Serena Williams: The Mentally Toughest Player of All Time?

A couple of years ago I wrote an article that proposed that Serena Williams might just be the mentally toughest player the game has ever seen…

By reasserting her dominance over the field in claiming her 7th Australian Open at age 35, I thought it worth revisiting this proposal…

After all, throughout her career she has:

Played her best in the most important matches…

Been clutch towards the end of sets…

Recovered and won many big matches from dire score lines…

And like we saw throughout this years Aussie Open she tends to steamroll when in front.

While arguments against Serena’s mental toughness greatness generally center on her superior physical ability competing against a class of opponents that have no claim to all-time greatness, let’s revisit an updated statistical look at Serena’s Grand Slam record when considering the arguments for.

1.) Playing Her Best In Big Matches

The Psychology of Federer vs Wawrinka: 2017 Australian Open Men’s Semi Final

What a rollercoaster!

Although Federer snuck out of the 1st set, it was actually Wawrinka that had more break chances.

And with the 1st set in the bag Federer stepped it up to play a sublime 2nd set and looked like he had Wawrinka’s measure.

But early in the 3rd two things happened in quick succession that conspired to trigger Federer to tighten…

He found himself on the doorstep of a highly unexpected Slam final at the same time as Wawrinka was struggling with a tweaked knee and looked on the edge of folding.

In next to no time the comfort of a 2 sets to 0 lead and having Wawrinka down 0-30 on serve early in the third, switched to high pressure after missing that chance plus playing a loose game to lose serve and go down a break.

Suddenly Wawrinka was free-wheeling it and Federer had the huge pressure of trying to finish a match that he had in his control just a few minutes earlier along with the added pressure of playing an injured opponent.

And With This Came The Nerves…

When The Mental Wall Hits…And How Your Players Can Climb It

The 8th Day of the Australian Open showed how even the best professional players aren’t immune from hitting the mental wall.

First it was Dominic Thiem winning a total of 4 more games when leading Goffin 7-5 6-6 (4-4 in tie breaker)…

Next it was Istomin who, since shocking Djokovic, had continued his impressive display with a 3rd round victory and was then leading Dimitrov 6-2 6-6 from which point he won only 3 more games…

And next, Bautista Agut had fought his way back after losing the 1st set against Raonic 6-7, to win the next 6-3 and find himself at 4-4 in the 3rd with several break point chances to serve for a 2 sets to 1 lead…He won only 1 more game from that point…

And finally, with Nadal stumbling as he neared the finish line Monfils suddenly found himself back in the match with a big chance to take it to a 5th set serving at 4-3 30-0 in the 4th…He failed to win another game.

Together this group of players (Thiem, Istomin, Bautista Agut, and Monfils)….who had won 12 matches straight to get to their respective match stages, mustered a collective 8 games in the final 6 sets of their exits.

How Could This Be?

The Most Common Mental Toughness Coaching Mistake…And What To Do Instead

“Well, to be honest, I was really concerned about how I was going to feel on that center court. I was a bit nervous. I was telling my coaches, God, I feel like I’m playing first round all over again, like the same nerves. Yeah, I was probably thinking too much of what happened last year. I don’t think it was actually a good thing for me. But in the end I managed to not do what I did last year.”

Daria Gavrilova before her 3rd round Australian Open match…

I love hearing honest quotes from top players about the unintentional difficult mental experiences (nerves, frustrations, worries, fears, etc) that come with competing…

Why?

1.) It Demonstrates Vital Mental Toughness Attributes