Today, in the French Open Men’s Final, Roger Federer was leading his nemesis, Rafael Nadal 5-2 in the first set and ended up losing the set, 7-5. All he had to do was hold serve once and the set was his. Instead, Nadal won seven games in a row and gained a tremendous amount to momentum, and eventually won, 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1.
This happens all the time in sports.
Recently, I began giving one-on-one mental toughness sessions to a competitive female tennis player. One of her biggest challenges is that she cannot close out a set or match. When she has a lead, she tends to ease up, lose focus, and/or celebrate victory before it actually happens.
What happened to Roger Federer today?
Only Roger knows that.
But, for the most part, there is no excuse when you lose a 5-2 lead.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Most people play better when they are losing, so…pretend that the score is 2-5.
2. Focus on your strategy (placement, effort), not your situation (so close to winning the set).
3. Play one point at a time.
4. If you feel the momentum shifting to your opponent, SLOW the game down; take your time between points to minimize the length of the rally for your opponent.
5. Go all-out and do what got you to 5-2.
Is finishing a set or match simple?
Is it easy?
You cannot control results, but you can certainly do things to help put yourself in the best possible position to win. Focus on those things and you should be pleased with the results.