Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Democracy of Tennis - Tennis is for Everybody!

Did you know that according to the Racquet Sports Industry and the USTA, more people are playing tennis than ever before?

In absolute numbers averaged over the past 2 years, almost 30 million people play tennis in the USA.

And more minorities and people of ethnic backgrounds are also playing tennis than ever.

And thanks to initiatives such as the USTA "10 and Under Tennis", the "Quick Start" program and the White House "Let's Move" project, more kids are being encouraged to play than ever.

And tennis has become a global sport too - perhaps second only to soccer.

For example, in early 2011, the Top Ten women's singles players came from 10 different countries. And at the end of 2011, the Top 50 men's singles players came from 24 different countries.

Even disabilities do not stop someone from playing tennis! Wheelchair tennis is played at all the Grand Slams and in 58 countries.

Tennis is simple, fair, easy to understand, and is not expensive to play and requires no fancy equipment.

As admonished by the great champion Bill Tilden in "How to Play Better Tennis" (1950): "I urge you - play tennis! Tennis is the most valuable sport any individual can learn . . . It is a game than can be played practically from the cradle to the grave - and it is apt to aid in postponing the latter many years . . ."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Tennis Serve in Animation

Did you ever see the tennis serve in animation?

Here's a short video showing us exactly that.


Video: The Tennis Serve in Animation By: citiclinic

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Most Feared Servers in Tennis

Who do you think is the most feared server in tennis today?

Is the dominant factor speed, spin, consistency, placement, disguise or something else?

Below is an analysis of the top 30 most feared servers in tennis.

1. Roger Federer
2. Clark Graebner
3. John McEnroe
4. Jack Kramer
5. Maurice McLaughlin
6. Gerald Patterson
7. John Newcombe
8. Stefan Edberg
9. Lew Hoad
10. Neale Fraser
11. Kevin Curren
12. Slobodan Zivojinovic
13. John Isner
14. Milos Raonic
15. Bill Tilden
16. Steve Denton
17. Greg Rusedski
18. Michael Stich
19. Mark Philippoussis
20. Richard Krajicek
21. Joachim Johansson
22. Andy Roddick
23. Don Budge
24. Boris Becker
25. Ellsworth Vines
26. Roscoe Tanner
27. Pete Sampras
28. Gopan Ivanisevic
29. Ivo Karlovic
30. Pancho Gonzales

Bleacher Report:
The 30 Most Feared Servers

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: Boris Becker and Chess

"I used to prepare for my tennis matches by playing chess, and it would get my mind stimulated and focused before going on court. It was essentially a mental warm-up.

Like in tennis, strategy is very important in chess. It's a one-on-one situation, and it is very important to always remain one step ahead of the opponent.

Mental energy is hugely important for success in tennis, and chess is the perfect way to tune the mind in to the stresses and strains of the game."

- Boris Becker
December 06, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Modern All Court Game - A few remarks by Bill Tilden (circa 1920)

Here are brief remarks and observations from one of the game's great players of the past - "Big" Bill Tilden in the 1920s - who foresaw the development of today's modern All Court Game.


"The All Court Game - The Future in the Forecourt"
(*Excerpts from Match Play and the Spin of the Ball, by Bill Tilden, Tennis' first great superstar)

"What is this all-court game? What does it include? First, I claim it must include all the standard strokes; service, both slice and twist; drive and chop, both forehand, backhand, volley and smash. Second, it must include varied depth. No longer will consistently deep driving prove a satisfactory standard. Today one must vary distance as well as direction. The short shot has its place in modern tennis just as much as the deep one. Third, the all-court game demands varied spin of the ball, with which to change pace.

Every player must be able to both undercut and topspin his ground shots. Fourth, there must be controlled speed. Please note the word "controlled." Speed alone will not suffice; it must include sufficient control to vary it according to the opponent you face. If I were to attempt to define the all-court game tersely, I should say: you must be able to vary your game at will, both as to direction and depth, speed and spin.

What is the future of the tennis game? Have we reached the ultimate development of the game in the champions of the present? As one of the champions of today, I see vistas of progress ahead, of which I glimpse only a bit, but which the champions of tomorrow will have explored and developed.

What are these lanes of progress? Not from the backcourt. Not from the net. It is rather in the use of the forecourt for sharp angled shots, in the use of the mid-court volley, the half volley and rising bounce shots, that future progress lies. Every player who desires to succeed in the future must equip himself with every shot in tennis, and then strive to explore the mysteries of the forecourt.

The future lies ahead with its tantalizing glimpses of unexplored roads of progress. Would that I were not an old dog who finds it hard to learn new tricks, for I would gladly attempt to explore some of the roads. In fact, I may try it anyway. The young stars have their chance. To them I say, go out into the highways and byways of the game and bring back, developed, those interesting but imperfect shots that today lie on the edge of our modern tennis in its all court games."

Video Tribute - Bill Tilden

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gods Never Die - Roger Federer Wins Season-Ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and Makes History

November 27, 2011: London O2 Arena -

Roger Federer (No. 3, Switzerland) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (No. 6, France) in 3 sets at the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Final today in a brilliant display of determined and skillful tennis, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3.

It was Federer's 6th year-end World Tour title - an historic record which surpasses Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras. It was also Federer's 70th career singles title, and 100th tour-level final performance.

This year, Federer also won the ATP Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award (by peer vote) for the 7th time, and the ATP Fans Favorite Choice Award for the 9th straight time. He finishes the year as No. 3 in the world, behind only Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

"I know that it's one of my greatest accomplishments," said Federer. "I couldn't be more happy, I couldn't be more exhausted. This definitely is an amazing finish again to the season. I've never finished so strong."

