Category Archives: strategy

5 Quick Tips for Reaching and Maintaining Peak Performance

While the following tips can be used for tennis or any other other sport. They also apply to our daily life and work no matter what we are involved in.

To reach maximum performance you will need to follow these steps:

Develop a grand vision. A vision that will pull you to get up every day and work toward that fulfillment. In tennis for example, you would have as your grand vision to be number one on your local league or be in the top 3 of your high school tennis team within the next 12 months. The vision you design will drive you to create specific goals and activities that you will work on daily. Without the proper vision you will not have the excitement you need to get up early every morning and get to work!

A professional businessman running up the stairs with the text inspiration determination innovation excellence passion vision with a bright white background - concept design vector illustration art

Have abundant energy and strong health. Let’s face it without health we cannot do much! In tennis we must maintain a healthy and injury free body in order to practice and play matches at a high level. To succeed in everyday in life we need the energy and vitality to last us a full day of strenuous work. We must eat healthy, exercise daily and most import, get enough quality sleep. Recharge your batteries completely for the next day!

Green Healthy Living Apple Illustration on white background.

Attitude plays a huge part in reaching and maintaining peak levels of performance. You must develop a champion’s attitude. A champion’s attitude means that you will find a way to win or get things done. You will stay the course when difficulties arise. In tennis and in sports in general you will sometimes find that the momentum will swing from your opponent to you and back and forth. With the proper unwavering positive attitude and training you will find away to turn the match around.

Motivational Saying positive thoughts lead to many things happening and leading to great things

Habits and rituals play an important role in gradually making your process of reaching peak performance almost automatic. The habits you create will get you into the proper mindset. Some of the basic essential habits that need to be established for success in tennis are proper focused training, pre-match routines, healthy diet, and a champion’s mindset. For success in life we also need the proper healthy diet, effective exercise routines and time alone or in nature to to reach proper emotional balance.

Business man pointing the text: Motivation is What Gets you Started Habit Is What Keeps You Going

Finally, you must be surrounded by the right people or as I say the proper emotional network- It can’t be all work and no play. You need to also achieve a balance in your life, and a part of that balance is making sure you have a strong network of family and friends around you. Having healthy and loving relationships will increase not only your success but also your happiness. Spend time with your loved ones and make sure you take care of these relationships. In tennis you also need to have the people around you that will help you excel and give you the right advice. Whether it is friends or parents or even a coach, having the right supporting individuals around you is huge!

Hands of young people close up on sunny nature background

Although these 5 steps look simple of the surface, the challenge becomes to maintain consistency in these steps, day in and day out. I would really enjoy you sharing your experiences with me. Look forward to hearing from you!

Are you Playing Present Tennis ?

If you’ve been playing tennis or around sports for a while you’ve probably familiar with the phrase “play in the moment” and if you really understood what that meant then you should be playing a lot better tennis today. If you are not playing better then this post will certainly provide you with enlightening information.

Playing in the moment means that you play your best, without effort, hitting your best shots practically every time. It is attune to playing “in the zone” as we refer to it sometimes, a state we sometimes reach but for very brief moments.

I like to refer to these moments of perfect play as playing “present tennis”. However, a lot of us do not really get what this means or maybe do understand but don’t know exactly how to play in the moment or how to reach this state. A lot of books have been written on the subject, including one of my favorites being  THE INNER GAME OF TENNIS, which you can see here. However, I think this blog will benefit you in understanding some key basic steps which will guide you to reach a state of being where you can effectively play “present tennis” to improve your game. Let’s go over the steps:

1. Watch the ball on every point all the way past impact. Yes the key here will be on every point and past impact. Have you watched the pros do this? You already have a sense of the dimensions and angles of the tennis court so when you hit the ball your focus should stay on the ball until after you strike it and only then should you look up to admire your shot. Trust me, your shot will go where you are aiming for, just watch the ball. Here’s a sample of what you should strive for. Watch the maestro Roger Federer at work.

2. Let go of the result of the last point. When you win a point it is fairly easy to move on and focus on the next one. However, losing a point you should have won is tough to put behind you, I know. The key to your success as a player will be how well you can develop the skill to forget about the last point and stay focused on the next one.

