So another Aussie Open has come to an end, with good, if not great, finals in both the men’s and women’s events. In the women’s final Azarenka prevailed after dropping the first set against Li Na, while on Sunday Djokovic beat Murray in a hard fought battle, also after dropping the first set.
For Djokovic and Murray two hard fought tie-break sets, with Djokovic prevailing in the second after Murray had won the first, were followed by two more straightforward sets for Djokovic, as he gained the ascendancy and closed out the match 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-2. Murray had had his chances early in the second, where playing some magnificent tennis he moved Djokovic about and created opportunities to break serve but was unable to convert them.
In both finals the loser had an injury time out, Li Na needing two after falling, Murray taking one at the start of the third set for a blister. Neither player attributed their loss to the injury and indeed their is a challenge for both players in a match when there is a time out to maintain momentum. Tennis at this level is a game where the players rhythm is a significant factor and an injury time out or a bathroom break can disrupt it, the danger is for both players and often it is the player who manages their own momentum following a break that disrupts the normal flow of the game that prevails.
Famously, in the 2011 French Open men’s final Roger Federer was playing phenomenal tennis and leading 5-2 in the first set when the king of clay, Rafael Nadal called for the trainer. Following the time out Federer’s level dropped slightly and Nadal won the set 7-5 and the final in four sets.
It is not uncommon in the professional game in a hard fought match for a player to take a bathroom break after a set, when in the heat of battle and the heat of an Australian summer it is potentially likely that they don’t have a physiological need for it. It serves as a time out, a longer version of the use of time between points and games, to allow them to re-focus for the next phase of the match. However, it can also serve to disrupt the other player, it becomes a challenge for the player not taking the break to use that time productively, in order to maintain their momentum. Nadal is an example of a player who is the master of managing his own time as well as being able to disrupt the momentum of his opponents.
Managing our time and momentum is a challenge during the working day, particularly when we’re at the behest of others. There are numerous tactics we can employ, including staying in the present, using time productively within the constraints of the situation and recognising what elements of the situation we can and cannot control.