The Barclays ATP World Tour finals is limited to the top 8 ranked players in the world, who play in a round-robin format against each other for the season-ending Masters title. It is widely considered the most prestigious and certainly the most lucrative championship, after the four Grand Slam events.

Federer added to his record 16 Grand Slam Singles Championships, and his Gold Medal in Doubles at the 2008 Olympics. Federer's accomplishments probably allow him to make the strongest claim of any player in history to the mythic mantle: "Greatest Player of All Time".

Most tennis observers and experts agree that Federer's classic all-court tennis is not only exceptionally masterful, but also just beautiful to watch.

Congrats Roger. Thank you for your extraordinary and inspiring tennis and well done.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Preview: 2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

Here's a short video previewing the upcoming 2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.


For more information, check out:
2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

Friday, November 18, 2011

Second Year Anniversary

Two years ago today, I started this Blog to record my thoughts and opinions about our favorite topic - tennis!

My thanks go to all of you - my friends, supporters and readers - for sticking with my Blog.

I hope that it's been fun and interesting.

I've tried to write about the relationship of tennis to history, science, and physics and more.

Shakespeare wrote the immortal words: "All the world's a stage."

And the same is true for tennis. It's a stage to learn, grow and develop.

Thanks again for reading, and please stay tuned.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Many Worlds of Tennis

Hugh Everett, III
(American Quantum Physicist, 1930-1982, Founder of the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Theory)
Photo: Scientific American

I. Introduction

Over fifty years ago in 1957, Princeton graduate student Hugh Everett, III, proposed a radical and mind-bending theory for his doctoral dissertation in quantum physics.

He proved mathematically that, in the world in which we live, the universe "branches" or "splits" into different realities with each observation or decision event.

Each person, thing and event takes place in alternate worlds all at the same time, including infinite copies of each of us!

Everett called his theory "the Universal Wave Function."

And it was later popularly called the "Many Worlds Interpretation."

Critics called it hogwash. Indeed, Everett's idea was met with scorn, and relegated, sadly, to the backwaters of science fiction stories.

But something strange happened over time.

Everett's mathematical proof proved to be nearly-impervious.

And progress and experimentation in quantum physics has led a growing number of scientists to re-visit Everett's theory - and to now grudgingly accept it, albeit with some understandable discomfort.

Today, leading MIT Physicist Max Tegmark calls Everett's concept, one of the greatest theoretical constructs of all-time, ranking with Newton's Law of Gravity and Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Can it really be true? Are there actually an infinite number of worlds where everything possible than can happen takes place all at once?

What exactly is Everett's theory? And why are growing numbers of physicists forced to admit that it may indeed describe our world?

Let's take a look.

II. The Many Worlds Theory
Everett proposed a startling comprehensive mathematical theory to describe our world. It unified the two aspects of our universe - the microscopic "quantum world" of sub-atomic electrons and protons, and the macroscopic "classical world" of people, chairs, planets and stars.

The problem was that, based on a famous light experiment known as the "double-slit" experiment, objects in the microscopic sub-atomic world, such as electrons, seemed to act as both particles and waves.

And they seemed at first to appear in multiple places at once, and sometimes even in all places at once - a state physicists termed a "super-position" of probabilities.

Yet when they measured an electron after observation, it always settled into one definite physical position. This is the infamous "measurement problem."

Since objects are never in multiple places at once in the "classical world" of people and chairs, physicists up to the time of Everett operated under a mental fiction of sorts to help explain the riddle. It was called the "Copenhagen interpretation."

This view assumed that the simple act of observation or measurement forced the electron into a definite position - technically described as a "collapse of the wave function."

Everett answered the riddle a different way by suggesting a radical new alternative - his theory of the "universal wave function." Under this concept, every possible configuration of an electron or sub-atomic particle exists all at the same time.

Since people and ordinary things are "made" of the same sub-atomic particles, Everett argued that the human observer or measurement device itself is part of the quantum world. Thus, he reasoned that the observer or device is always itself in the same "super-position" of probabilities.

In other words, not only are sub-atomic microscopic objects in multiple and even every position at once, but also objects in the macroscopic world of people and ordinary objects.
When the observation or measurement is made, there is no "collapse"of anything.

Rather, the universe itself "splits" or "branches" into multiple and even infinite positions - with each universe just as "real" as the others.

In short, all objects in the universe are always in state of "super-position." And each observation or decision "branches" reality into multiple and even infinite universes, each of which includes you and me!

And he supported this theory by a cogent and compelling mathematical proof, which today physicists still struggle to dispute.

In fact, recent experiments of macroscopic objects in our classical world, called "buckyballs" (C60 carbon molecules), seem to confirm that they behave as both particles and waves - and they seem to be measured in different places at once.

Our universe is far richer and more complex than ever imagined!

III. Tennis and the Many Worlds

Back now to tennis. How might all this apply?

Can tennis also be operating at different levels or "many worlds" all at once?

Indeed, it can - and does.

Tennis is far more than a game or a set of practice exercises.

Consider some of the many aspects of tennis beyond just the score.

Health and Fitness - Tennis undeniably improves health and fitness. In fact, studies suggest that tennis players who play 3 hours a week at moderate intensity reduce risk of death from any cause in half. And it builds dynamic balance, speed and hand-eye coordination.

Brain development - Tennis requires full and continuous alertness in the "now" - connections between nerves and the brain. And good tennis will encourage tactical thinking and problem-solving.

