Roger Federer is this year’s Grand Slam champion after winning the 2012 Wimbledon final on Sunday July 8th in four sets (4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4) against opponent Andy Murray. This is Federer’s seventh Wimbledon title, sharing the record with Pete Sampras. While some might credit his win to experience or practice or fitness, it was his mental toughness that made the difference.
At the start of the match, Murray was playing confidently and won his first ever set in a major final. The second set was very tight but Federer eventually pulled away. Federer’s coach Paul Annacone noted, “Roger did a good job in the second set, turning the momentum around, and really changing things a lot”. As the third set started, rain forced a 40-minute delay and the roof was closed. When play resumed, Federer had a much-improved game plan from then on and was more comfortable on the court. Federer attacked the net more and was aggressive on Murray’s serve. The 30-year old Federer looked much fresher than the younger Murray despite the six-year age difference. In the final set, you could see the loss of self-confidence in Murray. With his head hung low, he no longer looked like a winner. Federer closed out the game and reaffirmed his No. 1 ranking in the world.
Although Murray started strong, after the rain delay, the pressure became just too much to handle. It wasn’t the weight of a nation as some sportswriter suggested. Yes, as the first British man to reach the final in 74 years, there were a lot of people hoping Murray could win for Britain and end the nation’s 76-year-old Wimbledon drought but this fact served to energize Murray. He felt the support of the home crowd and had this to say in his emotional post-game speech, “Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon. How tough it is. But it’s not the people watching – they make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible.” The pressure did not come from the fans or from the history surrounding the game, but from his opponent.
The veteran, Federer, won the match thanks to his remarkable talent, incredible fitness, and his calmness under pressure. He understood it is not about how you start a game, but how you finish that matters. So he used the rain delay to mentally adjust to his opponent. He was also able to change up his game plan and tactics to face his opposition. This ability to adjust is crucial in being successful in any type of sport. Not only did he adjust well but also he believed he could do it. “This is, I guess, how you want to win Wimbledon – by going after your shots, believing you can do it,” Federer said, “and that’s what I was able to do today.” Having a strong mental game is arguably his greatest attribute and he showed it in this match. The ability to adapt and the belief in himself were the key factors that drove him to victory.
Federer is the first male tennis player over 30 years old to win Wimbledon since the great Arthur Ashe in 1975. If his mental game doesn’t stutter, Federer will be a force to reckon with in upcoming years and will continue to build on his impressive records.