Dealing with adversity is an important quality of all the great champions and it’s something I’ve always admired about Roger Federer. The moment he shanks a forehand or puts a volley into the net, Fed just shrugs it off and focuses on the next point.
We saw more examples of that in his semi-final victory over Rafael Nadal on Friday. Federer’s level dipped badly in the second set, but he came out at the start of the third playing as well as he ever has. Holy cow, it was as if that second set had never happened.
The way Federer kept Nadal on defence throughout the match was magnificent. He hit fewer sliced backhands than usual, because he knew that Nadal would attack anything that was remotely short. Instead he hit through his backhands, forcing Nadal back behind the baseline.
Federer’s serve was excellent, as it always is, but I was shocked to see Nadal standing so far behind the baseline to receive serve. Hell, if he’d gone back any further he would have been on the 18th green on the golf course over the road. That made Federer’s wide sliced serves very effective.
Nadal didn’t play his best, but I thought that was largely down to Federer, who just took the play away from him. Whether he was coming into the net or hitting those big backhands and forehands, Federer just took control.
Djokovic will present a different challenge in the final on Sunday and his semi-final victory over Roberto Bautista Agut was a reminder that this guy just has no weaknesses.
The variety he showed against Bautista Agut was exceptional. He was very effective when he came to the net behind short shots and when he needed the big serves he came up with them. His mobility was also unbelievable at times. Bautista Agut only wanted to play one way, which was from the baseline, and Djokovic did a very good job of taking him out of his comfort zone.
Saturday’s match of the day: Simona Halep has lost nine of her 10 previous matches against Serena Williams, but if I was her coach going into this final I would be telling her: “Don’t look back at the history. It’s up to you to create the future.”
Sure, Serena is the favourite, but I don’t think this match is a foregone conclusion by any means. All the pressure is on Serena, while Halep has played beautifully so far. I’ve also been impressed with the way she has controlled her emotions throughout.
However, I think the only way that Halep can win will be to play up close to the baseline and stop Serena pushing her back. If she moves back behind the baseline she’ll be toast. She needs to take the ball early and attack whenever she can. If she can play her game, a lot will depend on how freely Serena is able to play.
Halep will need to get a lot of first serves in to stop Serena going for big offensive returns. When receiving, she will have a decision to make. In the face of Serena’s big serves the natural inclination will be to move back but I think she needs to be brave and hold her ground.
Ask Nick: It’s been a pleasure answering your questions over the last fortnight and I can only apologise to those I’ve been unable to answer. The last question I’ll respond to is one from a reader who has written to say that he’s concerned that when he makes a mistake it affects the rest of his game. You’re not alone, buddy, because there are players the world over who let their mistakes affect their next shots.
How to combat it? You just have to learn that once a point’s over, it’s over and you must concentrate on the next point. It’s all in your mind. I remember something Andre Agassi said many years ago: “You can’t do anything about what happened, but you sure can do something about what’s going to happen.”
Some players work on different techniques to help them focus on the next point. Maria Sharapova has been a master of that. She will go to the back of the court and just take a few moments to prepare herself mentally for the next point. Everybody has got their own way of doing it. Just slowing down and taking two or three seconds can be crucial.
My A-Z of the IMG – looking back over my life at the IMG Academy in Florida which I founded in 1978.
V is for Venus Williams, who first came to the academy with her sister Serena when she was 10. From an early age Venus was quite a different character to Serena. There were times when I needed to raise my voice with Serena, but that was never the case with Venus. A quiet word was all you needed. I always remember her politeness: after every session she would make sure she thanked her practice partners.
W is for Heather Watson, who came to the academy when she was 12 and has lit up the place with her smile ever since. Heather has had her ups and downs in her career but has kept her sunny disposition throughout.
For more information on the IMG Academy’s tennis programmes email email@example.com or call +1-800-872-6425
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