G’day from Torino,
I was courtside yesterday for Novak Djokovic’s victory over Andrey Rublev in the group stage of the ATP Finals. Everything was going along just fine 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 to get to 30-30. He then serves another ace for a 40-30 lead. An energy-sapping 18-shot rally follows, which Rublev loses. Then we have this sequence of events…
- His body language appears fine after losing the long point.
- The long point took a physical toll on both of them. You can see Djokovic breathing hard as well.
- Rublev walks to the line to serve but needs more recovery time.
- He walks away from the baseline for some extra breaths.
- He then suddenly realizes he may be running out of time. Which he was!
- He looks at the shot clock and sees it only four seconds left.
- He looks at his box, walks to the line, and quickly serves. Naturally, it is a rushed fault.
- He was late to serve and was also late with his point of contact on his Serve +1 backhand. Very wide error. In fact, his worst shot of the match.
- Racquet goes straight into the court in frustration. Mentally, the match ended right there.
Watch the short video below to see this sequence of events.
Rublev Serving 4-5, 30-30 1st Set
How To Better Handle The Situation
Rublev’s eruption happened out of nowhere. I was sitting in the third row just behind the baseline, closely studying both players from the start of the match. There was no previous outburst from Rublev. He was there to win after a gutsy Rd 1, three-set victory over Daniil Medvedev. This was one of the biggest matches of his career, and he was right with Djokovic until the 4-5 game.
So what set him off?
Failure to correctly mange time. That’s where the fire was lit. After the 18-shot rally, he lost track of time walking around, trying to bring his heart rate back down. When he finally looked up, he only had four seconds to go before the umpire would have called a time violation. It was a self-inflicted problem.
Rublev chose to rush his first serve instead of taking the time violation. That was a big mistake. He should have taken a few more deep breaths and got called for the time violation. At such an important moment in the match, there is nothing at all to be gained from rushing. And it’s only a warning. He would not have received any kind of penalty.
In a nutshell, Rublev rushed himself. The first serve will almost always be a fault in that situation. And then the Serve +1 backhand error came, which was a really late error that missed wide of the doubles alley. His head was still in the last point. A really bad error at the most critical time of the match.
If Rublev takes the time violation, he can then get himself settled and have a much better chance of making a first serve and winning the point.
Lesson: Don’t. Rush. Yourself.
Rublev unraveled quickly and was mentally and emotionally gone for the rest of the match. When he was broken at the end of the first set, he also slammed a ball into the court as hard as he could. Interestingly, at the same time, Djokovic walked to the side of the court with a smile. A complete contrast of emotions.
Time became Rublev’s enemy.
The second set sped by in 27 minutes. Rublev didn’t have enough time to let the negativity go. The finish line was rushing hard at him while he was mentally and emotionally beating himself up.
Let’s all learn from Andrey’s meltdown. Here’s how to avoid it.
- When things get tough in the match, slow things down more than normal.
- Slow, deep breathing always helps to calm nerves and relieve anxiety.
- Step back from the moment and look around you. See the big picture. Appreciate being on a tennis court.
- Focus on the strategy needed for the next point. Stay in the moment and let the last point go.
Let’s learn from Andrey’s difficult moment on the court to reduce the negativity in our own game.