Australian Open: Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Dan Evans & Heather Watson play on day three

Dan Evans

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Britons Dan Evans and Heather Watson are looking to progress in the Australian Open on Wednesday after only Harriet Dart survived day two.

Evans, seeded 30th, plays Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, with defending champion Novak Djokovic possibly awaiting the winner in the third round.

Watson, ranked 75th, meets Kristyna Pliskova in her first-round match.

The pair were scheduled to meet on Tuesday but the match was postponed because of a backlog.

Evans, 29, is the only Briton left in the men’s singles after Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie lost on Tuesday.

The British number one, who fought from two sets down to beat American Mackenzie McDonald on Monday, meets Nishioka second on court 19 at about 02:00 GMT.

Watson, 27, is hoping to join qualifier Dart in the second round after Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter were also beaten on Tuesday.

She opens against Czech world number 64 Pliskova – twin sister of second seed Karolina – on court 12 at 00:00 GMT.

Djokovic is among a star-studded line-up on Rod Laver Arena, taking on Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito in his second-round match.

Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty, who is aiming to become the home nation’s first singles champion for 42 years, and Czech 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova also play in the day session.

American legend Serena Williams continues her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title by opening the evening session against Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, before Swiss great Roger Federer rounds off the night on the 15,000-seat show court, facing Serb Filip Krajinovic.

Wednesday’s order of play on Rod Laver Arena
Day session starts at 00:00 GMT
Paula Badosa (Spa) v Petra Kvitova (Cze) [7]
Ashleigh Barty (Aus) v Polona Hercog (Slo)
Tatsuma Ito (Jpn) v Novak Djokovic (Ser) [2]
Night session starts at 08:00 GMT
Tamara Zidansek (Slo) v Serena Williams (US) [8]
Filip Krajinovic (Ser) v Roger Federer (Swi) [3]

Nishioka just as tough as Djokovic right now – Evans

Evans is no stranger to playing the biggest names on the biggest stage, having faced Federer at both the Australian Open and US Open last year.

The Briton, playing his first Slam as a seed, will meet 16-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic for the first time in his career if both men win on Wednesday.

First Evans must overcome world number 71 Nishioka, who is looking to reach the last 32 at a major for the first time.

“I have to play Nishioka first and if I do get there it’s a good match, another good opportunity.

“It’s obviously a difficult match but Nishioka’s just as tough right now.

“It’s a good thing to have waiting if I win.”

Evans has lost both of his two previous meetings with the Japanese left-hander, including a 6-4 6-1 defeat at the Washington Open in August.

“If I’m being totally honest I had a real bad mental performance last time,” Evans said.

“It was just before I split with my coach [David Felgate] so I wouldn’t read too much into the last one.”

Watson hopes new love can inspire change of Grand Slam fortunes

British number two Watson says she is going into the Australian Open feeling “happy on and off the court”, believing her new relationship with Yeovil Town footballer Courtney Duffus has particularly contributed to her improved results.

Watson is hoping to end a miserable run at the Grand Slams – and the Australian Open, in particular – by beating Pliskova.

“He’s super positive. I don’t like boys to have too much influence over me but he has really been a good influence,” a smiling Watson told reporters.

Watson has won only two main-draw Grand Slam matches in the past two years, with just one victory in her past six appearances in the main draw in Melbourne.

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Mental Skills Spotlight: How Adam Became Mentally Strong

Runners are always focused on training their bodies with long runs, workouts, and strength training. But why don’t we formally train our minds and develop our mental skills?

medals

Building mental skills and prioritizing our mindset may sound out there to some but they’re an essential part of preparing for a peak performance. While being fit and fast will always work in your favor, training your brain can make the difference in your ability to succeed.

Today I want to share the story of Adam, a runner that I’ve been coaching for almost a year. We’ve been working together to build his physical and mental skills.

Adam exemplifies how mental fitness can help runners of all levels improve. He came to running later in life at the age of 45 and faced a learning curve while he adapted to the mental and physical challenges of a new sport.

He told me:

I used to struggle with focus during long runs and my biggest struggle was tempo runs.

I also have anxiety before races and when the anxiety becomes crippling, it becomes a problem.

Today, I want to share how Adam has overcome his mental struggles and built his confidence, mental toughness, and lowered his anxiety.

Mental Skills Flow From Physical Skills

Adams Mental Skills

Adam using his confidence to race fast

Even though Adam didn’t have a long running history, he quickly learned the importance of balancing mental and physical training. These skills are constantly intertwined.

While there are some mental skills that can be developed away from running (such as visualizing an upcoming race), many are learned from a thorough, progressive training plan that gives you opportunities to push yourself safely and appropriately.

Adam learned this as his workouts progressed over time. They got more and more challenging but also gave him more confidence as he pushed through new mental hurdles to complete them. Progressive workouts trained his mind and body and helped boost his mental toughness on race day.