3. Trust yourself. You need to be able to trust that the practice you have put in will get you through the match and that you will be able to consistently hit your shots. Of course for this to happen you will need to have put in the time on the practice court. If you practice diligently and are satisfied with your results then this step should come easily with time.

4. Go with the flow. The game of tennis like life has many ebb and flows during a match. You cannot play your best when you are stressed out. You will have great moments and you will also go through some where things are not working out your way. But as you learn to go with the flow and to get centered and trust yourself more, you will begin to experience more of these moments where you are playing some of your best tennis. Stay patient.

Every time you practice, be conscious about these steps and in time this will become automatic. The key is consistent practice.

Now, let me give a couple of additional secret ingredients that will get you playing “present tennis” faster. These are meditation and yoga. Two disciplines which are more similar than you imagine.


Meditation is a powerful practice which will help you calm down quickly, get centered, and stay focused on the present moment. Get into the habit of meditating at least for 10 minutes every day. Remember that if you can’t stay still for 5 minutes then you definitely need to meditate for 10 minutes daily.

Yoga practice incorporates slow, deep rhythmic breathing which relaxes the body and mind enabling you to also get centered, focused and also stay in the present moment. Get into a local gym that offers yoga or if you don’t have the time for that then at least download a basic yoga app on your phone and start this practice tomorrow!

The combination of yoga and meditation will help you reduce and eventually almost eliminate the internal chatter that seems to come up inside us at the worse times during a match. Quiet the mind and watch yourself play some of your best tennis!

Thanks for reading!

Nadal’s Mental Toughness

I’ve been following Rafael Nadal since he burst into the Grand Slam scene in 2005 winning his first of eight French Open Titles! What a feat right? Through his ups and downs in the last 8 years, there have been a lot more satisfying moments then disappointments. And it is amazing when you think about his relative short grand slam career that he has won 13 grand slams in the last 8 years.


So what does this mean? Well, that Nadal is the example of extreme consistency and an amazing mental toughness on court. How does he do this? What drives Nadal to overcome incredible odds to beat most of the top 10 players day after day? Its funny when you read Nadal’s autobiography “RAFA”, you would not think that this guy who is scared of the dark would be so mentally tough on court. But it goes to show you that what happens off the court has nothing to do with what your mental mindset is on the court!

Off the court Rafa is a very nice quiet, maybe timid but very caring human being, very humble I would dare to say. But on the court he can transform himself into a full fledged beast that will stop at nothing to win the match and to mentally destroy his opponent. This guy does not give up on any point! No wonder he has been nick named “The Bull” and Nike even has a logo of the bull on his tennis shoes.

The point here is that Rafa is the example of what we should be doing when we get on the tennis courts. All things being the same on the tennis court in terms of skill level, the player with the strongest mental toughness will to win will pull through.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

So how does Nadal achieve this mental strength? Well if we carefully analyze his performance and actions on the court there are some clues which he gives us that we can follow at any level of the game.

1. Nadal has a routine which he follows which gets him mentally prepared for his matches. If you watch him carefully he will do the same things in terms of setting up his racquets and drinks next to his chair; he will also charge back to the baseline after the coin toss much like a fighter going back to his corner of the ring to begin his duel. Rafa does not touch any of the lines when he changes sides. These things may seem small but it gets him and more important keeps him focused and mentally strong during the entire match. His mind does not waver.

2. Nadal never gives up, he fights for every point as if it is a set point or a match point.  Even when he is down 0-40, he does not give away any points. You should strive to do the same. This will send the message to your opponent that he will have to fight for every single point.

3. Positive attitude! Rafa always has a positive attitude and expects to win the next point. Even when he loses a long tough point he does not dwell on the negative or on the last point too long. You may see he was definitely displeased with the point he played but he quickly moves on. Learn from this; a positive attitude will help you create and expectation of success.

When we look at Nadal’s record in Grandslams, something really stands out right away. Take a look here at the table which shows his results since 2003. Amazingly he has an 83% match winning percentage in the Australian Open, as well as Wimbledon and US Open, and a ridiculous 98% in the French Open. For all 4 slams he has a combined 88% winning percentage!

