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…

Federer reported in his post match interview with Jim Courier, “What can I say I got tight and then it was hard to stop the bleeding.”

With nerves, our body and mind reacts to the fear of losing in predictable, unhelpful ways.

Our muscles tighten and our hearts beat faster, our thoughts speed up and become jumbled, and our attention tends to focus on what we don’t want to happen.

As we notice these symptoms we might become nervous about being nervous accidently increasing the natural fear response (“Oh no, here comes the nerves”.)

And all of these reactions tend to remind us of times we’ve blown winning chances before.

For Federer, losing 6 of his last 9 Grand Slam semi-finals and blowing a lead against Raonic at Wimbledon last year would have intensified the mental fog.

Federer’s Amazing 5th Set Effort….

So with Federer looking like he was fading fast, he himself now treated by the trainer with a leg complaint…

And Wawrinka now acting like the school yard bully beligering blow after blow that made Federer look out of his depth, I assumed that Wawrinka was about to confirm his status as the current day big match master.

This assumption grew as Federer faced break points in 2 separate games early in the 5th.

That he was able to hold on with a couple of high quality points proved to be the crucial moments that turned the pressure back on Stan…

Soon after Stan unexpectedly blinked and handed Federer the break…

And Federer displayed great fortitude to finish the match with a couple of highly competent service games.

That he was able to ‘stop the bleeding’ in the 5th, hold on when Wawrinka was on the verge of blowing the match wide open, and finish with such composure was simply incredible to watch…


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