Here is Brain Cramp Camp’s analysis of the US Open Men’s Championship. Astounding to watch Novak Djokovic, arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, crumble under the weight of history. What happened and what can tennis players and athletes learn from this failure?
No shame in losing to Medvedev, a chess player plopped into an impossibly lanky and big serving frame. But Medvedev didn't play exceptionally well. He did not have to. Djoker littered the court with rally errors and consistently shrunk in opportune moments to get into the match.
What happened? There are four lessons from Brain Cramp Camp to take away from Djoker’s collapse.
Lesson #1. There are two types of tennis players in the world: those who choke, and those who lie. Djoker mentally and emotionally took himself out of the match. Just like all of us do. Except this came from a mental master of the game in one of tennis history’s biggest moments.
Lesson #2. When you know you are – or might be – physically tired, before the match, mentally rehearse how you will emotionally handle situations where your body does not do what you want it to do.
A telling moment was when Djoker literally pounded his thighs, imploring them to turn from jelly to rocket boosters. The physical and emotional collapses together, even to the best. Djokovic’s legs did not respond, and this directly led to a negative emotional climate on court.
Djoker’s actions – smashing a racket, threatening to smack a ball as a ball kid approached – showed the frustration of a player who was surprised to find himself physically compromised on court.
Djoker rehearsed his consolation speech pre-match (as he said afterwards on-court to the crowd), but I don’t think he rehearsed how to emotionally work with a non-responsive body.
Lesson #3. The bigger the stakes associated with the outcome, the more crucial it is to rehearse bringing your attention to the present, so you can relax and fully engage the battle.
Pre match, Djokovic made refreshing comments. He said he would play the final as if it were the last match of his life. I like this story. But once Djoker embraced this narrative, he should have recognized the danger. This “last match of my life” story focused on outcomes.
At that point, in mentally match preparation, Djoker should have doubled down on tools to bring his thoughts fully into the present – ie., this court, this moment. I don’t think this happened.
The un-Djoker errors and failure to get back into the match looked like a player who was thinking about the score and result, not the next point.
Obviously this analysis involves speculation on the part of Brain Cramp Camp. I’d love to talk with Novak to learn what the match preparation and mental rehearsal looked like. Until then, insights about an immortal’s fallibility are useful to us – more mortal - tennis players.
If you like this analysis, more on tennis mental training is available at Brain Cramp Camp…

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