by Ignacio Crescini
Hi everyone, the term is almost over and the tournaments are coming. The third Grand Slam of the year is here with the qualifying for Wimbledon started, and we can always learn from the best players. Learning is not only how to hit a bigger stroke but mostly how to solve problems, and at the ATP level, this may be the main item to have in the bag. Mental skills, to be a problem solver instead of a passive sufferer, can make or break both a professional player as well as a junior player.
I saw this picture (below) of the stats of the Simone Bolelli vs Sam Groth match in Wimbledon’s qualies a few days ago and I instantly saw an amazing unbalance in one of the stats that has a hypnotic effect: ACES, the loser of the match connected 30 aces in a grass court match vs 3 from the winner.
What would any player with a normal mindset do, if finds an opponent that is not allowing him to play, just watch 30 aces fly by?
I have seen many junior players in matches dropping phrases like “he’s playing off his face” or “I cannot do anything” and just leave the match mentally before thinking of further solutions for the problems presented by the opposition.
In this match, Bolelli was tough enough mentally to endure 30 aces delivered by Sam and still get the win. He dealt with a strength as big as a 200+kms per hour serve but he made sure he was not losing his calm in his own serving games, even though he only delivered 3 aces. His numbers in win % off his first serve (74%) and especially on his second serve (71%) were incredibly strong and steady V’s more extreme numbers from Sam in first serve (84%) and his second serve (54%).
This highlights one big truth in tennis: everyone can be beaten! All we have to do is to stay on the court and not try to go extreme in any solution. If one opponent is beating us with chaos and touches, we cannot try to enter his game and beat him with a style we have not practiced in training and probably not familiar with.In then case I am an aggressive baseliner and work my opponents out, I might not like to start hitting first serves over my natural 3/4s speed or rush on the first shot to finish points.
Looking back at Bolelli, he knew very well that his serve is not as strong as Sam Groth’s but still tried to make high percentages of first serves and play a solid pattern of serve and first ball in both serves, to have high percentages of won points on serve. Trying not to feel intimidated or frustrated by all these aces and unreturned serves Groth was delivering, he stayed calm and tough mentality, which paid off with a remarkable win in a surface in which he was not the favorite. Bolelli was relentless in his intensity from his groundstrokes and made only 5 unforced errors on his backhand versus 28 from Groth, highlighting his consistency and exposed Sam’s lack of it on the day.
What would have happen if Bolelli would have tried to serve 200kms+ bombs to match Sam’s power and aces stats? He certainly would not have too many first serves in which would have exposed him to big forehand returns and piercing slices from the backhand or rushes to the net from Sam. The snowball effect when one player is hot on his serve and another one going for too much could have resulted in a 2 and 2 comfortable victory for the one who is not leaving his strengths area.
There us always plenty to learn from matches, and I hope this lesson from the pros stays with you during this holidays’ tournaments. Enter the court knowing that a challenge can be lying ahead, but you still can try everything using your strengths to expose your opponent’s weaknesses and solve problems. You have been training with your coaches during the term, have done all the adjustments needed to succeed being competitive against all kind of opponents! See you on court!!!