Wimbledon starts today. I’m looking forward to another two weeks of tennis trading on the grass, full of trading opportunities, similar to what we’ve seen in the pre-Wimbledon tournaments.
But this post is inspired by what took place last night at the EURO Cup when Italy overtook England at a penalty shootout. A victory that can largely be attributed to Pirlo. Why Pirlo?
Up until the moment in which he took his penalty kick, psychologically, England was on top.
It was clear that England had taken a Chelsea-like approach to the match, where their main priority was to be solid in defense and hit on the counter attack or win it at the penalty shootout had the match reached that point.
As it turned out, it did reach the point where only a penalty shootout could separate the two teams.
As far as England was concerned, everything was going to plan. They managed to defend well all match, making Italy feel as if they were the team that had missed all the opportunities in the match. Without a doubt, the Italian were the ones feeling the pressure, simply because of the way the match had unfolded.
When Pirlo stepped up to take his free kick, things were very much in England’s favor. They were one goal up, with Montolivo missing his kick. Then Pirlo, with an extremely confident and nonchalant attitude, executed his penalty with a chip aimed at the center of the goal.
That changed the outcome of the match, because next up was Ashley Young, whom, I have no doubt had picked a corner to shoot at, but after seeing Pirlo’s shot had thought that hitting it at the center of the goal would be a better idea. Only, he is relatively inexperienced with these high pressure moments, and I’m sure a few doubts had crept into his mind as to weather Buffon will actually stay in the center of the goal and guess his intent of aiming for the center. So to make sure he would score, even if Buffon guessed right, Ashley decided to strike it harder and try to give it some elevation as well. And we all know what happened next.
As far as I’m concerned, there was a psychological or inner game that went on between Pirlo, Young and Buffon, which the Italians won, and ultimately brought them the victory.
The inner game is something that cannot be spotted so easily with the naked eye, but is definitely present in all sports, and is something to take notice of, especially if you have a financial interest or are trading that sport.
Below are two relevant tweets right after the match. One is from the former Wimbledon champion, Boris Becker, and the other from the current top 10 tennis player, Janko Tipsarevic.
Pirlo was the key!!!
— Boris Becker (@Becker_Boris) June 24, 2012
— Janko Tipsarevic (@TipsarevicJanko) June 24, 2012
As most of you know, I’m more of a tennis trader than a football trader, and I can say that the inner game is more prevalent in individual sports like tennis or snooker than in team sports.
In fact I believe that every tennis match has an inner game attached to it, that influences the final outcome of the match, to a larger or lesser extent.
To back up most of what I’ve written in this post, I’m also going to give a few examples.
The first one is the women’s final in Eastbourne, that took place this past weekend, between Paszek and Kerber.
Kerber was 5-3 up in the third set, with Paszek serving to stay in the match. In that game, Paszek managed to save 5 match points, which turned the “inner game” into Paszek’s favor, despite Kerber still being the player that was serving for the match and seemingly in control. As it turned out, the inner game made the difference, with Kerber failing to close the match (or even managing to take one more game to take it into a tie-break, and losing 7-5).
And if you’re looking for a more “long-term” example of the inner game, I have to mention Federer or Nadal. Both players have achieved so much in this sport, mostly due to their mental strength and their inner game. Federer’s inner game was based on the fact that he was able to hold serve easily and at the same time put a lot of pressure of his opponents by making sure that he put a lot of balls back in play (even if he was just chipping them in) and making them feel as if they were the ones putting a lot of effort into their service games. And most of the times this pressure payed off.
As for Nadal, his mental strength was based on the fact that he was very strong physically, and even before you would step on the court to play him, you knew that you had to put a lot of effort to get a winner past him, not to mention win the match.
And on the same note, I can mention Andy Murray here; whom, from a mental perspective is weak, compared the the top 3 players. Most players on tour know that if Murray has a “bad day”, their in with a very good change of winning the match. As for players like, Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, other players know that it has to be a combination of them playing very well and the top guys having a bad day, in order for them to have a chance of winning.
But the main idea of this post is that if you are a sports trader, the inner game is something to take in consideration and be aware of; especially when it is something that other traders can miss, which in turn can give you that almighty edge.
Do you have an example were the inner game played a part in a match that you have watched or traded? If so, I’d like to hear it in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Pirlo