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The Skill That Most Determines Competitive Success (And How It's Been Key To Djokovic's Resurgence)...

 

 

Given that a break of serve would have almost certainly resulted in another Nadal Slam victory...who would have thought that when Novak Djokovic walked up to the line to serve at 7-7, 15-40 in the 5th set of their Wimbledon semi-final a few months ago that he would wake up regaining his #1 ranking by early November...

After all, in that moment he must have been experiencing significant self-doubt given that he hadn't won a Grand Slam for more than 2 years (which probably included the prediction that he would likely lose the match)...And he must have felt frustration at having just double faulted at 15-30 and earlier twice coming within 2 points of victory (0-30 on Nadal's serve).

But what happened next was that Djokovic cracked a Serve + 1 combo to force a Nadal error, followed by an ace. This gave an insight into what was to come in the minutes and months that lay ahead... And how Djokovic had regained the mental skill that had provided the foundation for him...

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How and Why Serena Failed To Follow the #1 Rule Of Tennis Success...

 

 

If ever there was a match that points a microscope on the mental challenges that competing in tennis ensures it was this match.

It spoke to the mess of applying what tennis psychology legend Dr Allen Fox calls“The #1 Rule of Tennis Success” that even the greatest tennis competitors can make:

Never Do Anything That Doesn’t Increase The Chance of Winning

It seems like this should be so simple right…

So why is it that even Serena Williams, the player who has successfully applied this rule at the highest level perhaps better than anyone in tennis history, so spectacularly failed to apply it in the final?

Well, as simple as it seems, the human condition combined with the nature of tennis means that what seems like it should be so straight forward is actually incredibly hard to do.

But Why Is This?

The basic reason is that losing is emotionally painful due to our brain’s inclination of interpreting a tennis math akin to a life and death...

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Why Success In Tennis Is Much More About How Players Compete On Their Worst Day Than Their Best…

 

 

When Marco Cecchinato was down 2 sets to 0 against Marius Copil and fighting for survival during a tight 3rdset in the 1stround of the French Open I wonder if he ever imagined, having never won a Grand Slam match, the possibility of what might lay ahead if he could find a way to scrape out a victory.

My guess is probably not…

But 9 days later, he is still standing as the 1stItalian man to make a Grand Slam semi-final since 1978 after defeating Novak Djokovic in another amazingly gutsy effort.

His life changing 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...

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The Most Important Mental Toughness Lesson You'll Ever Learn From Federer's 20th Slam Victory...

 

 What a rollercoaster!

And a classic case study for how in vital ways the field of sport psychology has set coaches, parents, and players up for failure when it comes to developing long-term mental toughness. But to understand why this is so, I need first to summarize the match and Federer’s experience of it.

Part 1- Federer’s Pre-Match Jitters

It was refreshing to hear Federer talk about how difficult he found the build up to the final.

He said, “Well I think my thoughts were all over the place all day, I was thinking what if I lost how horrible it would be to lose it, what if I won, it’s a late match start so I thought about this all day, I was so nervous going into this match.”

Part 2- Federer Looks To Make It An Early Night

With Federer off to a flyer as Cilic struggled to find his range in the cooler closed roof conditions, the 1stset was over in a flash. And early in the 2ndFederer looked like he was going to cruise to victory as he...

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The 1 Key Lesson Halep and Wozniacki’s Survival Skills Should Teach Every Player…

 

 

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.

Why?

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.

...

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The Contrast In 1 Key Competitive Skill Between Nadal and Kyrgios: And Why Attitude Is NOT a Choice…

 

 

Watching Nadal and Kyrgios in the final of Beijing highlighted the contrast in 1 vital mental skill that we often fail to understand. Let’s explore it…

Nadal Is Actually Getting Better…

It’s hard to believe but Nadal is actually getting better. He is a competitive machine… Simply the greatest competitor the game has ever seen.

