Analytics have transformed tennis, but the mind is still paramount in major finals.
Toni Nadal, uncle and original coach of Rafael Nadal, says Novak Djokovic’s mental strength, rather than mastery of statistical categories, was key to his 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 dismissal of Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final he calls a “low-gloss showdown in which the Serb was clearly superior.”
“Technology, however advanced, is not able to measure the management of our emotions and our mental strength,” Toni Nadal wrote in his column for El Pais. “I’m sure Daniil went out to the Rod Laver Arena with all the information about Novak well analyzed, but he wasn’t able to retain the aplomb, to overcome the frustration of delivering the first set, or to keep the fight in those tricky moments.
“I am surprised that sometimes athletes of this level have that little capacity to face difficulty. I imagine that once the encounter was over, the Russian realized the missed opportunity and the little stamina capacity he exhibited. A day before the final he stated that the pressure was higher for Djokovic,who cannot miss the chance to add titles if he wants to match Roger and Rafael. But the outcome of the match showed that the pressure was much higher for him.”
Uncle Toni Nadal says the pressure of playing for his first Grand Slam title inhibited Medvedev.
“The difference between scoring a first Grand Slam or passing up a new opportunity has overwhelming weight, no matter how young you are,” Toni Nadal wrote. “And this is what he accused. He was not able to fight every ball as if it were the last of the match, surrendering himself in every exchange as if his life was in it.”
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