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...
The last couple of months have been a little bit of a whirlwind for me having my first child…Kudos to all or you who are also parents- it didn't look as challenging as I'm finding it from the sidelines :-)
But with the fog clearing I had the chance to watch some of the ATP Finals during the week which was great J
And one moment stood out from a mental perspective…
When Dominic Thiem was trying to finish Novak Djokovic in the 2nd set tiebreak despite being one of the most relentlessly aggressive players on the tour, he didn’t commit to this gamestyle in that moment. Instead he played more conservatively and even defensively on a few points.
This cost him the set after having 5 match points….
He did amazingly well, however, in recommitting to aggression when down in the 3rd set breaker, to reel off an incredible run of points to get the win.
When asked whether his win was more of a mental battle than a physical battle...
The Great Escape!
To give himself a chance to survive Roger Federer followed one of the golden rules of mental toughness:
Compete Your Hardest When Your Opponent Is Trying to Finish the Match, 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 match, but have thoughts to do with the possibility of losing it from that winning position (which is common) is among the most common times they will play their worst.
In commentary Jim Courier called it the 'Invisible Wall' and it was one that Tennys Sandgren couldn't quite break through today.
The key here is that as much as people talk about ‘not thinking about the outcome’ even the best players in the world have unintentional thoughts popping up about potential outcomes regularly thoughout matches.
So, just like Federer did, it’s vital that we recognise the difficult thoughts that will surely arise when our opponents seem likely to...
Wow...what a match!
Nadal was at his incredibly tough best and my sense that Kyrgios is finally making great progress towards becoming an effective competitor to complement his crazy physical talents looks more and more likely to be the case.
Here are 2 vital lessons to take from the match:
1.) Nadal shows again that choking is usually not fatal if you can respond well to the common experience of trying to finish close matches.
In tonight’s match, when Nadal realized that the finish line was in sight when leading in the 3rd set tie-break and again when he was serving for the match at 5-4 in the 4th set he suddenly tightened…A couple of double faults and playing more tentatively, along with Kyrgios's great fighting spirit, allowed Kyrgios to win the 3rd and prolong the 4th.
But, as usual, to Nadal's huge credit he recovered from both chokes quickly and got the job done…
There are a few key things we want to remember when trying to...
It is among the most common issue people seek my advise on.
In fact, all players choke.
Whether it be Novak Djokovic when leading 4-2 in the 5th against Fed in last years Wimbledon final.
Or Fed himself at match point in the same match.
Or Serena in several huge matches of late.
Watching Aussie Marc Polmans escape with a gutsy 5 set win after getting tight and missing several chances to win in 4 sets yesterday at the Aussie Open reminded me of the most important skill to develop when it comes to choking.
Because all players will do it to some degree quite regularly...Responding well to choking, rather than reducing the choke itself, is the more important skill to develop.
This starts with normalising it...
What an incredible rollercoaster that was!
A perfect example of why tennis is the ultimate sporting mental test. Tough conditions…Massive momentum shifts…And ultimately an incredibly brave effort from Ash Barty to make her 1stGrand Slam final.
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 young 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...
One of the biggest competitive challenges that a player can face is the Yips. I had a pretty bad serve but to make things worse I went through a period of my career whenI had the yips on my 2nd serve. I still remember the dread I felt stepping up to the line not knowing where it was going to go. Luckily if I hit my partner in the back of the head it was slow enough that it wouldn't hurt very much :-)
While I haven't found a single cure for the yips, there are 6 strategies that tend to help players reduce the effect, and sometimes beat the yips...Some of these also helped me cure my yips and get back my ordinarily bad serving over time :-)
Check out my video reflection and if you would like a Tip Sheet of the strategies I outline in the video you can access it here...
Have a great week :-)
What a see-sawing affair that was to begin Roger Federer's US Open campaign...Federer was slow out of the blocks as he looked hesitant with his recent back problems and Tiafoe, to his credit took advantage.
In the 2nd and 3rd sets Federer gave the impression that he had slipper right back into his consistent 2017 groove totally dominating and having Tiafoe looking overwhelmed and appearing to look like he was headed for a comfortable 4 set victory.
Then, surprisingly, Federer's momentary drop in form had Tiafoe back in the match as we headed for a 5th. But when Federer got the break and held comfortably for the remainder he was on the doorstep of victory as he came to serve for the match.
This is where your child can learn 2 vital mental toughness lessons...
1.) Even The Greatest Of All Time Choke
Naturally, having only played 5 matches since Wimbledon and none in the last couple of weeks, Federer was a little edgy throughout the match. But to see him tighten so...
1.) What To Do: Players should fight hardest when their opponent is trying to finish them off, because it’s more likely that they’ll play poorly at this time
It was a Major tournament master and a potential future star that taught us this huge competitive lesson to begin…
While so often players tap out and fold meekly when it gets time for their opponents to serve for the match (or close to it) champion veteran Stan Wawrinka and 17 year-old newcomer Alex De Minaur got tough at the right time and reaped the rewards.
For Wawrinka, down 4-3 40-15 in the 5thagainst a rampant Martin Klizan, the reward was a 6-4 in the 5thvictory. And his post match quote summed up the importance of fighting till the end when not playing your best, “Wasn't my best tennis today, but was fighting, trying to stay in the game, fighting a lot.”
For De Minaur, looking gone at 2 sets to 1 and 5-2 down in the 4th, he seemed to harness memories of Lleyton Hewitt at the...
1.) We All Have Naturally Wandering Minds
It is hard for even the best players to continually commit actions to helpful process point after point because we all have a mind that is easily distracted…
And it looked today like both players were suffering frequent concentration lapses as the match ebbed and flowed one way then the other…
To help players improve skill in being able to aim and maintain attention on helpful processes throughout matches is simple to understand, but as we saw in today’s match, hard to do…
We simply get players to practice paying attention to present moment targets such as sounds, or physical sensations while stretching for as long as possible, while also encouraging them to recognize when they notice their attention has wandered, and return to the chosen target…
This improves attentional skill like fitness training strengthens muscles…
2.) Players Sometimes Get Caught Up in Nerves When Trying To Finish...
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