Home Analysis Match analysis: Ruud vs Cilic, French Open Semi 2022

Match analysis: Ruud vs Cilic, French Open Semi 2022

by Evan Gaudreau

Evan Gaudreau is back with another match analysis. This time he deals with Ruud vs Cilic, French Open semi-final 2022.

Match analysis: Ruud vs Cilic, French Open Semi-Final 2022

It’s interesting how the mind affects how we play. More so in sports like tennis and golf than in other sports. Especially team sports. You can be cruising along in a match, get one setback, or miss a particular shot (like a backhand down the line on a crucial point), and it can derail you for the rest of the match.

For instance, when I was in college and playing a summer tournament against a player from Harvard and blitzing him in the first set 6-0 in like fifteen minutes, hitting aggressively for the whole set, I couldn’t miss a winner. At 1-1 in the second set, I hit the tape on break point, and immediately, the words, “You’re going to lose this match,” popped into my head.
I have no clue.
But I lost the following two sets, 2 and 2.

Wishy-Washy WTA

Yet, I remember these matches more than others, which is why I can see how the WTA matches are so wishy-washy.
Since I started coaching, I’ve been looking for the answers.
How can you play lights out tennis, and in one moment, the mind cracks, and you mentally fall apart?
Or how can one situation turn the course of a match?
Cilic was cruising in the first set during this match, the same way he had in the previous round.
Many factors go into a match. There’s one that stands out during the first two sets.
How game points are won…and the mindset that goes into the match before playing.

Cilic has more energy in this match. More nervous energy. His feet are constantly moving before the return.
What’s going on in his mind? Is he thinking about getting to the final already? Did he feel the match was a lay-up before he walked onto the court?

Either way, Cilic had it easy for the first set on game points, but in the second, he had to start working for them…his service games had a few Deuces and a few Ads. He had opportunities to win games (don’t we all), missed on a couple of shots, and finally pulled through at the beginning of the second set.

Doubt written all over the face

At 5-3 in the second set, Cilic has an easy hold at love. In the next game, he has a 0-40 lead on Ruud’s service game to get the set back to even (two mistakes by Ruud and he hit a winner). At 0-40 (and these are the times you have to watch the player’s reactions after the point and not take a sip out of whatever you’re drinking), Ruud hits a forehand to Cilic’s backhand, then hits the second one to the same corner on the next shot. Cilic has time to get there but looks as though he thinks the ball is going out. Or is HOPING the ball goes out. It lands inside the line. He’s already thinking about the next game. In his mind, he will win the game, especially with three opportunities.
Look at Cilic’s reaction.
Doubt is written all over his face.

And then Ruud Aces him out wide on the Deuce point (again…Ruud did this back at the beginning of the set….add a backhand winner down the line to hold and win the set and the match has turned.
How many times have you been in a match and had a 40-0 lead to even the set only to lose the game and the set during that game….and by a winner….and get aced by the same serve you forgot about because your mind was somewhere else?
Cilic stopped hitting winners (for the most part) on game points and those winners became unforced errors on game points to hand Ruud the games and ultimately the match.
Ruud had a lot to do with that.

He is mentally tough and works on that side of his game as much, if not more, than the actual technical side. SO do the top guys (except Tsitsipas-but I’m sure he realizes that more and more).
And if you have a lot of crap in your head, the road to mental toughness is long and strenuous.
Who’s out there for sports psychology to work with the professionals.
Is there anyone?
I know there’s a lot of bogus theory being spewed out.
“Breathe. Call down. Find your happy place.”

Quack. Let the opponent crack.

All it takes is a slight cracking from your opponent, and the match turns in Ruud’s favor. I hate to say this because I like watching Cilic but did we not see this in the other Major finals. He had Federer on the ropes but found a way to give it back.
I am glad he is a Major champion, though….like Ivanisevic.
His belief is gone.
It happens to all of us.

In a perfect world and if there were quality specialists out there, I would have someone talk to my kids as early as possible…but really, after more like between fifteen and sixteen years old and explore any BS that my wife or I have put on them, Unbeknownst. And get through whatever it is before they leave for college and be one step ahead of the game.
But the reality is this will never happen.
Then they will spend the rest of their lives going down a road, deeper and deeper away from the path because of whatever negative thoughts they picked up in childhood.
The bottom line is it wasn’t strokes that cost Cilic a trip to the finals.
It was Ruud and his mind.
But, who has money for a psychologist?
Quack, quack, quack.
Yet it’s probably the first thing players need, especially tennis players.
And who can you trust?
Some of the best value I have received was from people with more life experience than I had….to a point.
Everyone’s hiding something.
What are you hiding?

Dominating the neighborhood

In a nutshell, it’s not good to always win or to dominate the “neighborhood.” I spent a lot of years in my youth winning the “Backyard games,” that I never learned how to lose. Cilic’s problem is more mental than strokes. That part is obvious. But players and parents don’t realize that the problem comes from childhood or youth sports and how they are won or lost. Cilic is a great player, but I bet if he delves into his childhood, he will find why he “choked.”

I never was pushed when I was a kid and when I was, I could find another gear that would win….but when I went up against another kid like me, I would “crack” first. I couldn’t accept losing and made excuses. I conquered that part but an excuse here and there still slips out of me from time to time.
It never goes away. You learn how to control it better.

There’s a reason in Chris Nolan’s Batman Bruce Wayne has to conquer his worst fear. It’s because we all do if we want to move forward. The problem is that everyone thinks they have solved all their problems or they don’t have any problems to solve.
“Spoken like a true A-hole,” said Chubbs Peterson in Happy Gilmore.
Don’t be an….
You know what.

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Marcus June 6, 2022 - 08:23

Thanks Evan! Really fascinating how mental states getting exposed during a tennis match and then confirmed by an unambiguous result. In the other Semi, Zverev tried so hard – maybe subconsciously he couldn’t hold the Nadal pressure any longer and therefore run into this terrible injury?

Evan June 6, 2022 - 12:35

Ya was upsetting that Zverev was playing well but against Nadal, the tiniest of margins make big differences (even Djokovic in Quarters up 5-2 and “peeked” at the fifth set and then the fourth set was over). I hate saying sets can come down to one point, but Zverev hit an approach to the Nadal forehand in the breaker on a set point and got passed but the Nadal forehand…as a coach I would have “spanked” him verbally for that mistake and told Zverev to “sell” the approach crosscourt and wait until the last second to hold the contact and go down the line…(then Nadal would have passed him anyway…haha)


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