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October 1, 2009
Basic Tennis 101


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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
Basic Tennis 101

In the finals of the 2009 US Open, Juan Martin Del Potro surprised the tennis world and defeated the talented Roger Federer. Although there were some momentum shifts and subtle strategy changes for both players in the match, one of the most brilliant and unexpected shifts came from Juan Martin Del Potro.

Del Potro, who at 6'6" is known for his big booming serve, was blasting first serves at Federer. Some serves were as fast as 139 miles per hour. Juan relies on his power serve to win free points or elicit a weak return out of his opponent.

Yet in the third set Del Potro not only lost the set, but also lost his momentum by double faulting twice in a row! This loss gave Roger a 2-1 set advantage. To me, the match looked all but over, especially considering that in Grand Slam matches Roger is something like 150 - 0 after winning the first set, which he did.

After Del Potro double faulted the third set away, I watched as he went over to rest before the fourth set. With a frustrated look on his face, he sat down and covered his head with a towel. I thought to myself, "I wonder if he will keep fighting or if he will mentally let down and hand the match over to Federer." I thought he may keep fighting but it would not be enough to overcome Roger in this situation under Grand Slam conditions.

I certainly did not expect the subtle strategy shift that Del Potro made in the beginning of the fourth set. He slowed down his first serve, dramatically increasing his percentages. This strategy is basic tennis 101: Get a high percentage of first serves in. Even John McEnroe, who was doing the commentating, was shocked. At first John did not think it was a good idea and even questioned if Del Potro was injured. I think John came around as he began to see the results.

I thought slowing the first serve down and increasing accuracy in this situation may be a good idea, but I was waiting to see how this strategy played out. It worked! Del Potro gained back a little momentum and won the fourth set, then went on to handily win the fifth set and bring home his first Grand Slam title. His mental toughness and brilliant shift in strategy worked!

Del Potro demonstrated the value of getting first serves in at the highest of levels. Below are his first serve percentages for every set. Look at the dramatic increase in the fourth and fifth set percentages reported at www.usopen.org!

Del Potro first serve percentages:
Set one - 54 percent
Set two - 60 percent
Set three - 60 percent
Set four - 74 percent
Set five - 78 percent

In contrast, look at Roger's first serve percentages. These are usually higher for him. Roger Federer has so many other weapons that he can give anyone problems, even when he is not serving his best.

Federer first serve percentages:
Set one - 41 percent
Set two - 44 percent
Set three - 61 percent
Set four - 53 percent
Set five - 54 percent

In my opinion, most players of all levels do not harness the power of getting in a high percentage of first serves. I believe there are two reasons why. First, players think that if they slow the first serve down their opponents will clobber the return of serve. This will not occur if you just take a little speed off of the serve and increase your percentages. No one is telling you to just dink the ball in the service box as a first serve. A well-placed, three-quarter speed first serve will go far to help construct your victories. Just ask Juan Martin Del Potro.

Second, many players have in their brain that a first serve must be fast and a second serve is slower. In their minds, to slow down a first serve turns that serve into a second serve which is just not right. A slower serve goes second!

As you improve your game and mental toughness, this type of rigid thinking disappears. Like Del Potro you will completely understand that consistent victories are intimately attached to playing your percentages. If you have to slow down a first serve to achieve a higher percentage and clinch a match, you are prepared to do so.

To me, Del Potro's critical increase in first serve percentages in the fourth and fifth sets was a major reason for his victory over Roger Federer. If Del Potro can implement this strategy at the highest level of play against one of the greatest players ever, don't you think you should do the same? If you are in a tough match and your first serve percentages are waning, do not be afraid to slow your serve down. Think percentages and percentages will help you bring home the trophy.

Your tennis pro,

Tom Veneziano



Well, Tom, your archived articles are just a valuable as your book, "The Truth About Winning." It all works together as a 'complete system'. It takes a while to see the entire picture, and it does take persistence to fully understand it. What you say is true: the system is so simple that it is easy to miss. Since it is a total philosophy of seeing the game(s)-- the mental as well as the physical -- I can see how it might elude the ones in a hurry, but your system works and it produces results if you're interested in winning.

Laurens Robinson
San Francisco, CA


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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