This shows that in the biggest events, when the pressure is really on to perform, Rafa thrives and buckles down and focuses intensely. Of course these results are a by-product of his incredible work ethic but it is maybe even more due to his well groomed mental preparation before and during matches.


As you might know, Rafa’s main coach since practically the age of 3 has been his Uncle Tony. One of the things that stands out from one of the statements Uncle Tony made after the recent US Open was that even though he agrees with the praises that Rafa receives about his body (speed, agility, quickness); he said that Rafa was even better in the mind! He is amazed that people do not refer to Rafa’s incredible mental strength more often. He says that this is one of the main advantages that Rafa has over his opponents.

It’s apropos that as I write this, Nadal has just clinched the #1 ranking for 2013 with his victory over Richard Gasquet at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Proof again that the mental toughness is pivotal for being really successful in sports.

Rafa himself mentions the importance the mind plays in tennis in his book RAFA, when he says “Tennis is, more than most sports, a sport of the mind; it is the player who has those good sensations on the most days, who manages to isolate himself best from his fears and from the ups and downs in morale a match inevitably brings, who ends up being world number one.”

Now it’s your turn to keep improving your mind for tennis! Check out our resource section to find books which will raise the level of your mental toughness!

The Importance of Goal Setting in Tennis

Most of us are fully aware that goal setting is essential part of achieving things in life and during this time of the year many of us have already created the financial, family, health and relationship goals we want to achieve during 2015. In tennis this is no different. Whether you are a beginner or advanced tennis player you need to create goals which will propel you to improve in specific areas. It is proven that setting the right goals in tennis will enhance performance and improve motivation.

One of the important things to understand is that there are different type of goals that you can set. There are outcome, performance and process goals. Outcome goals are more general and would be for example wanting to be the best player on your varsity team or winning your regional singles tournament. In order to reach your outcome goals you need to set performance and process goals. A performance goal will refer to your actual performance as a player and include things like increasing your 1st serve percentage or reducing your unforced errors in a match by 20%. This type of goal can be measured and progress towards the goal can be tracked. The last type of goal – process – refers to how a player will improve a particular stroke. The process involved in creating and perfecting that stroke will be the focus.

The other essential part to understand is that goals need to be SMART goals. What does this mean? It means the goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and be constrained to a certain Time or Time Bounded. Creating this type of goal will maximize the probability that you will achieve the goal as long as you also create a workable action plan.

Also keep in mind that a goal is categorized either as a short term goal or a long term goal. A short term goal can take days, weeks, or a couple of months to accomplish while long term goals are those which will usually take 6 months or more to accomplish. Don’t just set long term goals. It is important to maintain motivation by setting short term goals which one can see progress in as a stepping stone to your long term goals.

The Best goals are SMART goals!

Now let’s look at some examples. Let’s select a short term goal. For example, you are looking to be able to hit the forehand volley down the line consistently, which would be hitting 7-8 shots in out of ten during a rally.  And you would like to achieve this improvement within the next 3 months. Choose a set of actions which are easy enough to follow on a continuing basis. A) Plan to set a side 30-45 minutes at least once a week to work on this stroke. The more time you dedicate to this the quicker your improvement of course but I know we all have time constraints and the important thing is that you stick to your plan and make it reasonable for you to follow. If you cannot find a hitting partner you can look at renting a ball machine from your local tennis club; for a 30 min rental pricing is usually very reasonable. B) If possible take a couple of private classes with a local tennis pro just to make sure you are using the right grip and you are using the proper technique. Sometimes all it takes is a little tweak of the technique for you to attain consistency and power. C) Determine to study videos available readily on You Tube that show pros hitting their forehand down the line to watch their technique in action. The mind learns visually also so the more you see something like a tennis stroke done properly, the easier it will be for you to emulate that.  D) Finally, review your goal and your progress on a regular basis to make sure there is progress. In this case, progress can be measured easily because you can track a 70-80% success rate in your forehand down the line.

As mentioned before, a long term goal is a goal that will likely take longer then 6 months to accomplish. If you are a beginner B player in your local league, a long term goal would be to improve your game enough so that you can move up to the A level in the next 6-8 months. This more then likely means that you will have to improve several strokes in your game and maybe add a new shot to your arsenal like volley or drop shot. These improvements to your game can be considered short term goals which you will need to develop as explained in the previous paragraph.

