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Mindset Shift: Every Point Is A Big Point – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 182

By Kselz @TennisFixation

Well, I'm still talking about the Australian Open! I'm sure I'll bring up that time I went to the Australian Open in this podcast every chance I get. Anyway, a super critical match that happened while I was there was the quarterfinal match between Roger Federer and up-and-comer Tennys Sandgren from the USA. During this match, Federer performed an absolute miracle, saving - get this - seven match points and ultimately winning the match in five sets. It was truly amazing!

So what can you and I get from this Houdini-like performance? In this episode, I'll tell you about what I saw and learned from this match. So keep listening!

You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player in this post or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in Apple Podcasts by going to


Before we get into this episode, how about a listener shoutout? Here's a quick review from listener "mojolake" on Apple Podcasts. He or she says:

I listen to this on the way to matches and when I can't sleep at night (not that it puts me to sleep!) Lots of common sense. Experienced players will know some of this but there is something for everyone and nuggets throughout. Highly recommended

Mojolake, thank you so much for your kind review! And I will tell you, one of my inspirations for starting this podcast was that I too wanted something quick to listen to when I was on my way to matches! So, again, thanks mojolake! I appreciate that you took the time to leave your review. And if any of you want to leave a review, just head to:

That will take you to the Tennis Quick Tips podcast page on Apple Podcasts where you can leave your own review. And I'll be sure to give you a shoutout if you leave a review!

And now - let's get into this week's episode . . . Here we go!


So one of the most amazing matches that happened at this year's Australian Open was the quarterfinal match between Roger Federer and Tennys Sandgren. Now, this is not a match that I was able to attend in person. Getting a last minute ticket to a Federer match was impossible. But I did get a grounds pass and was on the tournament grounds while this match was happening. I was watching it on the big screen, sipping on an Aperol spritz, and hanging on every single point as was every person around me. And everyone was watching this match so intently, discussing it, analyzing it, and just being amazed by what we were seeing.


And that's because, in this match, Federer saved seven match points during the fourth set. SEVEN! That means that seven times in the fourth set, Federer was just one point away from losing the whole thing and exiting the tournament. And Sandgren was just one point away from winning that match against Federer and advancing to the semi-finals of this Slam level tournament. And that would have been the highest level Sandgren had ever reached at a Slam event.

Seven match points. To both of those players, those might have seemed like seven of the most important points they had ever played. Certainly for Sandgren. And even for Federer in that particular tournament because, as he reaches the end of his career and is looking to add maybe one more major title to his list, every tournament becomes critical to win.


But here's what I saw as I watched that match. If you were just looking at Federer, and you weren't in the middle of a crowd of tennis fanatics and couldn't hear the TV commentary, I'm not sure you could have picked out which of those points in the fourth set were the seven match points. In other words, Federer looked just as calm, cool and confident on those match points as he did on every other point in that fourth set.

Now, when I was looking back at news stories about this match, I found a New York Times article that reminded me that, during the third set, which Federer lost 2-6, Federer received a code violation for an audible obscenity which a lines woman reported hearing him say. He became visibly upset about that. He also called for a physiotherapist during the set, then took an off-court medical timeout. So, going into the fourth set, Federer wasn't necessarily calm, cool and confident.

But during that crucial fourth set, Federer did not look like he was working his way back into the groove and overcoming that injury. He was attacking from the get go. And he maintained that appearance throughout the set. There were no emotional outbursts, not even when he won each of the seven match points. And there were no obscenities, or gesturing towards his box, or throwing of the racquet when he lost important points.

In other words, as far as I could tell, Federer played every point in that fourth set like it was an important point.

Now, I don't know what was truly going on in Federer's mind. Who knows what his thoughts are when he plays tennis? I'm quite sure Federer has the ability to instantly get himself into the zone and what he is thinking is nothing like what a recreational player like you or I ever think during a match.

But on the outside, what I saw on that big screen TV and what Tennys Sandgren may have seen, was a supremely confident player who had no worries about the fact that he faced match point after match point. And that confidence coming across the net cannot feel good to an opponent. While Sandgren had Federer on the ropes at several points, Federer certainly didn't appear to see it that way.

And, according to that New York article, Sandgren lost five of those seven match points on his own unforced errors.

Now, maybe Federer's attitude and appearance and seemingly fearless style of play were all no big deal to Sandgren. He's a professional tennis player and I'm sure he was well aware of what he was up against in his match against Federer.


But, listen to this statement from Sandgren, made in an interview shortly after his defeat. He said, "When I'm playing my best tennis, I feel like I'm competing with the best players. However, there are some things I still need to work on. Probably to improve the mental aspect and not get so frustrated; I have to play focused and be positive, things like that."

So it sounds like, Sandgren was well aware that he wasn't playing his best, most focused tennis. And I believe Federer's intensity and focus, his mental edge so to speak, did have something to do with how this match turned out. Certainly with how that fourth set turned out.


Okay, so what's the lesson for you and me? How can we take what Federer does and put it to work in our own tennis game?

Well, I believe the lesson is that, like Federer in that fourth set, we need to treat every point in our match as if it is a big point. Think about the positive impact this attitude could have on your game.

We often let play by slowly working into a match. Seeing how our opponents play. Seeing what is working well for us today and what's not going so well. We don't get aggressive until we perceive a "Big Point" has come. That big point could be when we're at game point, or set point or match point. It could be when we're serving at 40-30 and we know we just need this one point to win our serve.

But what would happen if we treated every point before that like a big point, if we thought about and had a plan before we started each point. If we didn't just keep trying to get the ball back, without thought as to how to take control and keep control, maybe we could win more points and ultimately, win more matches.

So the lesson I think we can learn from Federer's performance at the Australian Open is to make this small mindset shift and see that EVERY point is a big point. Play each point as if it is a critical point. Yes, this may require more thinking from you, more analyzing, and more concentration. And this can be a little mentally tiring as you find yourself focusing for far longer in a match than what you're used to.

But the payoff could be a big one - you can play calmly, confidently and with more focus. You can play in a way that will help you to win more points and, as a result, more matches.

Look, if we're going to model our game on any of the pros, Federer is the one I am always going to choose. I can't serve like Federer. I can't hit a one-handed backhand groundstroke like Federer. But I can attempt to project that calm and confidence on court.

That's it for this week's Tennis Quick Tip. Thanks so much for listening and be sure to check out the show notes for a transcript of this episode. You can find those show notes over at


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And if you have any questions about any of this stuff, you can always reach out to me by emailing [email protected]. I would love to hear from you!

Thanks so much for listening and, as always, . . . Happy Tennis!

© Kim Selzman 2020 All Rights Reserved

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