Do “unforced errors” exist?


AP Photo/Michel Euler. Blog article by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

In tennis the post match statistics typically include a line item for unforced errors. A few years ago Roger Federer made an impression on me when listening to his post match interview during the press conference at the 2007 French Open. “They don’t know an unforced error from a croissant,”as he was referring to the statisticians. He has just lost a match to Raphael Nadal. The interviewer asked ‘So do you think your 59 unforced errors contributed to your loss today?’ Federer quickly questioned ’59 unforced errors!?’ You try hitting back his spin and then tell me if they were unforced. (For the record, Federer had 59 “unforced errors” to Nadal’s 27.

It got me thinking and my thoughts were crystallized last week when I spent time in Arizona at Tennis Congress and heard Craig O’Shannessy speak. I questioned the subject more.

Is there a difference between forced errors and unforced errors? Are they all forced errors or are they all just errors?

What I realized is that it’s just a judgment call by the statisticians. Errors in the sport of baseball are handled the same way. Who’s to say a ball hit very wide to Djokovic, Monfils and Kerber is indeed “unforced”? They typically are better on the move barely reaching balls so those misses to others would be winners but to them should be unforced? Those balls they normally make. Likewise who’s to say that a very low volley for John Isner is unforced or not? To a shorter player that’s more likely unforced.

And hitting heavy spin to someone’s body, just because it was reachable doesn’t mean it was make-able?

At the end of the day they are all just errors and in your mind should be classified as such. On the sending end of an error your mindset should be to just get one more shot back in play and anything could happen. Your opponent’s shot tolerance could be 8 and that was the 9th shot or your opponent could be cramping and one more shot back would do the trick.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had an epic boxing match known as “The Thrilla in Manila.” Before the 15th and final round Frazier’s ring threw in the towel. Unbeknown to him, Ali was a wit’s end and may have thrown in the towel himself. There is a debate as to whether or not Ali would have been able to finish the final round. Ali ended up getting up to start the final round but his opponent ended up throwing in the towel!

Sometimes it’s easier to get your opponent to quit than it is to win.

Errors result from dips in mental focus, tenacity, physical endurance, technique, tactics, concentration and the will to win.

On the giver’s end of an error (i.e. you made the error) your mindset should be that all errors are within your control. Question your shot selection, focus, concentration and heart. What do you need to do differently than what you just did? On the reciever’s end of an error (i.e. you were given a gift) your mindset should be that maybe it wasn’t an “easy” shot and maybe your opponent is mentally or physically fatigued or perhaps doesn’t like a soft, high or “easy” shot.

Force your opponent into errors by simply making one more shot because most often that’s all you’ll need.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
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Do “unforced errors” exist?