Whatever your goal is, the important thing is that you should write them down and make sure they are SMART goals. Studies have shown that you are about 30% more likely to achieve your goal if it is written down. Review them preferably every week or at least every 2 weeks to make sure you are on track. For long term goals it is essential to write down the progress you have made on a monthly basis.

Wishing you the best of luck in meeting your tennis goals in 2015!

Getting the Most from your Practice

One of the main issues I have with my teenage kids today is constantly reminding them to practice effectively or as I put with a specific purpose in mind. Whether it is on the tennis court or on the soccer field where I have also taught recreational soccer, it always good to have fun but to also focus on practicing with specific objectives in mind. Today I will focus specifically on things you can do on the practice court that will help you help you tremendously when you play a match that really counts.

Plain and simple, practicing with a purpose means that every time you go out on the court for any type of practice, be it with a ball machine, a partner or just a hopper of balls to hit serves, you should have before hand a specific goal you want to achieve from that practice session.

When I play a practice match with my tennis buddies, I always have in my mind what I want to practice usually in groups of games. For example the first 3 games of the first set I will focus specifically on hitting my backhand down the line as much as possible to create winners or force errors. If I’m not satisfied with the results after 3 games I’ll extend that goal to another 3 games until I am hitting that shot consistently. The next 3 games I could focus on hitting cross court forehand with a severe angle to open up the court. Of course I’m not trying to attain my goal on every single shot but as soon as I get a good opportunity I go for my “goal” stroke.

I also have complete sets where I’m just focused on minimizing my unforced errors and trying to keep the ball in play as long as possible. I try to avoid going for winners and keep my opponent moving back and forth. This specific practice strategy has helped me in matches where I’m behind in the set and have slowly crept back by forcing my opponent into errors before I do.

I will also practice my serve and volley for several games at a time or also play aggressive tennis where I take any short ball and come into the net. The key is sticking to your plan whether or not you are winning the set against your partner. Remember that the goal is to improve the stroke or tactic you are working on.

Pros of course have specifics that they work on every time on court. Here’s a couple of videos showing the Pros in action. Check out Tsonga  below hitting every ball with a purpose, practicing a forehand backhand burst drill


Here’s Del Potro practicing groundstrokes also at high level.


Besides practicing with a purpose, there are other valuable practice tips I want to leave you with which you should also develop into habits.

1. Get into the habit of visualizing your shots. Before hitting the ball your shot must have a purpose and that means just before you hit your shot in your minds eye visualize exactly where you want the ball to go, what trajectory it will have over the net and exactly where it will land. You’ll be surprised how well this works once you do it often.

2. Watch yourself practice. With today’s smartphones everyone has a video recorder in their hands. Have someone else record part of your hitting session or use a tripod, which are are also inexpensive these days. Watching yourself hit you will discover a wealth of information which you can then compare to videos of pros on you tube. Watch your technique for example on the forehand and then compare to how some of the pros hit theirs. You’ll be able to make the adjustments necessary to improve your stroke.

3. Practice your swing in slow motion. You’ve probably seen some of the Pros do this often after missing a shot. They will do several slow motion practice swings of the shot they just missed. By doing this you can see exactly what your form looks like and make corrections if needed. It will also help create muscle memory of the correct technique.

4. As mentioned above, set goals for your practice session. Have a very clear goal of what you want to accomplish. It is best to concentrate on a single stroke for a while or for the whole session until you are satisfied with the results.

5. Stretch for full benefit from practice. Stretching properly before practices is probably one of the most important tips I can recommend. Stretching should be developed into a daily habit because it will prevent injury and allow you to become more flexible over time. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I actually like to include stretching and a short yoga routine into my daily exercise. For Pros, stretching is a must as described in this article by Nadal’s physiotherapist where he states “Several hours of stretching is a very important part of the daily routine both as a warm up, an exercise in itself and then recovery.”

So next time you decide on hitting the courts, make sure that you have a specific plan for what part of your game you want to work on. You will get so much more out of your routine practice.

Until next time. Enjoy your practice session!

YouTube Videos courtesy of  TheUSTATennisPlayer