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Tennis Warrior
November 2018 Article

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Taking the Perfect Out of Tennis

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Tom Veneziano

Picture me in a room at the tennis club having a discussion with a pro who is learning my tennis system. In fact, he is getting the concepts down pretty well and his application has been right on the mark. On the walls surrounding us are three posters of top pros in action: Rafael Nadal hitting a forehand, Roger Federer hitting a forehand, and Serena and Venus Williams at the net during doubles.
As our discussion turned toward conventional methods versus the Tennis Warrior System, I saw an opportunity. Quickly I reeled off three traditional techniques for him: keep the head of the racket above the wrist when hitting a volley, stay balanced and on the ground when hitting groundstrokes, and hit the ball in front of you on forehands. "Do you agree with these?" I asked. He agreed that those mechanics were correct.
"Okay," I said, "take a look at that poster on your left."
The poster on the wall to his left showed Serena hitting a volley up at the net. It was a beautiful volley, but her racket head was clearly below her wrist. Oops!
"Now look at the poster of Federer behind you."
This image showed Federer a foot and a half off the ground while hitting one of his laser-like forehands. Finally, I turned to the poster on his right and pointed out how Nadal was hitting a forehand behind him as he was falling to the ground. What happened next was fascinating!
He said, "But Tom, those are all specialty situations. All of them are doing what they had to do in that particular moment." I stared at him. He stopped and thought. I stared some more. He thought some more. Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. "That is the whole point!" he exclaimed.
Exactly. All shots in tennis are specialty situations and require a variety of shot-making. The conventional, one-size, cookie-cutter type stroke production simply does not cut it.
As a player, you must get this concept crystalized in your brain. You should not be trying to hit every ball with the same perfect stroke. Stop thinking that you missed because you did not follow through over your shoulder or your weight was not forward or your knees were not bent. In the past, you have performed many shots without following through over your shoulder or without your weight moving perfectly forward, yet there was not a peep out of you. Why not? Because on those shots you didn't miss! How quickly the analysis changes when failure enters the picture.
You may be thinking, "But the top pros play with perfect stroke production." No, they don't. You'd better watch a little closer. The top pros are hitting stokes with full follow-throughs, half follow-throughs or no follow-throughs at all. They are even swinging across their body (a conventional no-no) to make some fabulous pinpointed shots. While on the run they might slap a ball down the line for a winner or make shots fading backward, lunging forward, sliding sideways, standing on one foot, jumping up, flicking their wrist or kicking a leg in the air -- in other words, doing whatever it takes for the moment. And, yes, also on display are some beautiful, classical strokes with full swings over their shoulders.
With an unrealistic model of the perfect stroke in your brain, it is difficult to let go and just PLAY. Yet the key to playing relaxed and instinctive tennis is to LET GO. You cannot do this, however, if you mentally restrict yourself. Instead, you must trust yourself and play the game that develops for that moment. This is what a pro does. He (or she) trusts himself (or herself) and therefore performs a variety of successful shots, often with such instinctive efficiency that they shock even him (or her)!
In his 2011 autobiography "Rafa," Rafael Nadal makes it clear why every tennis player needs flexibility and variety:

"You might think that after the millions and millions of balls I've hit, I'd have the basic shots of tennis sown up, that reliably hitting a true, smooth, clean shot every time would be a piece of cake. But it isn't. Not just because every day you wake up feeling differently, but because every shot is different; every single one. From the moment the ball is in motion, it comes at you at an [infinite] number of angles and speeds; with more topspin, or backspin, or flatter, or higher. The differences might be minute, microscopic, but so are the variations your body makes--shoulders, elbow, wrists, hips, ankles, knees--in every shot. And there are so many other factors--the weather, the surface, the rival. No ball arrives the same as another; no shot is identical."


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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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