Posted on Posted in Psychology

Being a match point down is not the most pleasant situation to be in, right? However, it happens to everybody. And it happens quite often. And most of the times we are not able to save those match points and we lose. And it is understandable, because we are human beings with emotions and rational mind taking over… However, it is possible to turn those matches around and win by saving those match points. For example, Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in US Open semi-finals two years in a row by saving match points in both years. So, you see, it is possible!

I have won many matches during my career when I had to save match points. I can’t remember them all. But I can remember the sweetest one. I played in the final of ITF juniors tournament in Finland. I won four tough matches during the week and me and my opponent were deep into the third set. The score was 4:5 and… 0:40. I was three match points down. But I saved them all and won that set 7:6 and clinched the title.

You might be expecting the big lesson from me how I did it, right? The truth is… I don’t know 🙂 I was too young and too dumb back then. I just remember that I was fighting like crazy by chasing down balls and my opponent helped me a little bit as well by making a few cheap errors. But most importantly, I never lost the belief that I can win!

I have more detailed and more recent story to share though. I didn’t save match point. I saved set point. Two of them. It happened last year in Estonia. It was ATP Futures tournament, I got through qualifying and I played first round match in the main draw. By winning that match, I could earn my first ATP ranking point. That was a big match for me, however, I started slow and my opponent broke my serve, and soon ended up serving for the set at 5:4. Four points later it was 40:15 and he had two set points on his serve. By the way, we played on extremely fast indoor carpet making it extremely hard to break opponent’s serve…

I was standing there preparing to return the serve and tried to remember everything I am teaching to my students. Actually… there are just two things to remember. First of all, I tried to stay positive. Positive mind set is the key. I kept believing that I can win the first set despite the fact I was in tough situation. In human psychology everything begins with a thought. Our thoughts create our attitude and our attitude translates further into our actions. Secondly, I was focusing on just one point at time. I wasn’t looking too far ahead. My mind was focused only on the next point. That’s it! No scare of losing and no feeling of hopelessness. Just positive mind and very short term goals. Baby steps!

I won 4 straight points and broke my opponent’s serve. Then I won 7 straight games, won the match 7:5 6:1 and achieved my first ever ATP ranking point. My opponent was destroyed… I didn’t start playing much better. He dropped his level. He completely lost his focus after not converting set points on his serve. Apparently, he wasn’t following those simple rules of staying positive and playing one point at time. I hope you will follow!

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