Posts Tagged ‘Florida Tennis Magazine’

Ericsson Open Winners Emphasize Mental Game

Florida Tennis Magazine – By John F. Murray, PhD – www.JohnFMurray.com – As a contributing editor to Florida Tennis magazine for over 10 years, you’ve heard from me countless times about the mental game and mental training for top junior tennis players hoping to earn a college scholarship, or perhaps ATP or WTA Tour success. What about players who have already made it? Does the mental game still matter for them? Let’s glance back at the men’s side of the 2010 Ericsson Open – from quarterfinals to Andy Roddick’s impressive win – and listen closely as the pros describe their mental keys to their success. We’ll cover the women exclusively in a future article.

This Key Biscayne Masters series gem continues to rank as the 5th most important tournament on the tour. Mark it official and just call it a grand slam, on par with Wimbledon and Roland Garros. Why not? It’s the biggest and baddest tennis in Florida, the Caribbean and South America, and my prediction is that it will eventually become the second US Open in some future decade as the Latin population of American and South Florida continues to grow beyond expectations. I love it because it is so close and I get to meet with players I am working with and see them play too.

By the quarterfinals of the 2010 event, 8 of the current top 20 ranked players in the world were still standing, so you had the cream of the crop for sure! In parentheses after their names are their current ATP Tour rankings: Rafael Nadal of Spain (1), Robin Sonderling of Sweden (5), Thomas Berdych of Czechoslovakia (8), Andy Roddick of USA (9), Fernando Verdasco of Spain (10), Jo Wilfried Tsonga of France (11), Mikhail Youzny of Russia (14), and Nicolas Almagro (20) of Spain. With Spain just winning the World Cup too, you wonder what they are drinking over there!

Let’s listen to the winner’s post-match comments from the mental perspective, with the key mental principle(s) underlined as a header:

QUARTERFINALS

CONFIDENCE
Berdych d. Verdasco 4-6, 7-6, 6-4: Berdych after the match stated: “I brought many positive things even though I was tired.â€? He explained in the press conference how beating Roger Federer in the previous round gave him confidence. He showed just that in saving 7 of 9 break points. Rather than getting defeated in adversity or reacting to a difficult situation in a negative way, Berdych hung in there, knew that he could do it, and did it.

QUICKNESS
Sonderling d. Youzny 6-1, 6-4: Robin Sonderling explained in the interview how taking the initiative and dictating play with his flat groundstrokes worked like a charm. He also talked about how he won with quickness, and we know from research how important mental processes are in anticipatory quickness. It’s actually equally about physical movement as it is about getting a jump mentally and reading cues properly. Sonderling beat his rival to the punch with better anticipation skills, by taking the ball earlier, and through lightning fast shot-making, and these all begin in the brain.

AUTOMATICITY
Roddick d. Almagro 6-3, 6-3: Roddick, off to one of his fastest career starts, described this match in a way that shows he was in a state of pure focus and automatic play or automaticity. He already had played and won a lot in 2010, and described in this match how “things slowed down and muscle memory took over.â€? This is classic in higher stages of learning where auto-pilot predominates. It defines simplicity and perfect focus. Andy found it in this match and he felt like he could do no wrong.

CROWD SUPPORT AND PASSION
Nadal d. Tsonga 6-3, 6-2: Never neglect the influence of the environment in performance, and social facilitation is a psychological state caused by crowd support. Nadal credited the crowd when he said after the match “I was inspired by the full and passionate crowd.â€? He added, “the crowd is always very emotional here.â€? There is no doubt that despite Nadal’s fatigue, he got a second and third wind from this special social element.

SEMIFINALS

GOALS
Berdych d. Sonderling 6-2, 6-2: Thomas Berdych knew that he was in trouble if he tried to out-steady the Swede. It’s actually a somewhat absurd concept to try to out-steady a Swede ever since Bjorn Borg hit the scene. Berdych used his noggin to set a couple clear goals: (1) play more aggressively, and (2) reduce mistakes. This combination proved lethal to Robin when packed his bags and went back to the ice bar in Stockholm (I went there a couple years ago and can only imagine that is where Swedes go after they lose a match to cool). Humor aside, Berdych used his frontal lobe well in this match by setting goals to perfection. He had 17 winners and only 15 unforced errors compared with Sonderlings 10 winners and 31 unforced errors.

RISK-TAKING MINDSET
Roddick d. Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3: Mindsets are crucial in sports. They reflect how you view a problem and solution. I often help players get ready for matches with particular sentences that capture a needed mindset. In this case, Andy knew he was in trouble against Nadal if he played it safe. Playing consistently against Nadal is like trying to beat a wall. So he changed his mindset to high risk/high reward and it drastically changed the course of the match mid way through the second set. Andy showed high intelligence in making this needed risky change and going on the attack. He went on to win 15 of 25 net approaches, found his flat risky forehand, and Nadal went home wondering what had happened.

FINAL
CRATIVITY AND PRESSURE MANAGEMENT
Roddick d. Berdych 7-5, 6-4: Andy used two important mental skills to take his 2nd career Ericsson title. He won by being creative and stated after the match, “I was smart in chipping and mixing paces which kept him guessing.â€? He also said, “I had a lot of pressure to win this one because I had a pretty good opportunity at Indian Wells.â€? In reflecting on the entire tournament, Roddick said “I haven’t had an off day mentally in this tournament.â€? The end result was the he held serve perfectly and did not even face a break point in this match. By combining smart creative play with urgency on every point (rather than negativity as often happens in pressure) Andy Roddick, the lone American in a draw with 3 fierce Spaniards and all top 20 players by the quarterfinals, showed that he was the mental champion of the week.

