Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The game - More in the mind and less on the court!

Thoughts on Thursday
In the match between Fedex and man-on-fire Soderling, I remember seeing that green advertisement board in the court that had Adidas and Fedex side by side. At first sight I misread it as Adios Fedex. Unfortunately, that was what happened. Beyond a point, Fed just gave up. And his body language betrayed that! Try imagining what went on in his mind - 'I won here last year, and here I am losing it even before the semis. That too, not to my arch nemesis, but to this kid Soderling! What will everyone say? That I won last year because Rafa wasn't here?' Looking at Rafael Nadal literally slip, slide, run, smash and work for every point, evoked a ton of thoughts. Think of what might have been playing on Nadal's mind when he played Almagro - 'This guy, from my country who I beat 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 last time, has pulled me on to 2 tie breaks!' Or take Almagro's musings - ' Man. I fight out every ball in every game and this chap is God in tie breaks and so he wins!! Where is justice in this world?" In fact, tie-breaks are perhaps more trying, since each point, each service game, or even each break point is evenly fought for. At such times, like say in the match between Rafa and Almagro, one's heart perhaps goes out to the underdog, who fought so hard and yet lost!

At key times, the nerves take over. Take Sam Stosur. When she was serving for the match in the second set, she committed a double fault! Her first serves never went through! The nerves were visible in out-of-form Sharapova's match against Justine Henin. Or even in case of Djokovic against Melzer! All of last year, since Nadal's loss at Roland Garros thanks to tendinitis, there were talks, including an interview in which he said that his parents' imminent divorce had taken a psychological toll on him, because of which he couldn't give the game his best! At such times, one wonders whether a psychologist is as essential as say a physical trainer!

And it's not just tennis. Try thinking of Michael Schumacher! Seven times World Champion, not so in 1999, when all hopes were on him to get Ferrari out of 20-years-without-a-championship-victory and when he was so close to winning the championship, he broke his leg at Silverstone! And now, when he has come back, the world thinks he has lost his spark! Flavio Briatore said to the press that things have changed so much that Schumi may not be able to get back! Knowing the kind of person Michael is, always doing everything possible to win, one can only imagine how all this would hurt the guy psychologically! Always a winner, dominating the sport, to a place where he no longer gets covered in the papers post a race! Sport can be quite unforgiving!

I guess sport is as much a psychological game as it is physical. When Federer gave up his Wimbledon crown in 2008 to Nadal, the game stoked my imagination leading to this. That old post is a bit long, since I've added a couple of articles I'd read on Nadal just then. But anyways. The point is that the mind games or the games people assume are being played in the players' minds are interesting to imagine. Players putting their hands up in the air, shaking their heads at missed points or simply losing their nerve, exulting - all make for some really good imagination and introspection.

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