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Unforced Errors

I'm half-watching a U.S. Open tennis match between top-ranked Rafael Nadal and Nikoloz Basilashvili over the weekend. Aside from the impressive power, agility, speed and court range of both men, I noticed what was making Nadal so good (at least in this match): Making fewer mistakes than his opponent.

While tennis does feature direct-competition, I see it as somewhat in the middle in terms of defensive opportunity between competitors, somewhere in between basketball — where some physical contact is allowed to try and stop the other guy — and golf, where you can’t do anything to hinder the opponent. In tennis, all I can do is hit the ball over the net, and be ready to hit it again should you send it back. And we just keep going until somebody misses a shot or can’t get to a ball.

While it is true that one player’s shot placement can facilitate the other’s mistakes (Nadal did this very well in the first two sets of the match I'm watching), I think the game is/was much more Mental than it looks.

For Your Game
When everyone is a pro, and a good pro at that — this particular match was in the fourth round of a 128-player major professional tennis tournament — no one is short of skill. Every player can hit every shot, serve well, etc. The main difference is the mentality each player brings to a match. And though they’re pros…

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