Building of positive personality characteristics - In various tests, tennis players scored higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem. And they scored lower in depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension.

Sportsmanship - Good tennis teaches players to compete fairly with opponents.

Mental discipline - Playing and improving at tennis requires mental discipline and building a good work ethic. Tennis is about managing mistakes and overcoming adversity with calm and purpose.

When you watch the next tennis match, observe well and carefully all these "many worlds."

Like our universe itself, the game of tennis is far richer and more complex than what we first see!

1. The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett, III, Peter Byrne, (New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 2010)
Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives, PBS Special, October 21, 2008
3. Tennis - for the Health of It (A USPTA Initiative by Jack Groppel, Ph.D.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: Calm in the Face of Any Circumstance

"If you can react the same way to winning and losing, that's a big accomplishment. That quality is important because it stays with you the rest of your life, and there's going to be a life after tennis that's a lot longer than your tennis life."

-Chris Evert, 18 time Grand Slam Champion

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: A Compliment from America's Top Half-Miler

"I love watching tennis players. I think those guys are probably the greatest overall athletes in the world, just given their stamina, power, durability . . . [t]heir hand-eye coordination . . . those guys are able to play four-five hours, the kind of focus that that takes is impressive."

Nick Symmonds, America's Top Half-Miler
U.S. 800 Meter Champion, 4 times
NCAA Outdoor Titles, 7 times

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

34 Reasons to Play Tennis

From "Tennis - for the Health of It!" (A USPTA Initiative with Jack Groppel, Ph.D.)

There are 34 powerful and compelling reasons to play tennis, according to an initiative by the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA), "Tennis - for the Health of It!"

Noted tennis researcher and USPTA Master Professional Jack Groppel, Ph.D. writes: "According to world-renowned scientists from a variety of disciplines, there is no doubt that tennis can improve your overall health, including your mental and physical fitness."

Among the documented benefits are:
*Tennis players who play 3 hours a week at moderate intensity cut their risk of death from any cause in half.
*Tennis players score higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem, and lower in depression, anger and anxiety.
*Tennis players benefit from a lifetime of brain development since the game requires alertness and tactical thinking.

Check out all the 34 reasons to play tennis with the USPTA!


Tennis Quote of the Day #1: A Game for Life

"When I was 40, my doctor advised me that a man in his 40s shouldn't play tennis. I heeded his advice carefully and could hardly wait until I reached 50 to start again."

-Hugo L. Black (1886-1971), Asscociate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

Tennis Quote of the Day #2: Tennis Creativity

"It's difficult for people to imagine the creative process in tennis. Seemingly, it's just an athletic matter of hitting the ball consistently well within the boundaries of the court. That analysis is just as specious as thinking that the difficulty in portraying King Lear on stage is learning all the lines."

-Virginia Wade, British Champion, 3 Singles and 4 Doubles Grand Slam Titles

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Three Tests of Tennis Athleticism

Photo: Getty Images/Julian Finney

Watch this video of the 3 tests of tennis athleticism, as explained by Coach Pat Dougherty of the Bollettieri Academy.

1. Low "ready position" with wide base

2. "First-step" reaction

3. "Look to move", with an elevated split-step



Video: Are you a tennis athlete? Three Tests

By: servedoc

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tennis and the Biocentric Universe

"The only thing that we perceive is our perceptions."
George Berkley (1685-1753)
Irish philosopher and empiricist

What is reality? What is it that we can truly be sure of when it comes to objective "reality"?

Is there really a "there" out there? Or is what we perceive just electrical-chemical impulses sent to a dark portion inside our brain from our five human senses?

And can any one of us ever be sure that any "thing" actually exists, or any other person is really alive or conscious?

Berkley's quixotic quote suggests that our perceptions are all we can truly be sure of.

Our perceptions, of course, presuppose that the individual person doing the perceiving is alive and conscious. Under this view, it would thus follow that consciousness is the fundamental matrix of the universe.

Biologist Robert Lanza in his book, Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe,
developed this concept further into a stunning new theory of the universe - the Biocentric Universe.

Consider this classic question: If a tree falls in the woods without anyone to hear it, does it make any sound?

Lanza would answer that the tree never actually fell and would never fall, if no one conscious is around to perceive it.

In contrast to the classical model that the objective universe came first and created life, Lanza proposes the opposite: namely, that life - particularly consciousness - literally constructs the universe.

And that the universe, and everything in it, even time itself, could not exist without us.

In other words, ours is a Biocentric Universe. And we literally engineer the universe as we go, in a participatory way.

In short, Lanza proposes a paradigm shift in scientific thinking of the highest order.

Quantum physics which applies to sub-atomic particles, Lanza points out, supports his theory. Experiments under quantum theory reveal that sub-atomic particles such as an electron only exist in a blurred and ambiguous state, sometimes even in two places at the same time.

Quantum physicists call this a "superposition" of undefined probabilities, until a conscious observer makes a measurement. And obviously everything in our universe - objects, living things, stars, galaxies - is made up of atoms and sub-atomic elements.

Hence, everything might only be a superposition of probability until we observe it.

How does all this relate to our humble game of tennis?

Tennis is undeniably part of our world - and any Biocentric Universe, if the theory holds true.

Consider how the conscious biological observer, namely the tennis player himself or herself, is the key component in the game's equation.

