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Krejcikova and Djokovic's Negative French Open Thinking

 

 
One thing I discuss a lot with coaches, parents, and players is the importance of normalising the difficult mental experiences that are part of competing.
 
In almost all cases we fail to adequately empathise with just how challenging a sport tennis is mentality, and understand how hard it is to reduce or avoid the unhelpful thoughts and feelings that show up throughout matches.
 
It was absolutely fantastic therefore to see both French Open singles champions describe their lack of self-belief...their conflicted motivations...their 'negative thoughts'...their outcome thoughts, so well throughout the tournament.
 
It is a great lesson for all of us to realise that the reality of competing is frequent difficult thoughts and feelings.
 
And it is in fact not the player who has some special power to experience less uninvited 'negative thoughts and feelings' that is the mentally toughest.
 
Rather it is the player who is most accepting of these...
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A Great Learning Lesson From Jenny Brady...

 

 

 

I was interested to watch Jenny Brady's Australian Open semi-final victory press conference to see how she described winning such a tight match...

It was super refreshing to see her describe trying to finish the match so honestly. 

The intensity of the nerves...

Her wandering mind which wanted to focus on the outcome...

The doubts...

The difficult physical sensations...

Far to often we live in fantasy land when it comes to our expectations of being able to control difficult emotions and unhelpful thoughts during matches.

This is not reality!

It's much more effective to recognise and normalise the fact that our human mind means that in competition, difficult thoughts and feelings will show up frequently and trying to reduce or avoid them typically won't work, especially when we most want to.

And so it was for Brady when she was trying to make her first Grand Slam final.

The most important lesson- she had all these difficult internal experiences and won...this is...

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Djokovic vs Medvedev: Some Thoughts on Medvedev's Mental Fold

 

 

Novak Djokovic is still the undisputed king of the Australian Open and with each new Slam victory the likelihood that he will end his career as the all time male grand slam leader becomes more likely.

And for Daniil Medvedev what seemed like a possible changing of the guard yesterday now appears like more of the same old story- the young guns still have quite a ways to go.

In Medvedev's case, the capacity to cope with the greatest challenge took a significant hit as he mentally folded from about the middle of the match.

Here are my 3 main mental reflections from the match...

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What Parents Can Learn From Federer's Mental Attributes...

 

 

With the announcement that Roger Federer will make his return to play in Doha next month, it got me reflecting on his greatest career mental traits, and what parents can learn from this…

I believe he has 3 that stand out:

1.) Resilience

If 1 statistic characterizes Federer's resilience, it is this…

He has come back from 2 sets down 10 times, this is equal all-time record shared with Aron Krickstein and Boris Becker.

An amazing achievement…

2.) Performing his Best Under Pressure

Federer has always been clutch...but just how clutch even surprised me.

To consider this I reviewed the open era records of some of the world’s best male players in Grand Slam sets that went past 5-5…

And the results?

Federer, along with Raphael Nadal, hold clearly the best career winning % in close Grand Slam sets at 70%...

Djokovic wins 66%...

And the next best I found was Sampras at 63%...

3.) Consistency/Longevity

This one is pretty obvious....

Federer has...

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3 Important Lessons We Can Learn From Thiem 'Getting Tight'

 

 

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...

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One Key Learning From Rafa's Roland Garros Victory

Another Rafa Nadal French Open looked less likely at the beginning of the tournament as he reported feeling frustrated with the tournament balls and cool conditions.

He openly discussed his doubts whether he could win the tournament given these challenges.

Yet at the end of the tournament he stood as the champion once again following one of the best Grand Slam finals performances in the history of the sport. 

Check out the key learning I took from his remarkable victory:

 

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Osaka, Thiem, and the Key Skill that Most Contributed to Their US Open Finals Victories

 

 

When asked how he had most helped Dominic Thiem as a junior, his former coach Gunter Bresnik replied, "Stress Tolerance".

And it is this one skill that most contributed to both Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem becoming 2020 US Open singles champions. 

In a moment I will outline the basic steps to improving stress tolerance. But first, a couple of reflections on the finals matches:

Osaka Navigates Her Way to the Finish Line

Osaka is quickly stamping herself as a very special big tournament, big match player.

Regarding tournaments, 3 of her 6 career titles are now Grand Slams. For some context, excluding Serena, most of the best players in the world have historically won at least 5 regular tour tour titles for every 1 Grand Slam victory.

And in the biggest matches she is now 3-0 in Grand Slam finals. What is super impressive is the differing paths and challenges she's had to take and face to get to the finish line. 

In her 1st US Open final she had to deal with...

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Encouraging Players to Control Emotions Not Working...Try This Instead

 

 

If your efforts to help your players control emotions haven’t helped them compete better, you’re not alone!

Instead of trying to reduce the intensity of difficult nerves and frustration when they show up during matches, here’s an alternative 3 step approach that you can advise your players to use…

In the video, I’ll also explain why this approach is helpful. And if you’d like a copy of the activity instructions to go here: https://www.mentallytoughtennis.com/notice-look-activity-signup

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Maria Sharapova's Defining Glory: The 2014 French Open

 

  

##This was an article I wrote in 2014 summarising Maria Sharapova's incredible mental toughness...

How fitting!

It would not have been quite right had Maria Sharapova completed one of the all-time great grand slam title runs in any other way.

A mighty struggle of over 3 hours; faced with the adversity of double faults at key times throughout the match; seeing the 2nd set slip from her grasp when so close to victory; but ultimately decided, like so often throughout her magnificent career, by her ability to respond to the adversities characteristic of 3-set encounters just a little better than her brave opponent.

Sharapova’s Remarkable Career 3-set Record...

Think of any quality associated with mental toughness and Maria Sharapova ticks the box:

Competes effectively when behind;

Competes effectively when not playing her best;

Competes effectively under pressure;

Competes effectively when in front;

Competes effectively through adversity.

In total,...

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Short Term vs Long Term Gains

 

  

Traditionally the field of Sport Psychology has recommended strategies like controlling difficult emotions to feel better- because we know when we feel better it’s easier to commit to helpful actions.

Similarly, the recommended goal to do with anxious, angry, or outcome thoughts has been to avoid or reduce them.

When done successfully this helps players in the short term.... but there are 2 problems with this approach that  tend to lead to big problems in the long term.

1.) Because the thoughts and feelings that show up during competition are based on the situation and our history within similar circumstances (including human evolutionary history), these strategies are very hard to do effectively when players most want them to work.

2.) In the long term players become less ‘fit’ in being able to tolerate internal difficulties, and more reliant on having to feel good to play good. This in turn tends to lead to players experiencing more...

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