Good morning from Turin,
I was on the court yesterday during Novak Djokovic’s victory over Andrei Rublev in the group stage of the ATP Finals. Everything was going well until Rublev served at 4-5. His negative emotions erupted out of nowhere like a volcano.
The video below starts with Rublev hitting an ace and goes 30-30. He then serves another ace and leads 40-30. A grueling energy 18-shot exchange ensues which Rublev loses. Then we have this sequence of events…
- His body language looks good after missing a long point.
- The long blade took a physical toll on both of them. You can also see Djokovic breathing heavily.
- Rublev comes to the line to serve but needs more time to recover.
- Departs from baseline for a few extra breaths.
- He suddenly realizes that he may be running out of time. Which was!
- He looks at the shot clock and sees that there are only four seconds left.
- He looks at his box, walks to the line and serves quickly. Of course, this is a hasty mistake.
- He missed the serve and also missed his contact point on the +1 backhand serve. A very wide error. Actually his worst shot of the game.
- Frustrated, Racquet goes straight to the court. Mentally, the game ended right there.
Watch the short video below to see this sequence of events.
Rublev Serving 4-5, 30-30 1st set
How to deal with the situation better
The ruble eruption came out of nowhere. I sat in the third row just outside the baseline, watching both players closely from the start of the game. There was no earlier outburst from Rublev. He was there to win after a brave Rd 1 victory, in three sets over Daniil Medvedev. It was one of the biggest matches of his career and he was right with Djokovic until the 4-5 match.
So what scared him off?
Improper time management. A fire was lit there. After trading 18 shots, he lost track of time, walking around in circles trying to get his heart rate down. When he finally looked up, he had only four seconds left before the referee would have ruled a time violation. It was a self-inflicted problem.
Rublev chose to speed up his first serve rather than make a timing error. It was a big mistake. He should have taken a few deep breaths and been called to timeout. In such an important moment of the game, nothing can be gained by rushing. And that’s just a warning. He wouldn’t get any punishment.
In short, Rublev was in a hurry. In this situation, the first serve will almost always be a mistake. And then there was the +1 backhand serve error, which was really a late error that missed way out of the doubles alley. His head was still on the last point. A truly fatal mistake at the most critical moment of the match.
If Rublev accepts a timing error, he can then calm down and have a much better chance of making the first serve and scoring a point.
Lesson: no. Haste. Myself.
Rublev quickly faded away and was mentally and emotionally absent for the rest of the match. When he was broken at the end of the first set, he also hit the ball on the court with all his might. Interestingly, at the same time, Djokovic walked to the side of the court with a smile. A complete contrast of emotions.
Time has become Rublev’s enemy.
The second set lasted 27 minutes. Rublev did not have enough time to discard the negativity. The finish line was rushing hard at him while he was mentally and emotionally battling himself.
Let’s learn from Andrei’s breakdown. Here’s how to avoid it.
- When the match gets tough, slow down more than normal.
- Slow, deep breathing always helps to calm the nerves and relieve anxiety.
- Step away from this moment and look around you. Put it in a broader perspective. Appreciate being on the tennis court.
- Focus on the strategy needed for the next point. Stay in the moment and let go of the last point.
Let’s learn from Andrei’s difficult moment on court to reduce the negativity in our own game.