After just three days of Wimbledon, chaos has ensued. The biggest stories at The AELTCC are the historic and astronomically unforeseen upsets of two of the most consistent and dominating players in tennis history. Those players being Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The players that defeated them, none other than 110th ranked Steve Darcis and 116th ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky respectively.
So, how did Darcis and Stakhovsky do it? Players who are not household names unless you obsessively follow the ATP Challenger results somehow made two of the greatest tennis players in history look, dare I say…regular? (And I’m not talking about a high fiber diet)
Before we dive into the proverbial deep end of the pool, let me preface this article by making sure we are clear: it’s important to understand that at the grand slam level, all players are good. There is no “bad” or “undeserving” player and if there was, it would not be Wimbledon but a neighborhood Rec. league match between two hackers on public courts with cracks the size of the San Andreas Fault. Being surprised by upsets in tennis is equivalent to not expecting spicy food when you go to an Indian restaurant called “The Phaal and Vindaloo Overload House”. The problem is players like Federer and Nadal, who have been impervious to such defeats happened to be the first to go.
So, what is the secret weapon that Darcis and Stakhovsky used to make the entire tennis world gasp? It’s called “BELIEF”
According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines belief as: A state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing. If you listen to the post match interviews and press conferences, both Darcis and Stakhovsky used the word “Belief” more than once. They also exemplified this in their games throughout the match. Trusting in their game plans from the first point to the last.
It’s easy to say “believe in yourself” while you are playing. But under the circumstances of facing these formidable players and in front of a tennis watching world that didn’t just expect, but simply knew they were going to lose, they still had that “Belief”. Belief in themselves and belief in the possibility. Steve Darcis, after upsetting Nadal said “I really wanted to do something today. You know, if you go on the court, if you try to have fun, it’s not the good point. So I really try to fight. I knew I could have a chance if I play a good match. That’s what happened today.”
So many players before them, and at all levels, try in various ways to increase self-belief. They find coaches that tell them how talented and great they are. They meditate about winning, thinking over and over, “I am going to win. I am going to win.” It doesn’t help.
They visualize winning, picturing in their mind’s eye hitting great shots past helpless opponents. It momentarily feels good, but on court harsh reality sets back in quickly. Or they try positive self talk. “I am powerful. My forehand is great. My serve is devastating.” Unfortunately, they still have to perform, and it proves no easier. In the end the highly-ranked, scary opponent remains as scary as ever.
Steve Darcis and Sergiy Stakhovsky knew they could only control the way they played. But unlike many players who are overwhelmed by knowing they have to play their best to win, these two men found it within themselves to believe that as long as they execute to the best of their abilities, their opponents, no matter how many grand slam titles, endorsement deals and facebook fan pages they have, must react to them. The belief to play your game, stay within your game plan, and have belief that if the chips fall, if you do everything in your power, anything is possible. The question of victory or defeat in a tennis match is always a matter of probabilities, not certainties. Darcis and Stakhovsky always believed there was a chance!
Belief is the same as self-confidence. Darcis and Stakhovsky, although having no legitimate, (according to oddsmakers) snowball’s chance in hell to win, they knew their games, if firing on all cylinders, is capable of giving any player a hard time. Even the greatest players. These players did more than show up on court, enjoy their 15 minutes of fame, put up a respectable but clearly not up to the standard of ‘Greatness’ performance, shake hands with the already acknowledged winner, then wave to the Wimbledon crowd and shuffle off to that dark and mysterious place known as oblivion. They made their match count. Every point, every game, every set. And win they won their 1st point of the match, they built on it to win a game. When they won their first game of the match they built on it and won several games. When they won several games they built on it and won a set. Suddenly, The mystique was gone and Darcis and Stakhovsky quickly realized that with their games firing on all cylinders and the harsh realization that Nadal and Federer were just two tennis players much like Darcis and Stakhovsky. They put their shoes on similar to their opponents. They probably put their shorts on very similar as well. Suddenly, the balance of power and belief shifted from the obligatory “worthy early round opponent” to an “upset special”. Darcis added “you play tennis to play those matches on big courts, full stadium, against unbelievable players. So I enjoy it from the first point to the end”.
