During their truly unbelievable run to becoming the first wildcard Grand Slam doubles winners since Jonothan Marray and Frederik Nielson won 2012 Wimbledon, Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata have become the poster boys for one of my favourite sayings:
“Confidence comes after committing without confidence for long enough, not before”
To give some insight into the unlikelihood of their victory, less than 2 years ago I watched Rinky lose several doubles matches while forming the #3 partnership on his college team as part of my consulting with UNC where he attended.
That’s right, Rinky was playing #3 doubles in college tennis, and sometimes losing!
And at that same time, I was working with Jason to help him navigate the incredible mental challenge of recovering from ANOTHER surgery (what exact number this was for him I’m not sure but he might just have had more major surgeries than any other player on tour). At the time he took up work experience in real estate...
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...
Andrey Rublev defeats Holger Rune 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6
What a rollercoaster!
Not just the match but also Andrei Rublev's mental experience throughout the 5th set...
On going down a break in the 5th set he said: "When he broke me in the 5th set I was think it is over, completely over"
On going down 2 match points at 5-6 15-40 he said: "For some reason I was thinking I will make it, I will save them and I will go to the tiebreak"
On going down 5-0 in the tiebreak he said: "I was again thinking it is over but then I told myself I don't want the same thing to happen as Roland Garros when I was down 7-2 in the final set tiebreak and just gave up"
And on the moment when he lost his own match point to make the score 9-9 in the final set tiebreak he said: "When he passed me inside I was thinking that now is the moment I will make it"
So what can Rublev's mental experience teach us?
I think there is one key learning here and it is this...
We think about things intentionally many times a...
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...
If you've been following my communications for a while you'll be aware that I believe trying to control unintentional difficult thoughts (e.g., outcome thoughts, negative thinking) and emotions (anxiety, frustration) during matches is detrimental to long term mental toughness.
What we do want to do however is communicate (if you're a coach or parent), and reflect in ways that lead to more helpful mental experiences over time.
Here are 5 ways we can do this:
The most powerful way to improve internal experiences in a given performance situation when encountered in the future is to commit to desired actions now.
For example, when a player performs well while experiencing difficult internal states, this positive performance outcome will likely lead to more adaptive interpretations of that situation when experienced again.
The player will also implicitly learn from this experience that desirable internal states are not required for effective...
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