ATP

Nerves of steel while facing crucial break points and match points: An underrated skill in what makes a professional tennis player

You have often seen, time and time again, instances where your favourite player (or any player, for that matter), has been able to save their entire match. Often, it is a mere split section reaction to move quickly to a ball that is being served, or the ability to not being affected by a fan yelling during a second serve on match point- which can make or break a tennis player’s match or entire campaign.

Yes, campaign.

 

What is often overlooked is how much goes into seeing a player take the court. For instance, tennis players who play the Australian Open often have to spend Christmas and New Years Eve in a hotel room in a foreign country.

Players then have to be ready for inaugural events of the year, which often start on the last day of the year (December 31st), and end a week later. However,  an early first round loss at a warmup tournament can often mean that comes major time, a player down break point in a first round match can be put in dark place.

Relatively speaking, a lot of these issues are first world problems, but let’s go into the mind of a viewer, who often doesn’t have the elite mentality of a professional athlete under pressure.

 

Let’s say for example’s sake that this viewer is you. You are sitting down in the stadium, and a fan has just started laughing at a joke made.

 

The player you are watching just made a double fault, and it is now at match point. The player has to serve a second serve which:

 

1.       Won’t land in the net and end the match

2.       Be effective enough so that the opponent doesn’t rip a forehand winner and end the match

What is often overlooked in this sport is that a simple rush of blood in a matter of a minute and a half, can be the difference between packing your bags and leaving the country, or staying another day.

 

For instance, most amateurs level players at the park might get distracted in their return by an overhead plane or helicopter.

I bring this point up because it is simply amazing how many times an ATP or WTA player has managed to do the unthinkable, and save a match.

 

If we look at the top 10 of current ATP players and the percentage of break points they have saved in their career, the list is quite alarming and interesting. For instance, there are no surprises that the usual suspects, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, have saved over 65 percent of ALL break points they have ever faced in their careers.

 

What is interesting is that in that list, Nick Kyrgios is 6th (behind Nadal).

 

In sport, being “clutch” is often a term thrown around. In tennis, now we know why: the best players often can save themselves from being 1 point from defeat.