You know that gut feeling when your favorite player is against the wall and everything counts on this point. You know that feeling when it’s all on the line and one small mistake could cost the match. It’s a feeling that we all hate.
Considering that tennis is a game where half an inch too much to the right, or half an inch too much to the left and etc. can result in the player losing the point, the margin for error is extremely small. This makes the pressured moments even worse because we know how easy it is to lose the point.
However, there are some players who are naturally gifted at playing under pressure. They can come back from extreme deficits and win all the big points to win the match. Players like these are players you want to watch because they’re the ones who give results.
This is our list of five players who have proven that they actually play better under pressure, meaning that they’ll never be out of the fight. Each of these players may be unique in their own way, but one commonality that they share is that they’re talented at playing when it matters the most.
Note: this list is not put in any particular order. These are just five of the players who play best under pressure.
5. Juan Martin Del Potro
It’s hard to see Juan Martin Del Potro on this list, considering that he’s a type of player that prefers to take the point from the very start and doesn’t seem to like to move around as much as other players do, instead using his huge forehand to control the court.
In fact, in an interview, Del Potro stated that he doesn’t like to run as much as players, instead using his huge strokes to win the point. However, don’t be fooled by Juan Martin Del Potro’s lankiness and nonchalant type of play. He’s one of the deadliest players on the tour.
He first proved his worth in the 2009 U.S. Open tournament. After being put as the odd man out, Juan Martin Del Potro battled opponent after opponent to finally face himself against the ultimate challenge: Roger Federer. He would have to beat him for the 2009 U.S. Open title.
At first, Juan Martin Del Potro started off shaky, losing the first set 3-6 but then rebounded to take the second set 7-6 with a tight 7-5 finish in the tiebreaker. Despite this happening, Federer was quick to take the third set 6-4, meaning that Juan Martin Del Potro was a set down and Federer was one set away from yet another Grand Slam title.
That didn’t stop Del Potro though. In the fourth set, Juan Martin Del Potro managed to dig deep and take the set yet again 7-6 (7-4 in the tiebreaker). With all the momentum on him, Juan Martin Del Potro took the fifth and final set 6-2 and dethroned the “tennis king.”
This is only one of many accomplishments that he’s created in his career. Battling Federer again in the 2018 BNP Paribas final—otherwise known as Indian Wells—he took it to a third set with every point counting towards the victory.
Taking the first set 6-4, Del Potro was playing fast on his feet and though he managed to give Federer a run for his money in the second set, Roger quickly responded, winning the second set 7-6 (10-8 in the tiebreaker).
In the third set, it seemed like every single point would matter and Del Potro took this into account. At 4-5 with two match points in favor of Federer, Juan pulled deep a found himself playing shots that no one would believe him to be able to pull off.
Afterwards, he closed the set 7-6 (7-2 in the tiebreaker) to secure a Masters 1000 tournament and a title at Indian Wells. He also did this at the 2018 Roland Garros tournament. Despite being down a set and with all the momentum in the favor of the other player, Del Potro pulled back and fought for the last three sets in a row to give himself the edge and the winning victory over Mahut.
Overall, Juan Martin Del Potro is a very strong player. He knows what he is doing on the court and isn’t afraid to make the play needed to get the point. He has a huge forehand and a steady backhand, two key components which make him a threat to names like Federer, Zverev, and Nadal.
However, what gives him the ability to play so well under pressure is the calmness he holds in the court. He doesn’t find himself scared or nervous when everything is on the line. Instead, he plays how he normally would.
This is what makes him such a versatile and threatening player. He has a wide arsenal of shots and plays like he’s in a normal practice match. It’s very rare that Juan Martin Del Potro gets angry and it’s quite simple why: because he knows that in tennis, you need to have fun as well.
4. Novak Djokovic
Remember when Novak Djokovic was the king of the ATP World Tour and the professional scene? During this time, it seemed like he was unstoppable—that no one could stop him in any form or fashion. Simply put, you’d have to play the best tennis of your life to have any shot at beating him.
Even as he comes back as a new player on the professional tour, Djokovic has the shot-making ability and focus to take down some of the top players at the moment. He did it when he was the world number one without much trouble and the only reason he’s struggling right now is because he’s fresh off the scene of an elbow injury.
At his peak, Novak Djokovic could duel against Rafael Nadal on clay and fight against Roger Federer on the grass courts, making him one of the deadliest players on the tour due to his ability to play every court consistently.
He has a career 75%-win rate for the deciding third or fifth set, meaning that he knows what he has to do to win the game, even when the stakes are at the highest level it can be. In fact, he’s been known to clutch match points regularly, later winning the match afterwards.
What’s more is that his flexibility, fitness, and extreme endurance only help his case. He’s faster than ever and has one of the best returns in the game currently. Never has a player been able to slide as efficiently as he has on the court.
Because of this, his playmaking ability and willingness to keep going even when everyone else has stopped makes him a perfect candidate for playing under pressure. He’s witnessed countless moments where he’s gone to a fifth set decider where every point matters and he’s ended up as the champion.
Even when he’s off the court or in an awkward position, he can manage to pull out a top-notch shot that brings him back into the game and leads to him winning the point. Because of this, Novak Djokovic is personally one of the favorites on the tour and a perfect pick for betting.
3. Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev is an upcoming German tennis prodigy who has managed to place himself as high as third on the international ATP World Tour ranking ladder. He’s a player of great dexterity and movement, but his playstyle and hitting capabilities sometimes make people question whether he should be a top player.
You look at Zverev and you feel like you don’t see anything outstanding. He’s a great player, don’t get me wrong, but it feels as if there’s something off about his hitting. It’s almost as if he plays scrappy, getting the ball over with pace but not as fashionable as others.
