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He Said, She Said
by Tony Severino
Certified Instructor 4A
Professional Tennis Registry

Tony Serverino Photo
Tony Severino

When I shout "You Bum!" after missing an easy sitter, who am I talking to?

I’m talking to myself???

Who is that "I" who speaks to "myself"?

In his book, "The Inner Game of Tennis," W. Timothy Gallwey calls them Self One and Self Two. The "I" is Self One who knows the game and is the instructor and the evaluator. The "myself" is Self Two, who is the doer. Self Two is often maligned out loud by Self One for a miscue; allowed a self-serving fist pump for winners.

However, Self One is not the best source of tennis know-how. Knowledgeable people have said imaginative things about tennis, not so much instructional as profound. Sometimes it sounds like a "He said; She said" argument, but not necessarily. Each one elicits a view of tennis that fires the imagination.

Let your Self One step aside for a moment and let Self Two hear what they have to say.

Let’s listen!

On Playing Tennis

Billie Jean King said: "Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility."

Yannick Noah said: "I adore this sport; it’s technical, physical and mental, all at the same time."

Virginia Wade said: Tennis is like a game of chess, with limitless different approaches."

Bjorn Borg said: "It’s a simple game. Just hit the ball back over the net one more time than your opponent."

Vic Braden said: Learn to hit that same old boring shot —you’ll never get tired of winning."

Martina Navratilova said: "Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts’, probably lost."

Andre Agassi said: "Winning never grows old. It feels amazing. That’s why you work so hard."

Chris Evert said: "Nothing else in tennis feels quite as good as zipping a down-the-line passing shot."

Brad Gilbert said: "Focus on consistency, not power."

Dennis Van der Meer said: "Ball control trumps power every time."

Don Budge said: "Getting the ball back will, in the long run, give you the same advantage as that built-in ‘gimme’ point, for if you manage to get enough bad shots back, your opponent is eventually bound to miss a return."

Chuck Kriese said: "My serve play like me; his serve play like him."

Feisal Hassan said: "Tennis is a rhythm sport. The opponent’s job is to disturb your rhythm and your job should be to disturb his or hers. It’s just like a baseball pitcher trying to disturb the rhythm of the batter and the batter trying to disturb the rhythm of the pitcher."

Peter Burwash said: "Tennis is a game of emergencies. Everything doesn’t always go according to plan out on the court"

Billie Jean King said: "Tennis is a game of adversity. Champions adjust."

Paul Wardlaw said: "Tennis is a game of pressure. Pressure situations occur constantly throughout a tennis match, offering continual tests and challenges as players respond to their opponents, playing conditions, and more often than not, themselves and their own game."

Arthur Ashe said: "You are never really playing an opponent; you are playing yourself, your own highest standards."

W. Timothy Gallwey said: "The problems which most perplex tennis players are not those dealing with the proper way to swing a racket."

Nick Saviano said: "You can’t control winning. You can only control the way you play."

Chuck Kriese said: "Crunch time! Regular stuff is good enough!"

Someone Else said: "The number of steps taken between shots is often a good indicator of a player's level of play. Where are you on the 1-10 scale?"

Pete Sampras said: "I love the dog-eat-dog nature of tennis. It’s real, it’s brutal and there’s no hiding place. You walk off the court either a winner or a loser and there’s no one to blame but yourself."

Billie Jean King said: "Ask Nureyev to stop dancing, ask Sinatra to stop singing —then you can ask me to stop playing tennis."

On Practice.

Chris Evert said: "Does practice make perfect? No. But it sure can make a difference."

Scott Tharp said: "Practice makes permanent."

Butch Staples said: "Practice with a purpose."

Ron Woods and Mary Joe Fernandez said: "Practice the way you want to play. Be just as competitive, focused and competitive as you are in match play."

Bjorn Borg said: "The most important thing is to concentrate in training. Really concentrate as if it were a match."

Paul Wardlaw said: "Managing your emotions during practice will help you excel under match pressure.

Robert H. Jordan said: "Playing does not provide enough repetitions of any stroke nor the opportunity for you to analyze and improve it. The only way to accomplish that is to practice."

John Mills said: "The whole purpose of practice is get high repetitions, a good rhythm with your strokes, get a good workout and practice targeting skills."

Lynne Rolley said: "If becoming a better tennis player is your goal, there’s only one place to get it done: the practice court."

On Doubles.

Stan Smith said: "Doubles is a radically different game than singles. The court has different dimensions and the tactics and strategies are more complex."

Pat Blaskower said: "Doubles is a fast paced, complex game involving constant activity by all four players."

Bill Talbert said: "Doubles is a game of skill that requires as much thinking and planning as stroke production. It can give you as much fun outfoxing opponents as you can get from whacking the devil out of the tennis ball."

Tony Trabert said; "There is nothing quite like a well-played game of doubles. Doubles is a fast-paced, high-energy test of skill that requires precise shot making and strategy."

Bill Tilden said: "Singles is a game of speed, doubles a game of exact angles."

Pete Collins said: "Don’t get beat down the middle"

All My Partners said: "Watch the alley! Watch the alley!"

Greg Alexander said: "In doubles, down the middle solves the riddle." (Sounds a lot like Chuck Kriese.)

Pat Blaskower said: "There are, essentially, three kinds of doubles teams: those who make things happen, those who watch what happens, and those who wonder what the heck happened."

On Teaching.

Rick Macci said: "Some things that were taught 30 years ago are as valuable today as they were then —others are not so relevant."

Greg Moran said: "The Modern Game. It’s not for everyone! The vast majority of the lesson-taking public are not elite athletes who will be able to spend hours on the court developing the difficult techniques that define the modern game."

Robert H. Jordan said: "It takes at least a year to build the physical habit patterns and the mental habit patterns that are needed for a significant improvement."

Dennis Van der Meer said: "There are many ways to learn —and many ways to teach. One essential method every competent teacher should know is how to teach by progressions."

Ed Faulkner said: "I never get bored, mainly for the reason that every swing —and I’ve seen thousands and thousands of them —is different."

Vic Braden said: "I truly feel each person has a genius to perform well in his/her chosen sport, but the problem is we coaches; we haven't learned how to access each person's genius in the shortest period of time. However, I find that the coaching world is experimenting in many areas and is making great strides."

Oscar Wegner said: You Can Play Tennis in Two Hours."

Paul Douglas said: "Learn Tennis in a Weekend."

Vic Braden said: "You’ll be famous by Friday"

And so it goes. He said: she said, each a completely different view of this magically addictive game of tennis. Yet most are, as the British say, "spot on!"

Have we missed some; I’ll say. Maybe a couple dozen or more. Still there’s plenty for your Self One and Self Two to think about.

Think about them and pattern your game after them. You too could become "famous by Friday".


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