A frustrated coach calls. Asks for a mental tool to help “fix” their player’s mentality. But it’s not always a mental tool that is required. Often, it’s about going back to the basics. It’s about educating players about the realities of tennis. First step is getting players to know how to count. Second step is educating players about the score system. Close to every coach gets the first step done properly. The second step, not so much. And let me be the first to say, I have not been any better myself.
So how do we start to educate players about the score system of tennis?
A bold but true statement, that needs to be taken into account. “Tennis players are a bunch of losers” as Kelsey Anderson once entitled a blog post of hers. The reality is that tennis players lose a lot when playing matches.
Craig O’Shannesy has made statistics in tennis easy to understand and digest. Craig’s work is a cornerstone in helping players with more realistic expectations. More realistic expectations equal less frustration and anger on court.
So, let’s have a look at a key static to help educate the player you are coaching.
-1200+ match wins.
-20 Grand Slams
-Nearly $130 million in prize money
Undeniably one of the best tennis players to ever live.
How many percentages of the points he has played in his professional career has he won?
Before I knew the statistic, I guessed 70% or even 75%. After all, we are talking about Roger Federer.
I was wrong!
Meaning that Roger Federer has lost 45 % of the points that he has played in his professional career. Almost half the points he has played. I was astonished the first time I heard this statistic!
We are not talking about your average professional, it’s a player that has dominated the sport together with the rest of the so called “big three”.
Talking about “the big three”. Interestingly Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the only 2 other players to equal Federer on 55 % of points won in their professional career.
So what does this statistic mean to players?
A lot of players believe that they should be winning 8/10 points to win a match. That they have to destroy the other player. They play 3 good points and then miss an easy put-away forehand and yell “I’m sooooo bad!”.
The reality is that if a player is only messing up on every 4th point, they are doing an unbelievable job. Tennis is a game of mistakes. No matter how hard players try they can’t avoid making mistakes. We want to minimize unforced errors but player’s thinking that they can go through a match without making mistakes and losing a lot of points is simply unrealistic.
When a player’s internal reality is different from the reality they are faced with in matches, it will lead to frustration and anger. The frustration and anger will be termed as bad behavior and a mental problem. The mental problem is often attempted to be fixed with mental tools. Could be a physical routine or a breathing technique. While the mental tools can treat the symptom and be very helpful in acute situations, it’s important to address the cause of why the frustration and anger arises in the first place.
From the 55% statistic on Federer how is it possible to help the players with more realistic expectations?
Here are 2 coaching advice to reinforce to players:
“Expect to lose almost every other point even in the matches that you are winning”
“If you can keep you opponent from winning 2 points in a row for long enough – eventually you’ll win”
Remember that unrealistic expectations lead to players experiencing frustration and anger. The better we educate players about the realities of tennis, the more realistic expectations they will have. The more realistic expectations the more focus and mental energy can be spent focusing on their gameplan and executing their shots. The more focus on executing their shots, the bigger opportunity of performing well. The better the player perform, the bigger the opportunity of winning the match.
By Adam Blicher
Danish Sport Psychologist Consultant Adam Blicher is a member of the International Sport Mental Coach Association
Madrid Open Daily Preview: Former Champions Rafael Nadal and Sascha Zverev Meet in the Quarterfinals
The King of Clay is a five-time Madrid Open champion, though he hasn’t won this event since 2017. Sascha Zverev is actually a more recent champion, as he raised the winner’s trophy in 2018. And while Nadal leads their head-to-head 5-2, Zverev has claimed their last two encounters.
Dominic Thiem lost to Nadal and Zverev in those 2017 and 2018 Madrid finals. He’s still looking for his first title at this event. On Friday, Thiem faces John Isner, who has consecutively taken out two top 10 seeds in third-set tiebreaks. Another men’s quarterfinal features two seeded players who recently won titles on clay. The other quarterfinal sees a player whose only Masters-level wins have come on this surface, against a man who had never won a Masters match on clay prior to this event.
The women’s singles finalists, Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, have the day off ahead of Saturday’s championship match. Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova have already advanced to the women’s doubles final, and their opponents will be determined on Friday. In addition, all four men’s doubles quarterfinals will be contested.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule. Friday’s play will begin at 1:00pm local time.