Walking on court knowing your opponent is good or great is a sign of respect. Walking on court knowing your opponent will beat you is a losing attitude. Those who have played sports know 100% effort is not only admirable, it’s expected. With belief, reaching this level is much easier and makes you capable of incredible things. Steve Darcis and Sergiy Stakhovsky achieved incredible things this week. Because they believed.
Thanks For Reading.
Kyle LaCroix @TennisTycoon
The ghost of Lukas Rosal was haning heavy over center court this mornig as In an amazing turn of events one of the greatest tennis players in history has been bounced out of Wimbledon for a second year in a row. This time Rafael Nadal’s loss came at the hands of Steve Darcis from Belgium who ranks #135 in the world. This time he lost in straight sets and not in 5 like 2012. This year it was played outdoor which favors Rafa instead of a closed roof which may have given Rosal an edge. This is Nadal’s first ever loss in the first round of a Grand Slam. Ever.
The match only lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes which is short by epic Nadal Djokovic standards but Rafa was clearly unable to do many typical shots and chase down balls as he is known for. His knee started showing real signs of wear in the 2nd set and Rafa ran around his backhand like a dog around a fire hydrant. Having trained very little for Wimbledon after his grueling and successful clay campaign, the mighty spin master was uncomfortable on the surface.
“Sometimes you play well and you have the chance to win,” said Nada “Sometimes you play worse and your opponent plays well and you lose. I just want to congratulate Darcis. I think he played a fantastic match. At the end it is not a tragedy. That is sport.”
“Two weeks ago I was in a fantastic situation, winning a fantastic tournament [at Roland Garros]. Two weeks later, I lost here in the first round. That’s the positive and the negative thing about this sport. It is tough losing in the first round. I tried my best. Was not possible. That’s all I can say, just congratulate the opponent. At the end, it’s not a tragedy. That is sport.”
Steve Darcis talks to the press after his magnificent first round win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon 2013.
The always colorful and very unique player Bethanie Mattek-Sands has been accepted by the gods of Google to test the new Google Glass technology for tennis. Watch this very intriguing video on how Mattek-Sands uses Google Glass to organize her life, train in tennis and keeps her on time.
“I’m really stoked I get to work with Google and test out something that is brand new on the market,” Mattek-Sands said. “All of the players at Wimbledon have been asking about (the glasses). You get viewpoints that have never been accessed before,” Mattek-Sands said.
Mattek-Sands has been working alongside her coach to take a closer look inside what the eye sees. The video really does show the player’s perspective.
“My coach really liked the viewpoint,” Mattek-Sands said. “We had a chance to look at it on the computer and it was a cool training tool.”
“I don’t think any one here feels short changed. It was an exhibition performance from Federer. His serving was so sound and he gave Hanescu no opportunities whatsoever. He’s hardly broken sweat he could fold that shirt up and re-use it.” “[Roger] Federer is giving his opponent so few opportunities in this match. He’s certainly not complacent, he’s blessed to do what he does but he still has enormous hunger and motivation and that’s a true credit to him as a tennis player. He still has the desire for more. When you talk about the first day it’s not always easy. Coming out as the defending champion there would have been some nerves and some expectation behind Roger [Federer] today. Realistically though grass is probably his only chance of winning a Grand Slam now.” Tim Henman, BBC Sport
UPDATED: here is the press conference after the match
our friend Cherry
@cherryyc is a tennis fanatic just like all of us at LoveSetMatch and she has been collecting pics from her tennis journey and agreed to share it with all of us! Enjoy this great personal collection of photos here
“I don’t think you want another guy like me, because you want another personality, another game,” he said. “I think the diverse characters and playing styles is what really drives this game. I wouldn’t want to see another guy like me, another guy like Nadal, another guy like somebody else. We’re all very different, and that’s good that way.”
“I think it’s a bad idea to base your game after someone,” he said. “I had a little bit [of] that situation with Sampras. Everybody compared me to him. If you look and analyse the game, the character, we’re actually incredibly different.
“I didn’t want to be known as a second Sampras, like others don’t want to be the second Federer. They all need to create their own identity…There’s always a first of everything for everybody.”
