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May 1, 2008
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat


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Remember the basic principles for learning tennis with my system is to develop a 'feel' for different strokes along with developing mental skills through REPETITION.  Repetition of simple procedures create that 'feel' NOT an over emphasis on the technical skills and mechanics.  Click here for an article that I wrote on 'feel' vs 'mechanics' in April 2001

Tom's Online Tennis Lesson
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat

Too many players, when they fall behind in a match, think they have lost and stop fighting. This defeatist mental attitude buries these players in a quagmire of hopelessness and despair with no opportunity of making a comeback. Great players think positively and always give themselves an opportunity to turn a match around. They hang in there, they keep fighting, they claw and scratch their way back up, hoping to change the tide and grab back a winning edge. This attitude is crucial when you have fallen behind.

It's interesting to note that even though champions fail and fall behind, defeat is NOT the issue. The issue is whether or not they keep fighting. I remember reading a quote from Michael Jordan, the dynamic professional basketball player that many think was the best ever. His comments clearly demonstrate the mind of a champion.

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot . . . and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

"I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying."

Michael never made an issue out of failing and as a result those of you who have watched him play probably did not have a clue he failed so many times. You remember only his fantastic accomplishments. And that's the point. Players who keep fighting and do not make an issue out of their failures leave you with a positive picture of their play. You should learn to do the same.

It's important to understand the mental dynamics you create when you keep fighting after falling behind. You are sending a message to your opponent that you are not discouraged and will remain poised to take back the lead if he falters. This mental attitude forces your opponent to continue to concentrate on beating you. This is key to making a comeback. You must make your opponent keep concentrating for the victory.

Here is an example that happens quite often. A player loses the first set badly. Beginning the second set he feels hopeless and believes he cannot win. As a result the player who lost the first set goes through the motions in the second set, but the fight has been taken out of him. His opponent, sensing this mental breakdown, just relaxes and cruises to victory.

On the other hand, if that player was thinking like a champion he would have stayed focused and confidently marched on in the second set, forcing his opponent to keep concentrating. When you force your opponent to perform correctly and stay focused you are making your opponent do something to beat you. You have successfully created an environment in which your opponent has an opportunity to break down. Your opponent may or may not falter, but that is NOT the issue. The issue is choosing the correct option to ALWAYS keep hope and confidence alive.


1. Give up, be discouraged and definitely lose.
2. Keep fighting, stay confident and possibly win.

Not a difficult choice is it? You bet it is! When match play is not going the way a player would like, option number 1 has plenty of followers! In fact, I believe it's the highest chosen option. Sad isn't it? All a player has to do is choose option number 2 consistently during those tough times and his winning percentage would go up. But most players simply cannot do it. And the reasons abound as to why: I'm making too many mistakes, I had all the bad breaks, I had bad lines calls, it was too windy, the sun was in my eyes, my backhand didn't feel right, my opponent was too good, I was not playing well, and on and on.

Not one of these is a valid excuse for giving up...not one! What do you think?

I'm making too many mistakes, so I quit.
I had all the bad breaks, so I quit.
I had bad lines calls, so I gave up.
It was too windy, so I quit.
The sun was in my eyes, so I quit.
My backhand didn't feel right, so I gave up.
My opponent was too good, so I didn't even try.
I was not playing well, so I took my tennis balls and went home!

The next time you are playing and you are about to quit because the match is not going your way, do this. Whatever reason you come up with for wanting to give up, repeat that reason to yourself and then add "so I quit" at the end. Then think to yourself, is that the way champions think? Maybe that will shock you back into Tennis Warrior territory and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat!

Your Tennis Pro,

Tom Veneziano




I've been meaning to email you and give you feedback on your "Controlling Your Emotions" CD, but haven't gotten around to it until now.

Historically, I've always been a volatile player who has "lost it" by getting angry at myself for not playing up to my expectations. I've thrown racquets, broken racquets and, once, broke my head with my racquet (a la Youzhny). I've heard over and over that, other than John McEnroe, no one plays better when they're mad (and Mc was always mad at someone other than himself!), but it's very difficult to change.

Since I bought your CD and listened to it (multiple times), I have begun the process of mastering my emotions, rather than having them master me. I am trying to stay in the "mental toughness sphere" as much as possible, and re-focusing when I find myself getting emotional. I am also learning the freedom (and fun) of "going for my shots"--even if I miss. In the past, part of my frustration was that I would be so afraid of losing that I didn't give myself the opportunity to win (unless the opponent made errors or had a heart attack).

By applying your principles, I have started on the long road to changing my game. The big challenge will come when the inter-county season starts in May. I'm not a natural doubles player, so I will have a great test of my developing skills.

As an aside, my wife and I own two bearded collies. My wife likes to go sheep-herding and competes in herding trials with them. However, she has a lot of problems with nerves and "thinking on her feet" when someone goes awry (her actions, the dog's herding or simply sheep being sheep). From listening to your CD, I thought she might benefit from it, so I recommended that she listen to the CD on her drive to the farm.

She loves the CD.

So many times, she gets wrapped up in her emotions/expectations/dreams, so that she actually stops being able to react to the constant changes in the field (very similar to the ebb and flow on the tennis court). By realizing that "the next [obstacle] is more important than the last [recall]", she is learning to control her reaction to the unexpected.

I'm sure that, for both of us, it will take a long time to reverse old habits, but we're working on it!!


Bruce Reid
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


ADDENDUM:  I teach a total system of thinking in regard to stroke production and mental attitude which I cannot explain in one email.  Although each lesson can stand alone you will derive tremendous physical and mental benefit by understanding the total philosophy.  These emails, my web site, books, and tapes are part of a course in tennis, not just isolated tennis tips.  They all fit together into a system.  A system that once understood can help you not only learn tennis at a faster rate, and develop mental toughness, but also give you the knowledge necessary to help guide you and your children to a better understanding of the developmental process.

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