Mental Tennis King, Novak Djokovic, has had one of the most incredible seasons in the history of tennis.
Since July 4, when he upset Nadal for the Wimbledon win, he has been the world’s number one ranked player, hands (…and feet) down.
He’s the hottest thing to come out of Serbia since the creation of the fiery national dish of Ćevapčićis came about way back when.
Heck, he’s the most explosive thing to come out of Serbia since the Kosovo war.
But we’re not here to discuss the recipes of international cuisine or underlying causes international combat.
What we’re here to discuss is “INTERNAL combat” – the mental game – the constant battle between the player’s brain and body. For it is here that matches are truly won and lost. Raw talent is important, sure, but talent stays raw until the brain cooks it.
And if your brain isn’t cooking, then the raw talent will rot and start to stink horribly, worse the Zookeeper movie that released in 2011.
Anyhow, Djokovic is well on his way to one of the most impressive seasons we’ve ever seen, but he almost lost a very important match, one he should have dominated.
On Sunday he went up against Mardy Fish in one of the closest matches for either of the players this year. Fish was, shall we say, “fresh” on that day and ready to take on the top ranked player in the world.
But real (…take no prisoners) Djokovic came on late. The man who was filling in for Djokovic looked and sounded like Novak, but he definitely wasn’t the guy who royally slaughtered Nadal several weeks ago.
He also wasn’t the same Djokovic who took on Fish earlier this year and quickly destroyed him 6-3, 6-1. In this match, Djokovic took the first set but Fish came back, won the second set, and tied Djokovic 2-2 in the third.
Fish was playing wonderfully up to that point. We jest a little with Djokovic, but in truth, he was up against a flying fish – covering the court with ease and executing awesome shot after awesome shot. Second though, Fish was performing more like a shark early in the game.
But then something happened. Maybe Fish started getting too excited about the possible upset. Maybe Djokovic entered that zen moment where he was unstoppable.
Either way, Fish got filleted pretty bad. Ouch! His serves were atrocious, and Djokovic ended up taking the final game 0-40. Fish was served that night – for dinner. But it didn’t have to be that way. What was it that caused Fish to fall apart and fall upon Novak’s massive hook at that crucial moment?
Can’t Forget About The Mental Tennis Queen, Miss Serena Williams
The same thing almost happened to Serena Williams, the mental tennis queen. She was taking on Australian Samantha Stosur, a player who had beaten Williams before.
Stosur started out strong, matching Williams at every turn, determined not to be a shrimp on the barbie. The two were deadlocked 4-4 in the first set, and neither looked fatigued in the least bit.
They both wanted blood. And wouldn’t you know it, Stosur started out the ninth game very strongly.
She had the game at 40-15 and was no doubt getting ready to say “g’day mate” when Serena came back with an astonishing series of volleys that ended up giving her the important win.
Serena and Djokovic are two masters of the game and already legends in their own right. But they both came so close to defeat.
Sure, Stosur and Fish are extremely talented as well, but let’s face it. Few people thought these matches would be this close. Was it that Serena and Djokovic weren’t focused on their mental game as much as they should have been early on?
After all, they were clear favorites. And did they end up coming back and winning because they reclaimed that same mental game that has allowed them to have such success? I think so .
Oh.. And The Victims of Mental Tennis Royalty:
And how about Fish and Stosur? It seemed like they had the mental game down perfectly, but both floundered at the end, going belly up.
This is understandable, considering that the highest pressure comes during these do-or-die moments, when competition is at its stiffest.
It isn’t easy to keep your head in the game when the stakes get that high, but you’ll find time and again that the champions are the ones who can manage this tightrope without falling over.
Oh, and for more tips on mental tennis, click here.
Have a great day, and an even better game,