If Federer defends his title he will become the most decorated men’s singles player in Wimbledon history. Does that any extra pressure?
“I haven’t thought about it a whole lot,” he said. “I can talk about that if I’ve won the tournament, but not right before. I know the road is hard, but it is possible. I’m looking forward to the challenge really.”
“You really feel very unique, clearly, because you are the one opening the court,” he said. “It’s something you look back on…That I was able to do it that many times is fantastic. I feel very proud.”
And so he should. After all there is only one Roger Federer.
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“I made it a point to reach out to Maria because she was inadvertently brought into the situation by assumptions made by the reporter” said Serena
“I personally talked to Maria at the player party, incidentally. I said, look, I want to personally apologise to you if you are offended by being brought into my situation. I want to take this moment to just pour myself, be open, say I’m very sorry for this whole situation…”
Let’s see if they can give their last toughts on the court in the Wimbledon final, that would be interesting.. isn’t it?
From the very first days that athletic disciplines began, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, participants and practitioners of each sport debated on which of their chosen competitive activities required the greatest skill. This argument can still be heard across the globe. From bar room banter to the infinite news cycle of sports television, radio and print. The debate spans across the globe, infiltrating cultures and generations of sports fanatic families. Sports fans cheer for their favorite teams or players and are relentless in their pursuit to claim stake that in fact their player, their team, their favorite sport is the most difficult to master or that the skill set needed to produce excellence on the competitive battlefield takes near superhuman traits. This debate will rage on until the end of time.
As you watch and hopefully enjoy The French Open this year as well as the remainder of the 2013 tennis season, please consider the uniqueness that is a professional tennis player. Observe their technique. Watch how their feet seem to be in perpetual motion. Witness how, they still seam to have their athletic wits about them no matter what the circumstances. Anyone that has ever seen tennis being played has surely found the inspiration to try it themselves. Many amateurs finding out the hard and humbling truth that this sport is so much more than hitting a fuzzy yellow ball back in forth.
Tennis is an incredible sport for players of all ages. The life lessons taught throughout the learning and growing process leaves an indelible mark on everyone involved. At no time before in our sport have we had such a variety of phenomenal athletes at our disposal. Each player possessing his own personalized style and attitude. This is a new golden age of tennis and I’d hate for us to lose sight of just how incredible these players are. It’s easy to get lost in results, injury reports and rivalries. But let’s appreciate these titans of tennis for their mental strength as well, for their chosen profession is one in which the mental battle is just as demanding as the physical.
Having worked in the tennis industry for more than 3 decades I’m confident that our sport can proudly stand up and declare that at its highest professional level, is the most skillful, intense, and exhausting (mentally and physically). Many factors go into making a great tennis player, and the path is not easy.
I ask that you ponder the following facts…
1) TENNIS IS AN INDIVIDUAL SPORT
In tennis, you are all alone on the court. No one shares in the glory or the blame. There is no teammate to pass off to if you are playing poorly and you can not be taken out of the game for a period of time so you can recuperate from poor play.
2) NO COACHING IS ALLOWED
Tennis is one of the only sports where players are not allowed to receive any coaching. Except for a handful of exceptions like HS tennis, Zonal teams or Davis Cup, nearly all tournaments do not allow for coaching. The no coaching restriction is unusual in sport and clearly forces young competitors to deal with the pressures and problems of play on their own.
3) INTENSE PRESSURE AT A YOUNG AGE
Many successful professional players have reported that the stresses of junior tennis were the greatest of their entire career. For example, Chris Evert has reported that she felt more pressure during her junior career than she did at any other time as a player. The junior player must deal with the same frustrations during tournament play as the adult, but with fewer resources and life experiences to handle them.
4) TENNIS PROVIDES NO WHERE TO HIDE
Tennis players must remain in full view of spectators, regardless of how they perform. They may desperately wish to hide from the world but the can not due to the structure and rules of the game. Embarrassment, discouragement, anger, choking, euphoria, they’re all there for everyone to see. Some players dislike this aspect of tennis while others embrace it. Either way, tennis provides little shelter for the emotions that accompany such an exciting game.