  1. *The player and his or her perceptions - not the court, racket, equipment, conditions, luck, or even the opponent - dictate the game.
  2. *The player and his or her internal skills, technique, and deliberate-practice results - not other things - generate the blueprint of play.
  3. *The player and his or her knowledge, play style, tactics and strategy - not other things - shape the flow of the game.
  4. *The player and his or her beliefs, such as fear, being intimidated, or being confident and relaxed - not other factors - create victory or defeat.

In the Biocentric Universe, we - as the player and conscious biological observer - create the game, and it's shape and result.

In an ultimate sense, consider this: we are our tennis game, and our tennis game is us.


1. Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the Universe, Robert Lanza, M.D. (Biology) & Bob Berman, (Astronomer) (Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2010)
2. Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness (2nd Ed.), Bruce Rosenblum, Ph.D. (Physics) & Fred Kuttner, Ph.D. (Physics) (New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011)
3. The Conscious Mind, David J. Chalmers, Ph.D. (Philosophy) (New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997)

Video: The Biocentric Universe

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: Jose Higueras

"Tennis is a game of errors. A good player learns how to minimize them, and properly understands when it's time for offense, and when it's time for defense."

-Jose Higueras, USTA, Director of Coaching
USTA Magazine, May/June 2011, p. 28

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In Physics & Tennis: Speed Kills

Photo: Dan McCoy/Corbis

"Speed Kills."
John McEnroe, commentating the 2011 Wimbledon Men's Singles Final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal

On Friday, September 23, 2011, an international scientific team at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) particle laboratory reported a stunning research finding which, if true, may revolutionize the past 100 years of physics.

Mysterious particles known as neutrinos were clocked by science's best instrumentation at traveling a tiny fraction of a secondfasterthan the speed of light, which is the cosmic speed limit in our universe.

Neutrinos are ghost-like sub-atomic particles with nearly no mass or electrical charge, and pass through matter as if it was not there at all.

In a 3-year experiment known as OPERA, researchers measured the speed of neutrinos projected from CERN in Geneva, Switzerland to Gran Sasso, Italy.

And they were astonished by their finding - and spent 6 months painstakingly cross-checking and verifying the results beyond margin of error.

The neutrino was clocked at 299,798,434 meters a second which exceeds the speed of light by a very small fraction.

No object in our universe can travel faster than light under the prevailing pillar of modern physics - the theory of relativity developed by Albert Einstein in 1905.

The CERN finding must be confirmed by follow-up experiments by other researchers, which is expected to be underway shortly in both Japan and the United States.

If validated, "[i]t would be the biggest physics discovery in a century because we'd have to revise everything from subatomic physics to what we know about how the universe evolved," said Neil Turok, Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Famed physicist Michio Kaku of City College of New York agreed: "[If true], we'll have to re-write all of modern physics."

Speed kills.

In tennis, the same holds true.

The very best players move at blinding speeds which create an impenetrable defensive shield and which intimidate their opponents. Thus, points are sometimes won even before they start.

Speed kills.

How can we all improve our court speed?

It's all about that explosive first step.


Monday, September 19, 2011

"The Inner Game of Tennis": A Ten-Minute Audio Summary

Here's an excellent audio summary of the classic best-selling book on mental tennis, The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey. (Courtesy: QualiaAquarium)



Monday, September 12, 2011

The Greatest Year: Novak Djokovic wins the Men's Singles Championship U.S. Open 2011

"It's probably the greatest year in the history of our sport."
-John McEnroe, holder of 82-3 Win-Loss Record in 1984,
referring to Novak Djokovic's current tennis year of 64-2
with 3 Grand Slam Titles.

Novak Djokovic (No. 1, Serbia) defeated Rafael Nadal (No. 2, Spain) in four brutally competitive and physical sets, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1, to win his first U.S. Open Title at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, NY in four hours and ten minutes.

It was an epic match on a warm Monday evening before a boisterous capacity New York crowd, including many celebrites and VIPs. And they were treated to some mesmerizing rallies of 30 shots and more, many ending in spectacular winners.

It was Djokovic's third Grand Slam title of the year, and lifted his 2011 Year Win-Loss record to an astonishing to 64-2, with 10 professional singles titles.

Djokovic's Win-Loss record this year ranks among the best in tennis history - placing his accomplishment in the same league with John McEnroe's 1984 year, Rod Laver's 1969 year, Jimmy Connors' 1974 year, and Roger Federer's 2006 year.

"It's an incredible feeling. I had an amazing year, and it keeps going," said Djokovic after the match, wearing an FDNY hat and honoring the memory of victims and heroes of 09/11. "We can't even realize how lucky we are to do something we love."

A humble Nadal, who lost to Djokovic 6 times this year in final matches, said of Djokovic's historic 2011 record, "What you did this year is probably impossible to repeat. So well done."

Congratulations to all of the winners, players, fans and supporters of this year's U.S. Open.

See you next year!

Samantha Stoser wins the Women's Singles Championship: U.S. Open 2011

Samantha Stoser (No 6, Australia), defeated Serena Williams (No. 28, USA) in impressive straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, in Sunday's final of the Women's Singles Championship.

It was a stunning upset before a packed crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium in only 73 minutes on the 10th anniversary of 09/11.

Stoser became only the second Australian woman to win the U.S. Open, after the legendary Margaret Court in 1973. It was her first Grand Slam title. She joins Li Na and Petra Kvitova as first time Grand Slam winners this year.

"I had one of my best days and I'm very fortunate that I had it on this stage in New York," said Stoser. "Ever since I started playing, it was a dream of mine to be here one day, and now my dream has come true."

Congratulations and well done, Samantha!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Day at the U.S. Open 2011

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the 2011 U.S. Open in Flushing, NY on Day 5, Friday, September 2, 2011!

