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February 1, 2005
The Terrible Technique Turmoil!


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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
The Terrible Technique Turmoil!

Welcome to Tom's Online Tennis Lesson, sponsored by TennisWarrior.com, "Where you can learn to think like a pro!"

I had another lesson prepared for you and ready to go until I watched the 2005 Australian open women's semi-final match between Serena Williams and teen sensation Maria Sharapova. After listening to the commentators' comments I was inspired to sit down and write a rebuttal.

To show you how overdone this technique concept is in how to play tennis, did you hear the comments made about Serena's forehand in the first set? For those who did hear, did you fall prey to their incorrect analysis?  For those who did not see the match here is how it went. In the first set Serena played horribly, sending forehands flying every which way and lost handily to Maria. Because Serena's game had been struggling everyone wanted her to change this or change that.

The commentators raged about how she should work on her forehand technique to improve this inadequate stroke. According to the commentators Serena's forehand is a problem because she has terrible technique. They explained that in her practice sessions she should make technical changes on her forehand and this would solve the tragic problem.

Meanwhile, I'm yelling at the television screen, "Technique! There they go again! It's always the technique!" Serena has her own forehand style and has won six grand slams with this technique, but now because of a little slump, all of a sudden it's her poor technique. Give me a break!!! Some of the media have even talked to Serena's mother about her making some changes with her forehand and asked what her mother thought. Fortunately, the mother's response was that they have no plans to change the forehand because it has served Serena so well in the past. Mother's intuition saves the day again! 

As far as Maria was concerned, the commentators said her technique was flawless, and that was a major reason she was winning. The contrast was set. Serena had poor technique on her forehand and Maria had flawless techniques throughout her game. The winning edge goes to Maria.

I had no idea what was about to happen. I had no favorite in the match, but I found myself rooting for Serena to find her timing, rhythm and feel again, win the match, and silence the critics. I was curious as to what the commentators would say once this occurred! Actually, after Serena lost the first set I still thought she would improve her game, but because Maria had a one set lead and the momentum I thought she would pull out the match.

I watched intently as Serena slowly began to find her range. The 'bad technique' of the forehand was beginning to find its target. The commentators grew silent in apparent confusion as Serena befuddled them with the newfound forehand. To everyone's astonishment Serena wins the second set! The score is now tied at one set apiece. I'm sure the commentators thought the terrible technique forehand would come back to haunt her in the third set.

At this point I'm beginning to talk to the television and the commentators one more time. "How about the terrible forehand technique...where did it go? I thought it was the technique." Of course Serena is hitting the same forehand with the same technique, but now with better timing and rhythm...her feel was back! Could it carry her through the third set? The answer. Yes. Serena wins the match! The commentators were stunned and speechless and I was elated. They could not believe what they had witnessed. I waited to hear a comment about the poor technical forehand, but I heard not a word. Yet technically Serena continued to hit the same forehand!

I guess you could say the player with the terrible technique won! :) In contrast the player with the flawless technique lost. What is all this supposed to mean? Absolutely nothing. Both are great players with their own individual style and form. Both played with the style and technique they have mastered. Either player could have won this match. There was no good or bad technique in this match, only different individual form and style.

I suppose when Maria has a little slump commentators will begin to question her technique. By the way according to conventional wisdom most of your top players have 'poor technique.' When that player is winning, nothing is said, but when that player has a little slump or begins to lose...watch out! That same technique the champion used to win so often is now incorrect!

Serena went on to beat Lindsay Davenport in the finals to win the Australian Open. That day there was no mention of her 'poor' forehand technique. I guess once again her technique is just fine! 

One more time...technique without 'feel' is irrelevant. It's the 'feel' that is king. The 'feel' according to your own individual form and style makes the technique relevant. This concept holds true for club players as well as great champions. 

Thank you ESPN and Serena for this perfect illustration. :)

Your tennis pro,

Tom Veneziano



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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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