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Mental Toughness in tennis at the Australian Open 2015

In the spirit of the grand finals of Australian Open 2015, I want to share an interesting post analyzing Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Victoria Azarenka and their mental toughness in tennis.

If you watched the women's grand final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, especially in the second set, you would see clearly what mental toughness meant. On one side, it was Serena battling a very bad flu and cough while not able to take medicine to stop it. On the other side of the court, it was Maria fighting an opponent she had not won in 10 years and 15 matches. It was not easy to face an opponent with such a record of dominance.

I must say Maria was mentally very well-prepared for this game when she played very good tennis with intensity and motivation. She did not lose focus after the 10-minute rain break when Serena went inside to alleviate her cough. One thing in my humble opinion could have gone against Maria psychologically was the way she used the word: "come on" to motivate herself. For those of us who often watch Serena, "come on" is very much Serena's favorite, and she used it many times in the past to psyche herself up. Maria, by chance or on purpose, used such word in such intense moments accidentally motivated and pumped Serena even more. Maria once admitted in an interview that she got excited more than necessary in the games against Serena. She also said that Serena was a master at luring opponents into hitting shots heavier than necessary. At one point in the match, after a winning point, Serena turned back and made a joking sound and gestured "come on" to stare Maria down.

Video Source:

I am not sure if Maria realized this, but she did change her way of psyching herself somewhat. She used her fist as her trigger for determination instead. It worked well for her, and brought Maria back many times in the second set to force Serena to a tie break.

mental toughness in tennis

As a mental coach, I am looking forward to the next rematch between Serena and Maria, simply because it is always interesting to watch an arch rival match. It is very similar with what happened in badminton when Lee Chong Wei was arguably number one badminton player in the world but he just could not defeat his arch rival Lindan. History can always change, and it is my hope that Maria will beat Serena on their 17th encounter, just the same way Tomas Berdych beat Rafael Nadal to end the streak of 17 losses during Australian Open 2015.


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