It was just awesome. I spent the day and early evening walking through the grounds and taking it all in.

In the Junior Boys Qualifying Singles, I saw a captivating 3 set victory by Enzo Couacaud of France over Spencer Papa of USA.

I saw thrilling 5 set victories by Donald Young over Stanislas Wawrinka, and by Andy Murray over Robin Haase.

I saw the Indo-Pak Express (Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi) defeat James Cerrentani and Philipp Marx in Mens Doubles.

And I caught Roger Federer and Maria Kirilenko, on their off-day, practicing on Practice Courts 1 & 2.

All in all: a fantastic educational experience and great fun too.

Final Observations On the Players:
*The huge preparation before each shot - their intentionality behind each stroke
*The fluidity of their footwork and movement - how they get out-of-the way of the incoming ball (spacing to the ball)
*The follow-through and completeness of their strokes

And wow - do they look ever so relaxed and loose!

For more information on the USA's Grand Slam Tournament, visit: U.S. Open


Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Illustrated History of Tennis Fist Pumps

Click Here and Enjoy!
Fist Pumps

Credit: Mickey Duzyj and ESPN
Mickey's Website is:

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Perennial Philosophy of Mental Tennis

The Perennial Philosophy (Latin: philosophia perennis "eternal philosophy") refers to universal insights and truths common to all the world's major philosophies and religions.

The idea of Perennial Philosophy originated in antiquity, and was voiced by influential figures such as Cicero, the famed Roman philosopher, and St. Augustine, the historic Catholic theologian.

The concept was popularized in more recent times by Aldous Huxley
in his seminal 1945 book: The Perennial Philosophy.

What might be the Perennial Philosophy of mental tennis?

Over the years, a wide number of excellent books, authored by some major coaches and players, have made significant contributions to mental tennis literature.

Major among them are:
The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey, Mental Tennis by Vic Braden, Fearless Tennis
(a/k/a The Best Tennis of Your Life) by Jeff Greenwald, Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert, and recently Tennis: Winning the Mental Match by Allen Fox.

Each of these authors offers a differing perspective, and each says things in different ways. Yet, I believe that the similarities of these books far outweigh any differences.

What common ideas do these books share? And what simple suggestions can be drawn from them about mental tennis?

I propose that these books collectively suggest 3 simple ideas and admonitions on mental tennis.

1) The critical dominance of the mental game
Each author emphasizes the pivotal nature of the mental game. The mental game is huge. It is always there and never goes away. Most competitive matches are routinely decided by who wins the mental component.

Understanding this well and dealing with it decisively becomes critical for success at tennis at all levels.

2) Physical looseness and relaxation is the foundationstone for good mental tennis
These books, through different examples, re-iterate that our best tennis can only be played when we are supremely loose and relaxed physically. This helps to allow mind, body, emotion and spirit to work together more harmoniously. How can the human machine reach this state?

For nearly everyone, some practical ways to help do this: literally shake loose your hands, arms, shoulders and face. And focus on deep, diaphragm breathing. And consider slowing down the pace of play.

3) Focus on what you can control, and thus strengthen your self-belief
Putting your mind's attention on what you can control, especially regarding the process of tennis, allows you to achieve calm, cool steadiness and stability. Focusing on things like the score, game results, and things such as actions and reactions of others, which you don't control, will just put you out-of-kilter.

Here's a short list of factors to put your mind on which you can control 100%: awareness, footwork, level of effort, body language (including the "ready position"), on-court routines and rituals, technique mechanics, breathing, and of course what you choose to put your attention on.


Tennis Quote of the Day #1: Jimmy Connors

"[I] see a lot of changes happening in the game - the good, bad and some of the ugly of it all. [It's] interesting ... to see how the equipment has changed with the racquets and the strings, and what that means to the way the guys play. . . I think that I come from a generation that is lost. . . Our attitudes were different; our games were all different; nobody played the same. Everybody plays the same game now. We had variety and we had charisma. [We] had it all."

-Jimmy Connors
Tennis Magazine
"One More Time",
Pages 31-32
September/October 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day #2: Intensity

"The difference between competing at 100% intensity and 95% intensity is virtually indistinguishable except that at 100% you win and at 95% you lose. [Why?] [Because] the difference between winning and losing is a surprising few points. In a close set, the winner only wins an average of 4 more points that the loser."

-Allen Fox, Ph.D.
Tennis: Winning the Mental Mental Match, (Kearney, NE: Morris Pub., 2010), Chapter 10, Page 111.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati) 2011

Lindner Family Tennis Center, Mason, OH-

Andy Murray (No. 4, Britain) defeated Novak Djokovic (No. 1, Serbia) 6-4, 3-0 (Retired) at the 2011 Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati) today, one of the last major tune-ups for the U.S. Open in New York.

Murray, Britain's best hope for a major title since the days of Fred Perry, played solid tennis throughout the tournament, and earned his second Cincinnati title.

Djokovic, who is enjoying one of the best tennis seasons ever,
was forced to retire in the second set due to a right shoulder injury. It was only Djokovic's second match loss this season, putting him at 57-2.

On the women's side, Maria Sharapova (No. 4, Russia) defeated Jelena Jankovic (No. 14, Serbia) in a 3 set showdown, lasting 2 hours and 49 minutes, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

In her customary hard-hitting style, Sharapova fought back bravely after a first set letdown to take her second tournament title this year.

