Pressure is a word that is thrown about in tennis like I don’t know what. It’s like people over using the word “basically” all the time – it is so annoying to hear beasically this and basically that.
But back to the word “pressure”, I’m guilty of using it frequently, the next person in the media does it, broadcasters have no hesitation in using the term and as for the players, well that’s another story. From Azarenka to Zimonjic, they all use the term “pressure” and after a while it loses any impact that it should have.
How often will you hear a player saying something like “he had me under pressure” or “she turned on the pressure in the second set”, or you hear a commentator saying “Serena is a great pressure player”?
It is such a load of croc. The terminology has been devalued. The dictionary says “pressure” means things like burden, stress, anxiety or tension. Bingo. These extended words are more relevant to use.
In tennis it all comes down to handling nerves. That’s what this is about. It is all about the mental state of a player so why not just say that instead of saying “pressure”. Saying pressure is just simply lazy terminology; it is just a lazy way of commentating and it is time we get out of that rut and start saying what is actually there. Be upfront and say this or that player is handling their nerves is such a way, or whatever.
Forget about all this mollycoddling business and tip-toeing about the tulips with what really has to be said. Player A cannot handle the situation as well as player B because they are weaker mentally and they are falling apart.
Freddie Mercury and Queen (along with David Bowie) may have sung “Under Pressure” as you can see here but in my mind, in tennis, it has nothing to do with the term pressure; it has everything to do with nerves.
Why should a player who is leading 6-2 5-3 and serving at 30/15 be under so-called pressure if they are suddenly at 30/40? They are not under pressure, but it could be a case of them choking. They are struggling to close out the match.
Let’s look at the two recent Wimbledon finals. Marion Bartoli played a very solid match against Sabine Lisicki up to 6-1, 5-1. At that point the match was heading towards being the most one-sided Wimbledon final since 1975. At that point Lisicki threw caution to the wind and opened up with her returns and picked up a few great points to break serve and start to claw back.
Commentators were saying the “pressure on Bartoli’s shoulders would have been quite a weight to bear”. Rubbish! Marion was getting nervous – that’s it, but at the same time the German finally started to play well. Bartoli had to get her mind back into focus, which she did admirably and deservedly won the title. Marion never used the word pressure in talking about that situation and she was right
“I was just trying to focus on my own game and try to remain calm, even if I had this 5 1 lead in the second set and 15 40 and couldn't close it out,” she said. “Then Sabine start to play very well and come back at 5 4. I just really thought I had to hold my serve one more time.
“But just to finish on an ace to win Wimbledon and you saw the chalk come out of the line. Just, I mean, I could have seen it in slow motion. I could see the ball landing, the chalk come out, it's an ace, and I just win Wimbledon. You can't describe that kind of feeling. You cannot put any words what I feel in this moment. I can't believe I won Wimbledon this year.”
Perfect, no wonder she has an I.Q. of 175.
Then a day later we saw that fantastic last game of the men’s final when Andy Murray was trying so desperately hard to close out Novak Djokovic. Was Andy under pressure? Not that I could see. Novak was producing big points and was forcing him to come up with the returns. Nothing to do with so-called pressure but everything to do with mental strength.
“I worked so hard in that last game. It's the hardest few points I've had to play in my life,” said Murray. “I think just how that last game went my head was kind of everywhere. I mean, some of the shots he came up with were unbelievable. And the end mentally, that last game will be the toughest game I'll play in my career, ever.”