things in 2022 :-)
With that in mind, let's start this year's communications with what I believe is one of the most important understandings we can achieve when trying to respond well to difficult situations.
And it comes from a simple Aussie Open post match comment from Rafa Nadal. He said:
"Everybody has doubts, everybody feels frustrations....the most important thing is how you react"
So why are these comments so vital?
Well, usually when we think about the word 'acceptance' we are considering the skill of overt/external acceptance.
An example of this is when a player makes a mistake and 'accepts' the mistake and move on to the next...
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