The Western & Southern Open is quickly becoming one of the big draws on the professional circuit. It attracts the very best men and women players in the world to compete in a venue considered a major prelude to the U.S. Open in New York at the end of the month.

Congrats to all the winners, players, fans and supporters!


For more on the W&S Open, visit: CincyTennis

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Online Course Review - "Match Tough: Practice Great and Play Even Better!"

"Why is my tennis game far better in practice than in competition?"

Match Tough is an online Audio Course, consisting of 4 modules with Study Guide, Bonuses and Videos which attempts to answer this question and raise a player's game in competition.

Online audio and video tennis courses such as Match Tough have increasing become common on the Internet, allowing large numbers of players worldwide to benefit electronically on their own pace and time.

Match Tough is offered by David Breslow, a Peak Performance coach for 25 years, former Director of Mental Toughness at the National Tennis Center in NY, and author of the book on successful golf, Wired to Win. Mr. Breslow runs The Personal Best Academy, and can be found at:

In Match Tough, Breslow takes a non-traditional approach to the "mental game" in tennis, a phrase he does not especially like, preferring a term such as "peak peformance". Breslow suggests that the "mental game" is not a part or piece of a player's game but literally "is your game".

He eschews tennis "tips" as short-term quick fixes, and avoids usual admonishments about confidence and staying positive, which he says are obvious. He disdains vague "mental" theories or concepts.

Rather, Breslow's bold insight is that a player's "mental game" is really about 4 essential parts
working together: mind, body, emotion and spirit (by which he means a person's core essence). To change or improve performance, a player must literally change who he or she is.

Breslow offers a practical and simple methodology to help a player do so. He draws on what he
calls "laws of human performance", which he says are as undeniable, provable and unalterable as the laws of physics.

And he offers a way for players to "re-start" or re-boot themselves, and encourages them
to focus on what they can control on court. In this way, a player's long-term confidence and self-belief is elevated, and wisely not connected to things such as results or the score which always fluctuate.

Match Tough is a unique exploration into how a player's thoughts and choices help drive who he or she is, and thus molds what his or her performance level is - and ultimately can be.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Review - "Tennis: Winning the Mental Match", by Allen Fox, Ph.D.

Tennis: Winning the Mental Match, by Allen Fox, Ph.D. (Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2010) 159 Pages, 14 Chapters, with Foreword by Justin Gimelstob (Available on

"Tennis is more difficult mentally than most other sports. Because of its one on one personal nature, it feels more important than it is. Competitive matches can be highly stressful, and losing can be very painful."
-From Tennis: Winning the Mental Match, by Allen Fox, Ph.D.

Allen Fox is uniquely qualified to talk about the psychological aspects of tennis from multiple perspectives - namely, as a world-class player, top coach, writer and thinker. Fox, a Ph.D. in Psychology from UCLA, is an author of multiple tennis books, former Wimbledon Quarter Finalist, former coach of top-ranked Pepperdine University, and regular contributor to Tennis Magazine and Tennis Channel.

He has made a significant contribution to mental tennis literature with this short yet lucid book.

Tennis: Winning the Mental Match offers a thorough compendium of ideas and suggestions for better managing this most mental of sports, collected from Fox's years of tennis experience.

In 14 Chapters, Fox dissects a broad range of mental tennis topics, among them: our need to win, emotional issues surrounding competition, reducing stress, confidence, game plans, breaking your opponent mentally and doubles psychology. He offers focused and practical suggestions to help players deal with these issues.

For example, on stress reduction, Fox suggests that players develop a more "realistic" perspective on the game - namely, take it as a "game to enjoy". For Fox, this includes simply accepting outcomes which cannot be controlled, resisting the narrow focus on winning, and avoiding excessive perfectionism.

Fox offers many incisive yet often-overlooked insights. For example, he suggests that our on-court body language makes a difference - in terms of winning and impact on our opponent. "[A]ll of your actions, not just your forehands and backhands," writes Fox, "have a profound effect on your opponent's mental state."

"Since human beings are a social species, they instinctively react emotionally to how other people treat them. . . If you fear [your opponent], they feel brave; if you show them they are hurting you, they feel strong; if you appear certain, they will feel uncertain; if you dismiss their efforts, they will feel weak. . . So if you appear strong, confident, and impervious to their efforts, your opponent will tend to feel weak and ineffectual."

For Fox, among the principal mental challenges in tennis pertain to:
*Anger - releasing and managing anger outbursts
*Tanking - improving a downturn in level of play stemming from overwhelming stress
*Choking - minimizing a debilitating fear which freezes a player's relaxed and effortless game

Here is a short list of ten (10) mental tennis ideas and concepts in the book worthy of consideration and study.

1. Tennis is an intensely emotional game. The goal is to manage these emotions. Your emotion rules every point. Thus, the trick is to maximize positive emotion before every point.

2. The primary question for players to pose, and the cause of stress is: What does winning and losing mean to me? (Fox admonishes us that tennis is a game, and to treat it as a game and simply enjoy it.)

3. Stress also comes from people attempting to control the uncontrollable. Winning a tennis match is not fully in your control. Accept it.

4. In tennis, you can play a nearly perfect match and still lose. The scoring system is "diabolical", making some points far more important than others. This compounds the pressure.

5. Recognize and take comfort in that every match offers multiple opportunities to win, not just one.

6. The Golden Rule: Never do anything on court that does not help you win.

7. In a close match, the difference can be only a few points. How you manage your mind and emotions will determine if you win.

