During the first set of the Australian Open tennis final, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played with the same authority, power and confidence that he demonstrated in his semi-final win over Rafael Nadal. He was still in ‘the zone’. Playing tennis as if in a dream. Looking unbeatable. As if he couldn’t miss. And didn’t.
Then, somewhere in the second set, things changed. Tsonga started to get irritated. Shake his head. Stare at his racket. He no longer appeared unbeatable. The spell had been broken. He and the tennis gods were no longer as one.
This was Tsonga’s first encounter with the Serbian Djokovic. And his first encounter with the Serbian’s serve routine. Bounce after bounce of the tennis ball. Sometimes forty seconds between serves. Testing the patience of his opponent.
There is every chance that it was this routine that broke Tsonga’s spell. Somewhere in his head he had reached a tipping point. A point where he could no longer tolerate the time Djokovic was taking to serve. And when that tipping point was reached, his emotional calm was disturbed. The zone like state had been infiltrated. Alien thoughts severing the fine threads of connection. Where was his tennis psychologist when he needed him?
With his connection, went his unbeatability. And all because of what was going on inside his head. All that was needed was a bit more patience. A bit more calm. A bit more understanding of why Djokovic was taking so long to serve. A recognition that the umpire was not going to intervene. And re-adjusting his internal rhythm to match that of Djokovic’s. Slowing right down inside.
Easier said than done of course in the heat of Grand Slam battle. But vital lessons for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to learn when he and Djokovic cross swords again.