This tactic refers to the many times since 2015 when he’s received his opponent’s 2nd serve closer to the net. It isn’t against the rules by any means. But most tennis players would never dream of doing it.
Doesn’t that happen in poker, also?
There’s always that play which is considered the “right one”. And it’s usually a good thing to know what that is.
But if you always do the “right” play, your game becomes too predictable.
Especially in no limit, it’s important to be kind of crazy sometimes.
And it’s important to not care too much whether people will judge you for that.
Because they most likely will.
Rafael Nadal’s Killer Instinct
Nadal is, without a doubt, the best clay player in the history of tennis.
And a big reason for his success is his killer instinct.
Great players usually concede few opportunities for their opponents to win a match.
But that’s one half of the picture.
The other half is that they also seize the opportunities they’re giving better.
This second point is of especial importance when 2 great players face each other.
Because both will concede few opportunities, that match’s going to be decided at the smallest details.
So, to stand out a player must:
Be aware of the moments when his opponent is more fragile
Have the physical and the technical capacities to perform what he believes is the best play
Be bold to go for the kill.
No other player has those 3 qualities in such abundance as Nadal.
(Not coincidentally, he has a great head-to-head record against almost everyone.)
In poker, this situation happens more frequently in no-limit games.
In some circumstances, you know that you might be able to make most (or all) of your opponent’s chips go your way.
But if you don’t seize that opportunity when it does arise, you may not have that great of a chance anytime soon.
John McEnroe and the Dangers of a Fixed Mindset
Earlier in this text, I mentioned the concept of a growth mindset.
According to Angela Duckworth, this is intimately related to grit.
But what’s a growth mindset about, really?
Psychologist Carol Dweck was once quoted as saying the following when comparing it to what she calls a fixed mindset.
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. […] In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. […]”
And here’s what Dweck says about John McEnroe in her book Mindset.
“John McEnroe had a fixed mindset: He believed talent was all. He did not love to learn. He did not thrive on challenges; when the going got rough, he often folded. As a result, by his own admission, he did not fulfill his potential.”
McEnroe won nothing less than 7 Grand Slam titles.
He was also considered the best player of the world in 1981, 1983 and 1984.