8. In tennis, and most things, it takes courage to get hit, and keep going. Be tough mentally.

9. Optimism is one of your biggest on-court weapons. Use it and hone it.

10. Develop higher character values for more long-term respect and satisfaction, such as good sportsmanship, respect for the opponent and the sport.

In summary, Tennis: Winning the Mental Match offers thoughtful and important insights into critical mental aspects of tennis for players at all levels. It's a gem that should be read by all tennis enthusiasts who know that this game is ultimately a sport of supreme mental self-discipline.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: The Value of Hope

"The most valuable commodity a competitor can possess when things are going wrong is hope. Confidence or self-belief . . . is not always achievable nor is it always realistic. But hope is always both . . . denying its existence, regardless of the situation on court, is just plain wrong. Hope . . . is always a correct and available emotional state, [and] hopelessness is [always] false. The question of victory or defeat in a tennis match is always a matter of probabilities, not certainties. Regardless of how far behind you may be, your probability of victory is never zero until the last point is played or you quit. Thus, hope for victory is always reasonable . . . never impossible. Maintaining hope under all circumstances is the true competitor's unalterable obligation."

--- Allen Fox, Ph.D. (Psychology), From: Tennis: Winning the Mental Match
, (Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2010), Chapter 11, Pages 121-122.(Available on

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: Reducing Debilitating Stress with a New Perspective

"Tennis is a just a game you are playing for fun. It is not your life, nor is it likely to be anything more than just a game. If you happen to get more out of it (like trophies, scholarships, notoriety, pro contracts), it will simply be gravy. . . Your tennis game is merely a project that you work on diligently, like any other project, to see how good you can get. It is like building a model airplane. Your objective is to build as good a plane as you can, but it is nothing more. Naturally, you would like to play well and beat everybody all the time. and you can keep working toward this end. But the process itself should ultimately be satisfying. If you don't enjoy it, quit. You can get in shape by running on a treadmill. The stress comes from making tennis more important that it really is."

-Allen Fox, Ph.D. (Psychology), former world-class player, coach, and author of mental tennis books.

From: Tennis: Winning the Mental Match
, (Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2010), Chapter 4, Pages 35-36.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: "Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long Term Fulfillment", by George Leonard

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard (New York, NY: Plume, 1992), 176 Pages, 3 Parts, 14 Chapters with Introductions, Acknowledgments and Epilogue.

"To be a learner, you've got to be willing to be a fool. [T]he carefree fool . . . who bears the awesome number zero, signifying the fertile void from which all creation springs."
George Leonard, Page 172-173
Epilogue (The Master and the Fool)

In this short yet focused book, George Leonard outlines the roadmap common to success in any human endeavor - what he calls "mastery". Leonard is a martial arts master, Zen philosopher and author of the highly-praised book, The Way of Aikido.

In Mastery, Leonard defines "mastery" as a process and a journey which brings rich rewards. And he argues passionately and convincingly, I believe, for what makes for "mastery".

What are the elements of "mastery"?

*Instruction or Coaching - Valuable and supportive feedback
*Practice, Practice, Practice - "Perfect practice makes perfect"
*Surrendering to Your Passion - Finding purpose and power from your passion
*Intentionality or Vision -
Your mind's eye creates what you seek
*Playing the Edge -
Pushing your own limits

Leonard goes on to elaborate on each of these elements, and examines how they have applied to many who have excelled from Larry Bird to Arnold Schwarzenneger to Chuck Yeager. Along the way, he describes personality types who fail to achieve mastery, such as the Hacker, the Dabbler and the Obsessive.

He talks about tools to help with mastery such as physical fitness, setting priorities and "learning to love" any plateau in your progress. He discusses pitfalls to mastery such as laziness, vanity and over-competitiveness.

In a fascinating discussion, he explains how being balanced and centered in your body, and developing relaxed power, is similar to developing chi in the martial arts - and is vital to achieving mastery.

Mastery is a wonderful exploration into what makes for human excellence in any endeavor. And it offers valuable and cogent insights for all those who seek to elevate their performance in whatever they do.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: "Talent is Overrated", by Geoff Colvin

"Landing on your butt twenty thousand times is where great performance comes from."
From: Talent is Overated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Geoff Colvin, (New York, NY: Portfolio, 2008), (Available on, Page 188, Chapter 11 (Where does great performance come from?)(Explaining that Japanese figure skater Shizuka Arakawa's road to Gold Medal performanceat the 2006 Winter Olympics required painful and massive practice designed to push herlimits, powered only by her passion)

What made Mozart, Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice, Chris Rock and other world-class performers reach their levels of excellence? Most would say "natural talent" or "hard work". But is that really true?

In this thoughtful and well-written book, Geoff Colvin, Editor at Fortune Magazine, challenges these and other basic assumptions we have about world-class performance in business and sports. And by doing so, he offers a journey into the physics of "performance excellence" - with the democratic promise that some part of that excellence might be available to us all.

Colvin employs some ground-breaking research and data to question the "natural talent" or "hard work" schools of thought about world-class performance. He suggests that something else, perhaps startling at first but actually quite intuitive, is at play in a critical way. And it's not special intelligence or memory or experience or in-born genetics. Rather, it is something he calls "deliberate practice".

"Deliberate practice" is a methodology carefully designed to constantly push a performer past his usual and tired limits - to stretch oneself - into what Colvin describes as the "learning zone" which is a place where the performer is continuously improving his skill sets.

Over many months or years or thousands of repetitions, a "deliberate practice" performer begins to rise to the highest levels of excellence. Colvin suggests that even such a performer's cognitive perception, powers of creativity and intuitive knowledge and memory begin to grow.

