Small Change – Big Impact …

Fed Cilic

So, the old codger does it again.  Let’s celebrate Fed’s achievement – his eighth Wimbledon, 11th Wimbledon final and 19th slam and, at close to 36, the old man achieved it without the loss of a set.

Although it was the first time since 2009 that Federer has won a slam without having to play another member of the big four (Nadal, Djokovic, Murray), Federer seems to be playing better than ever.  As one pundit put it, he has to thank the other top players for pushing his game on.  His once suspect backhand, that Nadal used to attack relentlessly, has become a weapon of power and beauty.  His movement and speed around the court has been exceptional. He continues to strive to improve despite having reached such heights as a player.

As he said in his post-match interview with Sue Barker, “I kept on believing and dreaming” and five years since his last victory at Wimbledon, with two final losses to Djokovic in between, he was here again.  Roger, the favourite, yet he still had to execute.

In contrast, the losing finalists in both the men’s and women’s seemed to lose their way.  Venus, following relentless pressure from Muguruza and Cilic, where a number of factors got in the way – an injury, first time in a Wimbledon final and the relentless pressure from Roger from the off.

In execution, Federer’s pressure came from the very first point and, while Cilic resisted well at the outset, even out hitting Federer in the first four games, Federer’s pressure finally told in the fifth game, when he broke the Cilic serve.  Other factors started to come into play – the occasion and an injury (blister) to Cilic’s foot.  These are things that professional athletes have to deal with, indeed Federer admitted to feeling nerves and whether it was the ability of Cilic to reach other serves others couldn’t or the occasion, Fed himself served two double faults in the first set – it’s rare for him to serve more than two in a match!

So Cilic had a break point in the fourth game and failed to convert, then, as so often is the case, was broken in the following game. A similar thing had happened in the women’s final, where Venus had had set points at 5-4, only to be broken in the next game and then capitulate under the constant pressure from Muguruza.

One noticeable thing and small but significant change with Federer was that, having battled Cilic’s power with power in the first few games, the match was tight and close. Fed then took the pace off some of the shots, which led to errors from Cilic, as he was having to generate his own place.  The small psychological impact of not converting a break point, together with a small tactical change from Fed changed the flow of the game.  In the fifth game Cilic found himself 0-40 down, following a string of errors, saving two break points he finally conceded his serve on the third.

In sport, as in work, small things can have a significant impact on proceedings and so it did in the final.  Federer with a greater experience and the nouse and ability to give Cilic a different look when he needed to – there was only going to be one winner.

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