Dominic Thiem (3) vs. John Isner – 1:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium
Thiem has been thought of as a great clay court player throughout his career, yet his two biggest titles have come on hard courts: Indian Wells in 2019, and last year’s US Open. He’s yet to win a Major or a Masters event on this surface, though he’s a two-time runner-up at both this event and Roland Garros. Isner’s best results have also come on hard courts, as he won the Masters event in Miami three years ago, and reached the semifinals of Wimbledon that same year. But the 36-year-old American has now reached the quarterfinals in his last three appearances in Madrid, and achieved a semifinal in Rome four years ago, so he’s far from a slouch on clay.
They have split two previous meetings, both of which took place in 2015. Their clay court match went to Thiem in straight sets. The Austrian is yet to drop a set this week, while as mentioned earlier, Isner is coming off back-to-back grueling contests decided by a final set tiebreak. Big-serving Isner enjoys playing in the high altitude of Madrid, but Thiem will definitely be the fresher man, and is the better player on this surface.
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5) – Not Before 3:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium
While Zverev won their last two matches in straights sets, they both occurred on indoor hard courts, which is not where Nadal excels. The three times they’ve met on clay, Rafa has been victorious, winning seven of eight sets played. Nadal had advanced quite easily so far this week, though he’s faced a wild card and a qualifier.
Zverev has been battling an elbow issue in recent weeks, but he’s also yet to drop a set at this event, with solid wins over Kei Nishikori and Dan Evans. If Sascha can tally a high number of aces, and minimize his double faults, he’s fully capable of upsetting the Spanish No.1. However, since finding his form two weeks ago in Barcelona, Nadal has looked much more comfortable on his favorite surface. If Rafa advances, he may find Dominic Thiem waiting for him, which would be a blockbuster semifinal.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Cristian Garin (16) – Berrettini won on clay two weeks in Belgrade, while Garin won two months ago in Santiago. Like Thiem and Isner, they’ve split their two prior matches, with the clay clash going to Garin.
Casper Ruud vs. Alexander Bublik – Ruud upset Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday, and is vying for his third consecutive Masters 1000 semifinal on clay. Bublik has earned impressive victories this week over Denis Shapovalov and Aslan Karatsev. Their only previous matchup came two years ago on a hard court in St. Petersburg, with Ruud winning in three sets.
Gabriela Dabrowski and Demi Schuurs (3) vs. Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Dabrowski and Schuurs are looking to make the final in their first tournament as a team. Pavlyuchenkova was also a semifinalist in singles, losing to Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday.
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot (7) – Mektic and Pavic are a sensational 30-3 as a team this season, with five titles in eight events. Koolhof and Kubot are just 8-7 during the same span.
Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (3) vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (6) – When these teams met in Acapulco earlier this year, Granollers and Zeballos prevailed in straight sets.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
John Isner upsets Andrey Rublev to reach quarterfinals in Madrid
John Isner is into the Madrid quarter-finals after a last set tiebreak win over Andrey Rublev.
The American once again needed three sets and two tiebreakers to earn a top 10 scalp.
John Isner booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open by upsetting the number six seed Andrey Rublev 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in two hours and five minutes hitting 43 winners and 29 aces in the win.
“I’ve always served well, the conditions for the server are fantastic, physically I was heavy-legged today, I finished late last night, the good thing is I finished a bit earlier today and I should be ready to go tomorrow, I’m going to need all of my legs tomorrow against Dominic (Thiem) and I’m looking forward to it for sure”.
The first set was pretty routine and we didn’t see a single break of serve the entire set as the first set would be decided by a tiebreaker. That’s where the American ran away with it jumping out to a 4-0 lead playing some great tennis and he would take it 7-4 to win the first set 7-6.
The Russian was keen to get back in the match in the second set and earned the first two breakpoints of the match at 1-1 and broke to take an early 2-1 lead. That break was all the number six seed needed to serve out the second set taking it 6-3 and setting up a deciding third set.
The number six seed once again had the first break opportunity of the third set but it was immediately saved with the big booming serve from the Greensboro, North Carolina native. That was the only breakpoint of the set and once again the match would be decided by a tiebreaker.
This one was much more closer and we didn’t see a break of serve until 4-3 when the American returned the Russian serve with a powerful forehand to take a 5-3 lead.
He would go on to serve it out to win the match and set up a quarterfinal encounter with the Austrian Domenic Them and he spoke about the matchup in his post-match press conference.
