The recent Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic made me question how someone who is widely-recognized as the greatest of all time can have two championship points and not win the match.
I have played plenty of matches where I was in this situation and did not win. However, most people would expect that, 99 percent of the time, Federer would win this match. The best way for me to explain what happened is, with that all other variables being equal, the survival instinct is greater than the winning instinct in a great tennis player.
I think Federer slightly outplayed Djokovic overall, but when the match was on the line, Djokovic was able to come up with the better shots in the bigger points. This was evident in the two match points he faced, and also in all of the tiebreakers that were played. I believe Federer's survival instinct was what propelled the match to a fifth set tiebreaker (he was down 2-4 in the fifth). Then it was Djokovic's survival instinct that kept him in the match late in fifth when he saved both match and break points.
I think that great players have the mindset that when on the brink of defeat, they will play the point and their shots the same way they would the first point of the match; they will give it their best, and they will accept the consequences. The inner belief that they will succeed can pull them through. Djokovic was a little better in this area in the final, but both players have exhibited this unique quality many times throughout their careers.
Try to use your survival instinct when you are in trouble, and be aware that your opponent will fight and hang in there during a hotly contested match.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis (http://www.annaconetennis.com) and MyHamptonsPro based in Sag Harbor, NY (http://www. myhamptonspro.com) and Tennis Professional at Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club in Tucson, AZ. For details on lessons, clinics, or coaching, contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-300-7323