Think of a Grand Slam tennis tournament as a marathon, and perhaps to continue this analogy, think of the final match as a 5k. For certainly, in the final, Djokovic ran 4332 meters, and Murray 4411.
And more, think of the 5k interspersed with a 15 round championship bout – for with all the back and forth, tennis is about both hitting and absorbing blows from the opponent.
What I am getting at, is whether in a marathon, a 5k, or a championship bout, there often comes a moment when the winner separates him/herself from the field, and where the race/bout/tennis match concludes with the winner never in doubt.
Something about the 6-0 fifth set against Wawrinka, and the 6-0 fourth set against Murray stands out as the lesson Djokovic gives to us all – that is – tennis is less about winners and more about managing errors – tennis is about the pressure created when a player refuses to miss – and at the end of the day there is more value created in the mind of an opponent from their own errors than from the winners from the opposite end of the court.
And one more thing – the winning and losing has more to do with the second serve, than perhaps any other aspect of the game.
In the semifinals, Djokovic and Wawrinka had played to a draw after four sets, with the sets even at 7-6, 3-6 6-4 4-6. Going into the fifth and final set we may have been expecting 12-10 or even 9-7 from matches they have had in the past. But this 6-0 fifth set was different. The two statistics that stand out were :
- Winners – Novak edged Stanislas 7 to 5
- Errors – Novak much stronger here making only 6 errors to Stans 13
- Second serve points tells the story – Novak won 7 of 12, Stan was 0 for 9
In the finals the story was the same. After 2 and one half hours the sets were split, Murray broke serve for a 2-0 lead in the third set – but then the wheels came off. Murray won just one of the next 13 games. Not from Djokovic’s winners, but more from Murray’s errors.
As regards pressure, the focal point of the match occurred with Murray serving at 3-4, 15-40. His double fault spoke volumes about his previous matches with Novak, as well as about his suspect second serve. After dropping serve to go down, 3-5, he chucked his racket. “So many times,” he said. “How do you do it to yourself?” The statistics for the fourth
- Winners – Novak edged andy 8 to 5
- Errors – Novak made only 3 unforced errors compared to 9 for Andy
- Second serve – throughout the match Novak dominated winning 62% against Andy at 34%
The art of winning (in my opinion) is about the value of enabling errors, and what the accumulation of those errors does to the mindset of the opponent. On that score, Pat Cash the 1987 Wimbledon champion was quoted, “He hasn’t put up a great fight, he hasn’t. He absolutely collapsed. Sorry but you don’t put a rose tint on this. He melted down, he’s been disappointing and the bottom line is, the situation got too much.”
Novak’s lesson to Stan, to Andy, and to you and I
- Value errors (theirs) more than winners (yours)
- Improve your second serve – Novak’s said his has improved thanks to Boris Becker
PS – Pat Cash also offered the following, “It’s not boring to see two great players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic compete in a final. What is getting mundane is watching the same tactic in every single match of every single grand slam for the last five or six years. Nowadays they all settle down and say ‘OK, this is going to be two hours of baseline rallies.’ The guy who outlasts the other one wins. It’s taken a lot of the skill out of tennis.”
Is this becoming the state of play within our modern game?
For more tennis insights please visit Jim’s website: www.essentialtennisinstruction.com/