Q: In a slam from about the fourth round on, amongst male pros, how many match points does it take for a player whose never won a slam to get the win over a slam champion?
A: More than he ever seems to have.
In that match, his opponent, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played, quite possibly one of the two best matches of his career. He sustained a remarkably high level of play, held four match points in the fourth set, yet was unable to “seal the deal.”
At that most critical juncture in the fourth, with the entire French crowd on edge, all emotionally vested in their man Tsonga to upset the top ranked male on the planet, Djokovic repeatedly found a way to deny them victory.
Match momentum coupled with rabid support for Tsonga made it appear inconceivable that Djokovic could escape. It was one against all. But the one won.
The belief that he would prevail is what got Djokovic the victory.
What makes it even more poignant is that Djokovic was fighting just to get to a fifth set. He believed that just extending the match insured that he would emerge victorious.
How could he possibly know?
Tsonga’s level of play didn’t drop. His shoulders didn’t droop. He looked every bit the part of a man about to win the match of his career. He could neither have looked more confident nor been in a better position to win.
So what does Djokovic know that Tsonga doesn’t?
Djokovic knows he is the best.
Unfortunately for Tsonga, he too believes that Djokovic is best.
Tsonga, believing that, meant that somewhere deep within his psyche, he’d accepted it. Consequently, regardless of how composed he appeared, how relentlessly he urged himself, how firmly he encouraged, a nano particle of his brain simply yielded to that which, while not truly inevitable, was today unavoidably acceptable…defeat.
It was just enough to get him beat.
Tsonga has nothing to be ashamed of. He played a high quality, physically and mentally compelling match from which he can extract many positives. And he gave his fans a wildly ecstatic ride for a prolonged period.
It was a great match.