Last night is the best I’ve ever seen him play on a hard court. That he turned up to this rather minor tournament (for him) at this stage of his career and displayed the same desire to win as if it was a Slam is the very reason he has become so good and continues to improve.

His insanely high level had Kyrgios looking for an exit within 30mins.

Kyrgios Is Deeply Addicted to Reducing Fear and Pain…

The reasons that Nadal has become so great are many. But 1 of the most important that sets him apart from all but Federer is his consistent, career long ability to tolerate the fears that come with...

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How Daria Gavrilova's Difficult Mental Experience Can Help Us...

 

 

“Well, to be honest, I was really concerned about how I was going to feel on that center court. I was a bit nervous. I was telling my coaches, God, I feel like I'm playing first round all over again, like the same nerves. Yeah, I was probably thinking too much of what happened last year. I don't think it was actually a good thing for me. But in the end I managed to not do what I did last year.”

Daria Gavrilova before her 3rd round Australian Open match…

I love hearing honest quotes from top players about the unintentional difficult mental experiences (nerves, frustrations, worries, fears, etc) that come with competing…

Why?

1.) It Demonstrates Vital Mental Toughness Attributes

1st, when players talk openly about their difficult mental states it demonstrates awareness of mental experiences which increases the chance to have choice in how they respond to them (as opposed to players who lack awareness which leads to the automatic/habitual...

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The Kyrgios Saga Continues…Why Players Give Up

 

 

While I’ve written about Kyrgios’s issues a couple of times in the past I’ve never before received so many communications asking for my opinion as on his performance last night against Andreas Seppi.

So here it goes…

Essentially, the way I saw it, Kyrgios tried for 2 and a half sets…Didn’t try for the next set and a half… Then see-sawed between trying and not trying in the 5th.

First, lets clarify the possible reasons players don’t try…There are only 3:

1.) Lack of motivation

We most commonly blame a lack of effort on poor motivation. While this is sometimes the case, more often than not I’ve found that what I first thought was a motivational issue, turned out to be a result of other issues.

2.) Caught in Helplessness

A more common reason players give up is that they become caught up in the internal experience of helplessness.

Throughout evolution it has increased the chance of human survival to be able...

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When The Mental Wall Hits...And How Players Can Climb It

 

 

 

The 8thDay of the Australian Open showed how even the best professional players aren’t immune from hitting the mental wall.

First it was Dominic Thiem winning a total of 4 more games when leading Goffin 7-5 6-6 (4-4 in tie breaker)…

Next it was Istomin who, since shocking Djokovic, had continued his impressive display with a 3rdround victory and was then leading Dimitrov 6-2 6-6 from which point he won only 3 more games…

And next, Bautista Agut had fought his way back after losing the 1stset against Raonic 6-7, to win the next 6-3 and find himself at 4-4 in the 3rdwith several break point chances to serve for a 2 sets to 1 lead…He won only 1 more game from that point…

And finally, with Nadal stumbling as he neared the finish line Monfils suddenly found himself back in the match with a big chance to take it to a 5thset serving at 4-3 30-0 in the 4th…He failed to win another game.

Together this group of players (Thiem, Istomin,...

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Wawrinka's Pre-Match Nerves No Barrier To His 3rd Grand Slam...

 

 

That was another incredible big match performance by Stan Wawrinka to claim his 3rd Grand Slam and 11th finals victory in a row. Interestingly, it came after what he described as being the most nervous he has ever been before a match...

I found his candour regarding his pre-match nerves refreshing. Here's what he said in his post-match interview:

"Today, before the final, I was really nervous like never before. I was shaking in the locker. When we start five minutes before the match talking, last few things with Magnus, I start to cry. I was completely shaking...I was also -- because I don't want to lose the final in a Grand Slam. That simple. That's the only reason....The pressure, I was feeling amazing after the semifinal. I was feeling great yesterday. Really happy. But this morning it start to be there, the feeling of you don't want to lose. I don't want to come to the court and lose a final. So close, so far."

The reason players almost always feel nervous before...

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