I hope you enjoyed this article on sports psychology.

The Mental Side of the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis Tournament

Florida Tennis Magazine – May, 2009 Issue – By John F Murray, Ph.D. – Smart Tennis Sports Psychology Workshop in London June 19 and 20 – Sponsored by The Bulldog Club (the finest bed and breakfast in hand picked private homes around London) and the Sutton Tennis Academy (the best tennis academy in England), Dr. John F. Murray will conduct his 8th year of sports psychology workshops on the weekend before Wimbledon in London. Tennis players and coaches of all levels are encouraged to attend on one of two days, June 19 or 20, where they will receive a full power-point presentation on mental skills, training and exercises in classroom and on court, a relaxation/imagery session, an individual mental skills evaluation, a personally signed copy of the top selling tennis psychology book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game,â€? and a full year of follow-up mental coaching support with Dr. Murray by email. If you will be anywhere near the UK on the weekend before Wimbledon, you will not want to miss this exciting annual event. Celebrities and touring pros often attend. To book your place, please contact Dr. Murray at 561-596-9898 or send an email to johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

The 2009 Sony Ericsson Open once again lived up to its billing as the 5th best tournament of the year, and there were two surprise champions. Fans feasted on their usual blend of superb entertainment, tropical sunshine, and South Florida style. There is no better place in the world in March!

This month we examine some of the mental highs and lows as we stroll through the draws of the winners. Andy Murray, who’s been training extensively in South Florida, took the men’s title, cruising in from the #4 seed. The thrilling Brit only two weeks before had lost a heartbreaker in the finals of Indian Wells to Rafael Nadal. He won 11 of 12 matches in an unbelievable run! I enjoyed emailing back and forth with Andy’s mother and top British tennis coach, Judy Murray, who endorses my sports psychology workshops in London every year. Andy would rise to the top here with unheard of ball control and rapidly maturing mental skills. Over in the ladies side, 11th seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus surprised the world by shocking #2 seed Serena Williams in the finals after other top seeds Safina, Jankovic, and Dementieva fell by the wayside. I’m going to have to pull out my Russian dictionary to write this article! Now let’s now examine some of the mental skills on display.

Men’s Draw

Andy Murray received a bye in the first round before coming back to knock off Juan Monaco of Argentina 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round. He played erratically in the first set, but pulled from solid resilience in hanging in there, improving the quality of his play, and closing it out when he had to. In the third round, Murray bounced back again after starting 0-3 to Massu of Chile. The resilient control artist clawed and clawed back, and was also helped by an extremely rare four double faults in a row served up by the Chilean. In the fourth round, Murray had little trouble dispatching an angry 6’4’ Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-1, 6-0. Troicki cursed repeatedly in his native language and lost total composure, only hastening his annihilation. Next up was the mighty 7th seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain who had beaten Murray at the Australian Open earlier this year. With an eye for an eye on his mind, Murray refused to allow his confidence to dip from past results. He quickly destroyed the Spaniard 6-1, 6-2 whose body language was atrocious throughout the match. This set up a grudge semi-final match between Murray and 5th seed Juan Martin Del Potro, as both players had claimed gamesmanship in past matches. Murray focused much better on the battlefield and survived a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 thriller. Del Potro later explained it away that he was tired after his match with Nadal. While this may be true, it’s never a good idea to make justifications and excuses after, as this rarely promotes future mental toughness. In the finals, Murray equaled fellow UK national Tim Henman’s 11 titles by rolling over Djokovic 6-2, 7-5. Amazing fitness and finesse were the order of the day as Murray played to start, then refused to be discouraged after down a break in the second. I emailed Judy Murray to send her and her son a big congrats and she replied to me that “we Murray’s need to stick together.â€? While everyone is saying that Andy can be the next Wimbledon champion, I have a warning. I know he can do it, but don’t fall for the hype Andy. You don’t need that kind of pressure. Just keep playing great tennis and your career will take care of itself!

Women’s Draw

Nineteen year old Victoria Azarenka is one of the hottest stars on the tour with all 3 of her career titles coming this year (Brisbane, Memphis, and now Key Biscayne). After watching her play, I believe she might dominate tennis soon. She had a temper problem early in her career and is starting to gain greater mastery over her feelings. She sure did this week. Despite her success this year, many would not know who she is in a lineup, but that is changing fast. After a first round bye she eased past the Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-2, showing great poise and patience in some very tough points. She dispatched another Russian, Anna Chakvetadze 6-1, 6-4 in the third round, and again kept her cool in tight spots. The waltz continued in the fourth and fifth rounds as she mopped up Hungary’s Agnes Szavay 6-2, 6-4, and Australia’s Samantha Stosur, 6-1, 6-0. Her powerful two handed backhand combined with a positive energy and aggressive play often gave her first strike advantage over her foes. Onto the semi-finals where she would face the higher ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova. It would be “the biggest win of my career’ said the teenager after her victory. The match lingered 2 hours and 40 minutes in the sweltering heat, but Azareka controlled her nerves and emotions to win the big points and force a final with Serena Williams. Could she win yet another title this year by defeating one of the most successful players in history? Fresh legs would carry the day as Williams was hurting with both a sprained ankle and sore thigh muscle, and the rising champion on the women’s tour prevailed 6-3, 6-1.