The Mental Game

Watching Wimbledon this year has really emphasised to me how much of an impact the mental state of mind of a player has on their performance. So far, this has been most evident in the third round match between Andy Murray and Andreas Seppi. Murray appeared to be going through to an easy straight sets victory after winning the first two sets 6-2, however Seppi then received a medical time-out in the third set after a slip. This changed the momentum of the match completely and Seppi won the third set 6-1, with Murray not winning a single game in that set after the time-out. In the fourth set, Murray called for medical attention on his shoulder and ending up winning that set 6-1, with Seppi not winning a single game after that time-out.

I have never witnessed such big momentum changes in a tennis match before, and also cannot see why medical time-outs can have such an effect. Whether the momentum change was due to the disruption in play, or if the physiotherapist had some incredible healing ability, it certainly affected the mind-set of both the players.

Tennis has always been a very mental game though, and sometimes the loss of one easy point can affect the mind-set of a player for the rest of the match. Negative thoughts can begin to creep in and build up with each point, game and set lost. I do not think the top players are there solely due to their physical ability, but also their mental. They are able to just come back from big set-backs and finish matches off quicker than most other people. Novak Djokovic showed his mental strength against Kevin Anderson in the fourth round tie, also at Wimbledon this year. Being two sets down, he managed to win the next three sets to win the match. I think that Roger Federer has also been very mentally strong at Wimbledon this year by winning his matches very quickly. This, as always, is mainly due to his physical ability, but it also shows his concentration and not faltering to the pressure and expectation. Of course his experience also plays a part.

One player who has been under-performing at Wimbledon in the past couple of years though has been Rafael Nadal. Being a two-time winner of the tournament in 2008 and 2010, he has failed to get past the fourth round for four consecutive years now. Injury could have played a part, but he has still been performing much better in other the grand slams, especially Roland Garros. Having a poor spell at Wimbledon in the past couple of years might have affected his mind-set coming into the tournament, but it can also affect the mind-set of his opponents. Therefore, as it is in no doubt that Nadal’s physical ability is among the best in the world, it shows that it could be the mental side of Nadal and his opponents that has been adversely affecting his performance.

Tennis can sometimes be a mental battle for a player, which is more evident in some players such as Andy Murray and Victoria Azarenka who like to talk to themselves during matches. Perhaps the winners of Wimbledon this year will be decided in the players’ own mind before a ball is even hit.

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