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Aussie Open: Learning From the Drama
No drama? The Aussie Open is all drama! Dealing with it is part of the game & should influence our how we prepare players to compete.
by Alistair Higham, Coaching Edge UK
by Alistair Higham, Coaching Edge UK
“No drama, mate”, the easy-going laid-back Aussie phrase should be replaced by “All drama, mate” after this weekend at the Australian Open, with Rafa Nadal coming back from 2 sets down to claim his 21st Grand Slam, whilst the universally popular Ash Barty became Aussie’s first home winner of the Women’s singles for 44 years.
It’s the drama that was captivating, the twists and turns, the leads built, the leads lost, the almost-nearly moments and the stunning comebacks. Dealing with all these are the demands of the game, demands that should influence our coaching when preparing players for competition.
It is often said that matches are often decided by narrow margins, and yet in one sense, matches don’t progress in a ‘narrow margin’ kind of way. Matches often run in phases, with momentum swings and turning points. For example:
• In the Women’s final, Ash Barty won the first 5 out of 7 games to establish a comfortable 5-2 lead, followed by losing 6 of the next 8 games to stand at 6-3, 1-5, before winning 5 out of the next 6 games, before claiming the title on a tie-break.
• In the Mens Final, Nadal came back to win from two sets down in a match that was the second longest Mens Grand Slam final in history and had the spectators wondering why they paid for the whole of their seats, when they only ever used the edge of them.
No two matches are alike and these two cold not be said to be very similar. What is true for both matches, though, is that tactical adaptations and mental challenges which affected the level of performance of one or both players were critical during specific phases of the match. For example, tactically we could discuss the use of the drop-shot and the emergence of net play in the Mens Final or who was playing close to the baseline and dictating the play in the Women’s. And mentally, we could discuss missed opportunities, the effect of the crowd and the nerves that both Champions felt as they tried to close out the match.
However, the main point to be made here, is that these tactical and mental challenges tend to get missed when coaching. The adaptations made to these throughout the journey of the match dictate who wins and loses. And it’s not just at professional level in the big matches, it is true at any competitive level, whenever the players are of a similar level and there is something riding on the match. There may not be a big crowd at every match, but every match has a journey and every match has its’ own DNA, made up of different phases and moments where things could go one way or the other.
It is these two aspects of a match that are critical and it’s this skill that our players should be learning. Too often, tactics and sport psychology are presented as a long list of possibilities without recognition of the context. As coaches, we need to teach players about the context of a match, and then teach them both the skills and when to apply them in a match.
This can be done by talking through big match examples like the ones above, on-court during practice matches but mainly it is learnt through matches. Learning from match to match, with the help of well-structured match reviews.
And of course, we should check our players are playing enough matches, be aware of when all our players are playing matches and make sure our coaching is not taking place in isolation from the experiences our players have in matches.
Learn more about Match Flow, Momentum and Turning Points, and how to coach your players to be ready for the demands of the game by visiting: www.coachingedgeuk.com
Match Flow and Momentum: Online Courses Coming 2022
This series is being developed by Coaching Edge UK for the Tennis24/7 Academy.
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