“He’s fresh, he’s won two matches and I think he is the second-best clay courter right now so it’s going to be a very tough task for me tomorrow especially on this court because he hits the ball so big and pretty fast and he does so many things well and I am going to have to play extremely well if I want any chance to beat him”
Theim currently holds a 2-1 lead in the head to head and their most recent meeting was back in 2017 in Laver Cup on an indoor hardcourt when the Austrian won in three sets.
Madrid Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Third Round and Women’s Semifinals to be Played on Thursday
Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka are one round away from meeting in their second consecutive final, after Barty defeated Sabalenka in the championship match of Stuttgart. On Thursday, both face unseeded yet considerable opposition. And all 16 remaining men will play their third round matches, featuring seven of the ATP’s top 10.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule. Thursday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.
Ash Barty (1) vs. Paula Badosa (WC) – Not Before 1:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium
What a tournament it’s been for the 23-year-old wild card, who is the first Spanish woman to ever reach the semifinals of her country’s biggest tournament. But this result is not a fluke: she’s now 14-6 this season, and 3-0 against top 20 players. That includes a victory over her opponent today, who she defeated in straight sets last month on the green clay of Charleston.
In that match against Barty, Badosa saved 12 of 14 break points faced. After the match, Badosa credited her aggressive game plan of attacking early in rallies as her key to success. However, replicating that feat in front of a home crowd, and against an in-form world No.1, will be a tall task. Barty is now 24-3 this season, and has claimed 16 of her last 18 deciding sets. Ash possesses a high tennis IQ, and I expect her and her team to learn from the loss in Charleston, and figure out a way to overcome the impressive Spaniard.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Casper Ruud – Not Before 4:00pm on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium
Tsitsipas is now 10-1 on clay this season, with his only loss coming at the hands of Rafael Nadal, in a championship match where he held a match point. Meanwhile, Ruud has compiled an impressive 25-9 record on this surface since the start of last year. And the 22-year-old is 4-1 this season on clay against top 20 opponents, with his only loss coming at the hands of Andrey Rublev in Monte-Carlo.
This will be their first tour-level meeting, though they did play in 2016 at an ITF event on clay, which went to Tsitsipas in a third-set tiebreak. Ruud is fully capable of making this another tight contest, but Stefanos has been the second best clay court player so far this season, which makes him the favorite to advance.
Other Notable Matches on Thursday:
Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Sabalenka has been on a tear, winning 30 of her last 36 matches. And she’s yet to drop a set at this event. Pavlyuchenkova has defeated four top 25 players this fortnight to reach her first WTA 1000 semifinal in over a decade. Their only previous meeting was two years ago in Canada, with Pavlyuchenkova prevailing 7-5 in the third.
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Alexei Popyrin – Nadal has 392 career match wins at the Masters 1000 level. 21-year-old Popyrin only has six, though the Australian earned an impressive win on Wednesday over Jannik Sinner.
Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Cristian Garin (16) – Medvedev just earned his first win on clay since April of 2019. By contrast, Garin has earned five clay court titles since April of 2019. Two years ago at the Rogers Cup, Medvedev defeated Garin in straight sets.
Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Alex de Minaur – Thiem has reached the semifinals or better of this event in his last three appearances. De Minaur often trains in Spain, but had never won a match on clay at the Masters level before this week. Thiem leads their head-to-head 3-0.
Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Dan Evans – Zverev was the champion of this event three years ago, and comfortably dispatched of Kei Nishikori on Wednesday. Prior to Monte-Carlo last month, Evans had lost 10 consecutive matches on clay, but has now won six of his last eight. In their only prior encounter, Evans was victorious in four sets at the 2016 US Open.
Andrey Rublev (6) vs. John Isner – Since the beginning of 2020, Rublev is 66-16. Isner is just 16-3 during that same span, though he saved a match point to prevail over Roberto Bautista Agut on Wednesday. The American defeated Rublev at the 2015 Miami Open, when Rublev was only 17-years-old.
Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Federico Delbonis – Berrettini won the clay event in Belgrade two weeks ago. Delbonis’ two career titles have both come on this surface.
Aslan Karatsev vs. Alexander Bublik – Karatsev is now 19-5 in 2021, and on Wednesday came back from a set and a break down against Diego Schwartzman. Bublik is 18-11 this season, and upset Denis Shapovalov in the last round.
Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.
Madrid Open Daily Preview: Former Champions Rafael Nadal and Sascha Zverev Meet in the Quarterfinals
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