That’s because mental toughness is a learned skill through experience (you don’t learn it from a textbook). Adam understood that you must step out of your comfort zone and challenge your preconceived notions of what you’re capable of achieving.

He told me:

You can’t ask someone to get off a couch and race a marathon with sheer mental toughness. Mental toughness comes with having trained your mind just like one trains the body.

You have been successful in training my body to do things that I didn’t think I could and that has definitely built mental toughness.

Repeated exposure to challenge was instrumental in giving Adam the confidence to push his body and accomplish more of his goals.

But what about race-day anxiety?

Confidence Reduces Anxiety

If you get nervous before a race or hard workout, congratulations! You are a human being.

Anxiety is a normal human response to a new or challenging situation. If you’re not nervous, the race probably doesn’t matter enough. Even elite runners get anxious prior to a race, but they know how to channel that anxiety into a productive effort.

Like many of us, Adam admits to being nervous prior to races. Despite that, he has learned how to draw confidence from his training so that a normal amount of nervousness doesn’t become crippling anxiety:

Yes, I do have anxiety before races. However, my confidence level has gone up significantly because I have been able to push myself in training and I am able to bank on that both before and during a race.

Pushing yourself during training provides confidence and that “bank” of experience to draw from in a race situation.

And it’s not just workouts. Adam has improved his mental focus during his long runs as well:

I used to struggle with focus during long runs. The way you built the confidence in me is remarkable. Now a long run to me is just another run and I tackle it with confidence.

You taught me that it’s OK to have a failed run and just pick up where I left the next week. The results have been surprising. I feel like a different runner. A long run is no longer the beast that it used to be. I just go about it normally.

Sometimes, that might lead to failure. A short term “failure” might mean walking during a long run, or not hitting the pace you were hoping for in your tempo run or intervals.

These are not failures, however; they are better appreciated as learning experiences!

Mindset training helps you learn how to turn these minor setbacks into longer-term successes. Adam has learned the mental skills to embrace failure as part of the training process.

A coach can be a huge asset to help you look at your failure objectively. They can ask the tough questions or provide perspective that you didn’t consider:

  • What needs to happen to produce a different outcome?
  • Were outside factors negatively affecting your performance (weather, training context, altitude, stress, etc.)?
  • Did you succeed at part of the workout and we can consider this a partial success?

Over time, setbacks will always help you learn as long as you find a way to use them constructively.

What Happens When You Focus on Mental Skills

Actively working on your mental skills allows you to grow into a more robust runner. Training or race setbacks are always difficult – but they can be reframed and used to propel your progress.

For Adam, the first realization that he was approaching running differently was that he finally “felt like a runner!” Often, new runners struggle with this sense of inclusion.

Working with a coach helped Adam change his perspective and feel more confident in his abilities. He’s benefited in so many ways:

  • Workouts became something to look forward to, rather than something he might fail at
  • He’s much more focused during long runs and they’re no longer “the beast” they used to be
  • Failed runs happen – just pick up where you left off and move on
  • He no longer worries about falling apart in a race (he trusts his training and gets confidence from workouts)

Adam exemplifies how runners can gain confidence through physical training and performance psychology. He’s learned to handle workouts he never thought possible and has translated that confidence to racing.

He explains it best:

Believe in your training. Believe in your coach. It is going to hurt no matter how much you train but the hurt becomes a learned experience and the success of completing a tough workout will translate into the high of a great finish!

Over time, Adam has developed the mental skills necessary to become a “mentally fit” runner:

Now my question for you:

Would you want to work together to increase your mental skills and become more mentally tough, focused, confident, and with less anxiety?

I’m putting together something special for a small group of runners that I’ll be announcing next week. I’m thrilled with how it’s coming together – and it’s almost ready for you.

I can’t wait to share it with some of you… but first, I want to hear from you.

What is the #1 mental skill that you would like to work on? How would it help your running?

Leave your comment below and I’ll be in touch soon with more details!

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Australian Open: Johanna Konta loses to Ons Jabeur in first round

johanna konta

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

British number one Johanna Konta made her earliest exit from the Australian Open main draw by losing to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the first round.

Konta, seeded 12th, was beaten 6-4 6-2 by the tricky world number 78 at Melbourne Park.

The 28-year-old was playing only her second match in almost five months because of a knee injury.

Konta struggled to settle as Jabeur knocked out Britain’s highest-ranked player.

Five other Britons play later on Tuesday, which features a packed schedule with 96 first-round matches needing to be completed after the opening day was washed out by heavy rain.

British number three Kyle Edmund will shortly resume his match against Serbia’s 24th seed Dusan Lajovic with a 5-2 lead.

Fellow Britons Katie Boulter, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Cameron Norrie should also play as planned with a much-improved weather forecast.

More to follow.

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