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Tennis Warrior
January 2010 Article

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Percentages Not Individual Excellence!

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Tom Veneziano

Tennis is about percentages not individual excellence. An interesting concept. What exactly does this mean? It means you do not consistently win by constantly making outstanding shots. You do not think in terms of great shots to win. Instead, to win you think in terms of percentages (those shots you can make a high percentage of the time). This is a difficult lesson to learn for all players (pros included), but a necessary one if you wish to play at a higher level. As you improve and are capable of hitting better shots the more you will confuse individual excellence with playing great tennis.
Why? Because you can do more with the ball! To reel yourself in becomes tougher when you play your percentages, and wait for the correct situation to go for the final winner. You'll need a mental arsenal that includes self-discipline to play within yourself, as well as tennis savvy to understand why.
Whatever the level of your play you must learn to think in terms of percentages, not individual excellence. Here is an example. You are up at the net in doubles and one of your opponents is on the baseline. The player on the baseline hits a hard low ball at your feet. With laser precision you skillfully go for a winner, hit a dynamic angle, and win the point. Everyone applauds you for your EXCELLENT volley. Yes, indeed it was a great shot, but it is not the way to win consistently. You may even be thinking, "what a great shot, I'll have to hit more of them to win this match." Voila! You're in trouble and thinking in terms of individual excellence not percentages. The percentage shot would have been to hit this tough low ball back to the player on the baseline and look for something better to go for a winner.
Although junior players are guilty of this big time (they think hitting speedy winners is cool) adults do the same thing relative to their level of play. Although many adults have developed some patience they still think in terms of excellent shots to win which results in too many unforced errors. If you have to make great shots all the time to win, the questions arises - why are you always in so much trouble that you have to make great shots to win points? Hmmm, that's something to think about.
I remember reading an excellent billiards book in college that illustrated this concept. Billiards was one of my majors in college. I spent hours in the recreation hall shooting billiards. :) I believe the book was written by Willy Mosconi. Willy Mosconi was world champion in the 1940's and 1950's - an unbelievably skilled player. From what I remember his high run was something like 525 balls without missing! Incredible isn't it? But, it is not the highest run recorded. Michael Eufemia was reported to have a continuous run of 625 balls in a tournament in 1960. One of the most important concepts that I learned from this book was that the greatest shot makers were not the greatest players. The principle: if a player always has to make great shots, then they were in trouble all the time. In contrast the great players have such superb control of the cue ball, they're able to position it well enough to easily make 75 % of their shots.
Are you always in trouble on the court? Do you always have to make great shots to win? Maybe it's time to examine your over all thinking. Are you going for too much too soon? Most players do. Tennis is a game of percentages not individual excellence. The majority of your shots should be consistent shots, positioning yourself for the winner. Keep it simple is the phrase! Okay so it's the K.I.S.S. principle - keep it simple stupid. No offense. And that's the point, you will have no offense without keeping it simple continuously playing the percentages.
Here is another phrase. Do the simple right, then do the simple better, then simply be the best at doing the simple. The pros do the simple so well you think it's complicated. This is a concept I teach relentlessly. The true dynamics of playing at a high level is keeping it simple.
Don't take years to understand this principle. Watch the top pros with an informed eye and see it for yourself. The foundation for their great play is always rooted in percentage play not individual excellent shots. Sure they have a flare here and there where they make exceptional shots, and that's fine. The key is NOT, and I repeat NOT to build a game plan around those exceptions.
Are you getting it?
If you're not, and you still think you can build your game plan around excellent shots, I have one thing to say. If the best in the world can't do it, how come you think you can?

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This column is copyrighted by Tom Veneziano, all rights reserved.

Tom is a tennis pro teaching at the Piney Point Racquet Club in Houston, Texas. Tom has taught thousands of players to think like a pro with his Tennis Warrior System.


In Tom Veneziano's book "The Truth about Winning!", tennis players learn in a step-by-step fashion the thinking the pros have mastered to win! Tom takes you Step-by-step from basic mental toughness to advanced mental toughness. All skill levels can learn from this unique book from beginner to professional. No need to change your strokes just your thinking.

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