Unfortunately, "deliberate practice" is "hard", says Colvin. "It hurts, but it works." It is an intensely mental drill, and thus it is not "inherently enjoyable".

What are the elements of "deliberate practice"?

*Exercises designed specifically for the individual to improve performance past his limits.
*It is repeated over and over.
*High level feedback on results is continuously available in a supportive environment.*It's highly demanding mentally.
*It's not much fun, thus implies the need for passion.

Colvin goes on to show how this methodology can apply in business and sports, and to individuals and teams. Colvin lastly explores the "deepest question about great performance" - namely, where does the passion come from? He suggests that performers might have intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivations, and among them the pleasure of great accomplishment, the need for achievement, the need to do good, and the drive for power and purpose.

For Colvin, the ultimate questions about performance excellence for anyone are: What do you really want? And what do you really believe? Do you want to pay the price of sustained "deliberate practice" to reach your level of excellence? Do you really believe that you can achieve it or not?

Talent is Overrated is an intellectual exploration into what really makes for world-class performance, with useful and challenging ideas for everyone to reach a higher performance level.

Well worth reading for anyone wishing to improve at whatever they do.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: Justin Gimelstob

"I contend that tennis is the toughest sport in the world. It is emotional by its very nature, and it's the only sport that demands so many different types of physical and mental skill sets. And it all takes place while you stand alone in a gladiatorial ring thinly disguised as a simple tennis court. But there is nothing simple or serene about it. Competitive tennis is a battle!"

-Justin Gimelstob, Tennis Commentator & Former Professional Player
Foreword to Tennis: Winning the Mental Match, Allen Fox, Ph.D., (Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2010).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tennis and Yoga

Are tennis and yoga perfect together?

Yes, say many - including world-class stars Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Andy Murray who all practice aspects of yoga.

Yoga is the ancient Eastern system of exercise and mental discipline which helps to build flexibility, balance, core strength and mental relaxation - all vital components of the modern game at all levels.

Experts say that your tennis will be always be stronger if you can stretch and reach for your serve farther, and if you can swing on your groundstrokes more flexibly and quickly while on balance.

And staying focused and mentally relaxed, of course, cannot be over-emphasized in tennis.

An evening with the Philadelphia Freedoms, July 2011

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Philadelphia Freedoms match against the New York Sportimes on Wednesday evening, July 13, 2011 at the Villanova Pavillion in suburban Philadelphia. The Freedoms and Sportimes are part of World Team Tennis (WTT), a fan-friendly team tennis league which often showcases past stars, new upstarts and top players returning from injury or layoff. John McEnroe and Martina Hingis played for New York, while Melanie Oudin and Lisa Raymond played for Philadelphia. The play was at a very high level and competitive. The format offered 5 matches with "no-ad" scoring: men's singles, women's doubles, mixed doubles, women's singles and men's doubles. New York edged out the Freedoms in overtime, 21 to 19 (final team score). It was a fun and entertaining evening for all the fans, supporters and players. Best, Gary

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: Why Winners Win

"One way of looking at it is that winners get in their own way less. They interfere with the raw expression of talent less. And to do that, first they win the war against fear, against doubt, against insecurity - which are no minor victories."

-Timothy Gallwey
Tennis writer on mental tennis topics including the
best-selling classic
The Inner Game of Tennis

The Return of Serve: How the Mind Works

"The movements of elite athletes are beautiful to watch. But what goes on inside their heads? The best players learn their moves by encoding whole sequences in the cerebellum through intensive practice - and then in game situations, activate them without conscious thought. To return a serve, for instance, a tennis player uses his thalamus to focus on her opponent [or ball], while the prefrontal cortex quashes distractions. Visual information from the occipital lobe activates the unconscious mental program in the basal ganglia, which passes instructions to the posterior parletal cortex (which calls up automatic movements) and the pre-motor cortex (a staging ground for complex movements). The pre-motor transmits commands to the motor cortex, which orders muscle movements. Swing!"

- Sharon Begley
Ilustration by Brian Christie for Newsweek from: "The Science of Triumph", Newsweek Magazine, July 11, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: Andre Agassi

"It is no accident that tennis uses the language of life: service, advantage, break, fault, love. The lessons of tennis are the lessons of maturity. In tennis, you prepare and you prepare . . . [and] you improvise. Tennis makes you perceptive, proactive, reactive all at the same time. Tennis teaches you the subtlety of human interaction; the curse and blessing of cause and affect . . . and there is nothing quite like a tiebreak to teach you the concept of high risk, high reward. Tennis teaches you there is no such thing as perfect, you hope to be perfect, then you're out there and you're far less than perfect."

-Andre Agassi, July 09, 2011,
International Tennis Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tennis and "The Art of Seeing"

Every shot in tennis is about moving your body with racket in hand while a ball is moving towards you. Thus, the key visual skill is depth perception.

How can we improve our depth perception?

In 1942, British author Aldous Huxley wrote a book called The Art of Seeing.

(Most people will remember Huxley for his more famous book Brave New World.)

What most people might not know about Huxley is that he suffered a severe childhood illness that left him nearly blind.

In The Art of Seeing, Huxley documents his journey to overcome his near-blindness with a program of simple eye exercises known as the Bates Method.

These exercises focus on improving the human eye's depth perception.

Though this system is sometimes controversial with some eye doctors, Huxley credited the Bates Method with saving the quality of his eyesight.

Watch and consider this short video describing some of these exercises, and the potential impact on one's tennis game.


Video: Eye Exercises to Improve Your Tennis Game
By: richmorr9