After 72 appearances between them, either Simona Halep or Caroline Wozniacki is about to win their 1stGrand Slam.
This will be an incredible achievement for the winner given that despite their world rankings of 1 and 2, their comparatively disappointing Grand Slam history and failure to deliver in some of the most important moments was beginning to suggest that these 2 players may not have what it takes in the upstairs department to deliver on the biggest stage.
What a difference two weeks can make…And today, one of them will become a grand slam champion.
Despite the significant mental scarring in their Slam history, for these two weeks they have put on among the best displays of fighting tennis when they looked down and out, combined with poise in the pressure moments, in the history of the game.
Halep’s Journey To The Final
For Halep, it started in the very 1stround coming back from 5-2 and set point down against Aussie young gun Destanee Aiava.
But the real fun began in the 3rdround against Lauren Davis. A match in which Halep lost serve when trying to finish the job 3 times only to find herself on the canvas at 10-11 0-40 in the 3rddown 3 consecutive match points.
She admitted herself that in previous years the match at this point would likely have been lost saying, "I think in the past I would not have fought that hard.” But instead, this time she came up with 3 1stserves and clutch points to survive and turn the momentum and eventually the match after 3hr 44 grueling minutes.
If anyone was to say that she would be part of an even more epic encounter than that later in the tournament I wouldn’t have believed it but Halep’s semi-final against a red hot Kerber was an all-time classic.
After missing a pair of match points in the 10th game of the deciding set, the exhausted Halep looked down for the count with Kerber serving at 6-5, 40-15.
But incredibly, Halep recovered to turn the rollercoaster semi-final around and defeat Kerber after two hours and 20 minutes of dramatic tennis.
Wozniacki’s Journey To The Final
For Caroline Wozniacki, her unbelievable comeback from 5-1 40-15 in the 3rdset against Jana Fett says it all. It looked certain that, despite her formidable record in tour events, her disappointing run in Slams was set to continue.
That was until her incredible fighting spirit combined with Fett’s stumble and then fold spring boarded Wozniacki’s amazing run to the final.
Wozniacki said it well… “Once you get past that, you’re basically playing with house money…no matter what from that point everything was a plus.”
And perhaps that was what helped her show such resolve in recovering from 2ndset slip ups in both her quarter final and semi final victories.
A Final For The Ages…
That they have navigated their own mental minefields along with such dire match circumstances to make the final is truly remarkable.
Surely no Slam final has included players that have combined to save match points in 3 separate matches (and set points in another 2).
So how have they done it and what is the key lesson that we can take from this incredible story?
In several recent articles I have talked about the importance of players competing their hardest when their opponent is trying to finish them off because it is the time that their opponent is most likely to get tight and play poorly.
But the huge majority of players can’t do this, and as shown by Halep and Wozniacki during the last 2 weeks, if one wants to learn how to progress through the obstacles that tournaments present, the skill of survival is a crucial one to learn.
And the key to doing this is being able to tolerate and respond well to the inevitable difficult emotions that we will feel when faced with likely loss…
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 causes frustration…
And if we feel there is nothing we can do to turn it around we will experience helplessness.
While in the ideal world we would remain super positive in this situation this is not what 95% of players will experience no matter how many times coaches tell them to stay positive and so the real key is learning skills that help us continue to commit to actions that increase the chance of success while we are thinking and feeling lousily.
I cannot stress the importance of this idea enough and can guarantee that improvement in this area is the most fruitful road to the greatest improvements in results for the majority of players.
This in my opinion is the greatest single skill a player can develop since so much of our time competing will be during times when we are experiencing the opposite of the zone.
Halep summed up the key importance of continuing to act helpfully while thinking negatively when she talked about her amazing victory over Kerber: “I had two moments when I thought the match was over, I had no power anymore and everything was gone.”
And if players can get through matches when it may seem at times like all hope is gone, like Wozniacki pointed out, it often results in incredible results because the pressure is lifted.
So it creates a sort of increased power, by not only increasing the chance in that match, but increasing the chances of doing well in the matches that follow.
So Who Will Win?
I have no idea who will win this final. They both carry quite a bit of Slam finals baggage onto the court which means that it could get ugly for whoever gets near the finish line first…
But one is guaranteed to win, and that 1st slam victory will be incredibly well deserved simply based on the survival skills they have displayed throughout the tournament.
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