5) NO SUBSTITUTES / NO TIME-OUTS
Many sports allow players to regain their composure or get back on track through the use of substitutions and time-outs. This is not the case in tennis. Players must stay in the game, regardless of how bad or uncomfortable things may get. This is particularly difficult considering that matches can be two or three hours in length.
6) ONE-ON-ONE COMBAT
Tennis is similar to boxing. You have a real one-on-one opponent that you must defeat to emerge victorious. A match can quickly become a personal confrontation between opponents, especially if one resorts to gamesmanship tactics. Such direct competition can fuel intense rivalries and threaten friendships in powerful ways among young players.
7) THE ACCURACY OF LINE CALLING
Completely objective, professional trained linesman make mistakes all the time. And they are motionless and concerned only with one line. Expecting players in a match to call the lines with the same accuracy is at best unrealistic. Balls traveling at speeds at over 100mph with fractions of an inch separating “out” from “in” provide distinct opportunities for conflict and controversy. Recent studies show that players are actually legally blind at the moment they land on the court when running, this is added to the fact that many matches can be dramatically changed with only one bad call, makes mistakes unavoidable and it is easy to see why tempers can flare. (Imagine what would happen if the batters in baseball were responsible for calling balls and strikes against themselves)
8) THE “HONOR” SCORING SYSTEM
Unlike most other sports, in tennis a player can take a point that is rightfully their opponent’s by deliberately calling a shot out that had fallen within the lines. The point can be the most important of the match, yet the call stands. There is nothing a player can do about it. Pressures associated with being cheated or being accused of cheating can place tremendous psychological strain on young players.
9) TENNIS REQUIRES TOUCH AND FINESSE
Tennis is primarily a fine motor skill sport, meaning that it is comprised of many precise movements requiring “feel”. As such, these movements can be influenced significantly by subtle changes in emotion. Anger, fear, frustration, embarrassment, and other such emotions can be very disruptive to the delicate motor control needed in tennis skills such as serving and volleying
10) CONSTANTLY CHANGING CONDITIONS
Changing temperature, wind intensity, court surfaces, balls, altitude, indoor/outdoor play and equipment add to the depth of the competitive challenge in tennis. Players are forced to deal with changes such as these, many times within the same match. Player’s responses to these situations can provide an indication of their level of mental toughness. Those who are not affected by changes in conditions are often the ones who win.
11) LENGTH OF THE BATTLE
Few sports require players to concentrate and perform for as much as three hours at a time. In juniors tennis, It is not uncommon for 12-year old players to be required to compete in two singles matches two doubles matches on the same day. Mental toughness and physical fitness become critical if a player is to become successful. Who can forget the epic match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at The Australian Open in 2012 that lasted nearly 6 hours. There are numerous examples of marathon matches and in which competitors exhaust themselves and the spectators in the pursuit of victory. What adds to this is the psychological pressure that as you step on court, you are completely unaware of the length of the match. Matches can be over in 1 hour or may go late into the night in a knock down drag out street fight that determines a winner after 4 or 5 hours. There is no game clock. You cannot simply stall or sit or ground the ball to protect an imminent victory. You must capture victory, no matter how long it takes.
12) THE UNIQUE SCORING SYSTEM IN TENNIS
The scoring system in tennis adds to the pressure a player experiences. Unlike many other sports, there is no overall time limit. Play continues until one of the players wins two out of three sets. Consequently, there is no room for coasting on a lead or waiting for time to run out. Each player is always just a few points from a complete turn-around, and a lead is never safe. As a contrast, if a basketball team is ahead by 30 points, they will almost certainly win, because their lead is too large to overcome within the time of the competition. In tennis a player can be ahead 5-0 in the third set, and lose two games and immediately have reason to fear a loss and a huge comeback on their opponent’s part.
Certainly, the debate will rage on as to which sport requires the greatest athleticism. It’s a question in which the answer will never be certain. Although, I’m willing to bet if more people view tennis for its uniqueness and quirks, the more people will begin to realize just how amazing this sport is and what it requires their athletes to contend with. It’s not easy, but someone has to do it. And I’m glad we have the players of today to show us how its done.
Thanks For Reading.