He doesn’t have the topspin that Nadal possesses or the grace and elegance that Federer has, but the power that makes him such a threatening player is his reading of the ball. He can read the ball like almost no other, knowing where it’s going to go before it’s even left the racquet’s strings.
He also moves quite fast and has a return that rivals that of Djokovic’s. Aside from these pros of his gameplay though, there’s also one more piece of him that makes him one of the toughest players to beat on the tour: his mindset.
He’ll never let anyone win easily. This sounds quite simple. Wouldn’t any player not let anyone win easily? Yes, but Alexander Zverev takes it to a whole new level. If he was down 0-5, 0-40, he would do virtually anything possible to make sure he won the point.
This is why he seems to play better when he’s down. There have been countless times where Alexander Zverev has shocked the audiences by coming back from an extreme deficit and winning the match overall by himself.
He’s not afraid and actually rather accustomed to rallying twenty to thirty times over for just one point and repeating it four times over to win the game. If need be, he’ll keep doing that until he wins, making him one of the toughest players on the court right now.
As well as that, Alexander Zverev also possesses the uncanny ability to pull out the craziest of shots when he’s down. If it’s match point for the opposing player, Alexander Zverev has, more than once, found a way to keep himself in the game whether it be by a passing shot winner on the run or a lob winner from the baseline. He’s done it all.
I can say with full confidence that Alexander Zverev is one of the toughest fighters out there. He has done almost anything that can possibly done for a point and is currently on a hot streak that will propel him into a successful future later on.
At the ripe age of twenty-one, Alexander Zverev is proving to be one of the top players in the world and this is largely due to his ability to stay in the point no matter what. He takes “it’s not over till it’s over” quite literally and it’s gotten him farther than most will ever get.
2. Rafael Nadal
It would be a crime for me not to put Rafael Nadal on this list. He’s proven time and time again that he is one of the players who excel under pressure. Just ask his 92%-win rate on clay and the number of Roland Garros’s that he’s won thanks to his efforts.
He’s proven throughout his career that he doesn’t shrink under the pressure or when it matters the most. If he was like this, then he wouldn’t be where he is today, with a record number of Roland Garros titles and several times at the world number one spot.
Perhaps the best example of his resilience was during the 2009 Wimbledon Final. With the sets being tied at two-all and the last set being the decider for the Wimbledon champion, literally everything was on the line.
Rafael Nadal had not won a Wimbledon title yet and was looking to finally achieve a title at his weakest surface: grass. However, standing in front of him was the king of the grass courts, Roger Federer. Everything had to be played perfect for the fifth set and that’s quite literally what Rafael Nadal did.
Each player held their points, not letting up. The difference between the fifth set and the other sets was that the fifth set had no tiebreaker if you went to 6-6. You kept going after until one player finally won by two games.
This meant that both players kept going and there was more than once where Rafael Nadal was in danger of being broken. After 6-6, that’s when things began to escalate. Each point mattered more than the previous one played, and Nadal found himself playing to take the games at 30-30, meaning that one misplay by Nadal could spell trouble.
However, in the end, it was Nadal who prevailed, finally breaking Federer when he was advantage up at the game score of 8-7. This was the match which trademarked Nadal’s resilience and toughness that he still has today.
It’s largely thanks to a wide arsenal of shots he possesses, but the key component behind how he is able to play is the top spin and movements that he has across the court. Only Zverev and Federer can match Nadal on how fast he can run, but no one has been able to match how much spin Nadal can acquire.
There are moments when Rafa’s balls are so high and so fast that Federer has trouble attacking them. This is why Nadal is such a tough player to take down. Nadal is equipped to stay at the baseline and overpower his opponents from there.
This means that the only real pressure is exerted on the opponent. Nadal knows how to play from the baseline and he can enjoy a comfortable margin of error while moving his own opponent across the court.
However, his mental toughness is also a factor as well. He has one of the strongest minds on the tour and it’s quite evident whenever you watch him play. You see no emotion when he plays a bad ball, but you see excitement when he hits a winner.
1. Roger Federer
Federer wouldn’t be where he is today without overcoming some difficulty and this means pressure scenarios. He’s faced more pressure scenarios than anyone else on the tour. He knows what it’s like to have everything on the line and then to risk it all with one shot.
One of the most notable moments was when he fought back against Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final from a 2-6 deficit in the second set tiebreak. One more point won would’ve given Roddick two sets up on Roger on his home court, but Federer rallied back to take the second set 7-6 (8-6) by winning six straight points.
Another instance is in the fourth set tiebreaker against Nadal in 2008 when he saved two championship points, one of which he was backed into a corner and hit a down the line backhand which stunned the entire crowd. He would go onto the win the set 7-6 (10-8).
Federer may not seem like a type of player who plays as well as Nadal or Zverev under the pressurized circumstances. However, I do not hesitate for one second when I say that he is one of the best players under pressure.
His clean game, mainly focused around his serve and strong offense, make him a perfect candidate. He’s perfected holding his serve and even when he’s down, he isn’t afraid to play his game, making him the perfect player when it matters the most.
Even though we’re spectators of a sport that really demands the most from the professionals at times, we feel every second of the match. Our hearts are pounding when our favorite player’s back is against the wall and he has to win this point otherwise he’ll lose the match.
We know the feeling, but it’s nothing compared to the feeling the players themselves experience. However, there are some who handle it better than others. These players can really take on the pressure and these are the players you really want to bet on.
They’ll stay in the match and can turn any negative into a positive. If you’re looking for a strong pick for an upcoming tournament, I highly recommend that you choose from the list that was just provided because I assure you that these players are in it till the last point.