ETI 001 | Three Keys to Winning Tennis

Everyone enjoys tennis when playing well.  But when it comes to tournaments, league play, or even the regular game with your favorite opponent, we all want to win.  But tennis becomes a contest when your opponent is evenly matched and wants to win every bit as badly as you.

Here are three time-tested keys to winning the close fought contest.

  1. Keep the ball in play.  At even the highest level of professional tennis, the winner of the match is the player who makes the fewest errors.  But there is more to the story.  As the second set begins, you must truly how the points are falling.  If you are winning, you must know why, so you can continue to impose your game.  And if losing, you must equally know why so you can decide what aspect of your game you must change.  And this entire process begins simply with your determination to minimize errors and keep the ball in play.
  2. First impressions, and the value of winning the first point of every game.   All points are equal, but in some sense big points occur predictably in the tiebreaker or at the end of a very close set.  But way too often, you and I overlook the simple strategic benefit from getting an early lead – in a game, in a set, or in a match.  Simply put, do everything you can to win the first point of every game.  The first game of every set, and the first set of every match.  Momentum is a two way street, and if you are ahead in every game, that can weigh heavily on your opponent.
  3. Pay close attention to the other side of the net.  In many if not most instances, players focus on how they hit the ball, and where they direct their shots.   But if you pay close attention to your opponent’s mannerisms, as well as their reaction to errors, you will as often as not discover their “Achilles Heel,” the shot they simply cannot hit, or the error that truly drives them crazy.  Pay  close attention to your opponent.
  4. And though we only said there were three keys within this podcast, if you would like a fourth – then play silently and without negative expression.  Arthur Ashe played a cool and collected game, with similar mannerisms whether winning or losing.  Often if you are cool and collected when behind in a set or match, the opponent may actually wonder why you are not “sweating it.”

Friends – this stuff works.  Keep me posted.  I do need your feedback




  • DianeDP

    Reply Reply July 6, 2012

    I loved this article. There is also great insight into the game in Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open”. Keep the advice coming Agyeno!

  • John Brennan

    Reply Reply July 26, 2011

    Many excellent podcasts. I am a USPTA pro of some 30 years and probably the most successful high school coach and New York history. Our girls teams has gone undefeated for twelve years winning 189 consecutive matches. My teaching philosophy is very similar to yours. I very much enjoy your lessons and will use them in our upcoming season.

    P.S. Google my name and St. Francis Prep. tennis and you will see how your teaching ideas have worked for our team. Keep up the good work.

  • Chavdar Draganinski

    Reply Reply July 22, 2011

    Hi Jim,

    Sincere congratulations on your work!

    It is your article about “Linear-Circular” I want to mention.

    I read a lot about the “modern forehand” – there are tons of articles and tons of DVDs offered. Well, it’s a business, I understand. But in a full of details explanation it is very hard to get the main idea and formulating the main idea is what you are best at. It is not simplifying, but getting to the “forest” of the concept and not the separate trees there.

    Which is the common mistake of your friends at FYB, though they are good.

    I wanted to ask you about the “anti-pusher” technique and tactics.

    We started to play doubles matches: the oldest guy is 67, the youngest – 40 tish.
    I am in the middle of the road – 56. What these guys do when playing competitively is exactly what you teach: keeping the ball in play, very weak second serves and other shots that have no power or pace, landing in the middle of the service box. I try to blast these balls and as you might suspect: too much pace, or two much spin and may-be 25% success.
    I cannot play this game naturally, as I have always played hard and singles.
    You suggest that one should wait and then pull the trigger against a pusher. OK, but it is especially hard for me to do that from the forehand side, as I evidently cannot choose the right shot or technique.

    I will appreciate any suggestions that I regard with a lot of respect.

    Best regards,

    Chavdar Draganinski, Laval, Quebec, Canada

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 22, 2011

      Chavdar – this is about playing the ball at the “top of the bounce” from inside the baseline, when returning their second serve. The apex, the zenith, the moment when the ball peaks at a moment well above the net, and then to use a flat(ish) stroke hitting it level if not down and over the net
      Check out Mastering the Ground Game in the product list for more info
      And I do appreciate your nice comments about the forest and the trees

  • Kostyantyn Yermakov

    Reply Reply June 6, 2011

    This is Fundamental. Regardless of your level it make sense when looking for improvement to go back to basic.

    Many thanks

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 12, 2011

      Kos – at the end of the day it is all about the basics – fascinating how often they can be overlooked

  • Sid Kurkure

    Reply Reply June 3, 2011

    just saying that Sharapova barely got through it, having a twisted ankle as well as huge shrieks.

  • Sid Kurkure

    Reply Reply June 3, 2011

    Scenario 1: 1995 Wimbledon Final: P. Sampras d. B. Becker in four sets. P. Sampras service stats: 24 aces, 7 double faults. B. Becker service stats: 18 aces, 15 double faults.
    Scenario 2: 2010 Roland Garros Final: Nadal d. Soderling. Nadal stats: 7 aces,16 winners, 10 errors, 1 double fault. Soderling stats: 7 aces, 45 winners, 40 errors, 4 double faults.
    Scenario 3: Sharapova d. Dulgheru Miami 2011: Dulgheru stats: 45 errors, some number of winners. Sharapova stats: some number of aces, 17 double faults, some number of winners, 76 errors.

  • baldev

    Reply Reply June 2, 2011

    My child is nine years old. He is playing tennis for the last one year. He wants to become good tennis player. I will highly grateful u provide necessary information for the workout and tennis skill to improve his tennis.


    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 3, 2011

      Baldev – I believe it is more important to build athletic skills and then use those skills as a skeleton on which to build a tennis game – meaning introduce soccer for foot skills, badminton for the serve and over head, and baseball batting with whiffle balls on both sides to train the body how to swing – then consider some of our products for your reference – especially Mastering the Ground Game and Building the Serve from the ground up – and at some point use Youtube so I can take a peek at the kid

  • Plamen Petrov

    Reply Reply June 1, 2011

    Very important things. Thanks Jim!

  • Joannis Roidis

    Reply Reply June 1, 2011

    Thanks for sharing. You have just pointed some points that are rarely observed. Iwill try them tomorrow morning.
    Best regards,

  • Claudio Velenosi

    Reply Reply May 20, 2011

    Excellent points Jim! Winning the first point of every game is important. I hadn’t thought of that. I’ve always looked at the end results. I had read that one shouldn’t be expressive on the court, be relaxed and not show emotion!! Thanks for the reminder. My big problem is when the score is 30-15, and winning the next point. The other is closing out a match without choking. For an old fellow, I string my racquet at 60lbs and I use Bobolot Rpm. I like to hit the ball! Consistency is and can be a problem for me. Anyway, I thank you. Keep up the good work! I may make it on the geriatric tour some day.

  • Joao Correia Paiva

    Reply Reply May 20, 2011

    Hi Jim, Thank you for your “Three Keys”. I Will play tonight with my favorite opponent! It will be a tough match! I Know this Stuff Works and I will keep in mind trying all my best to put them in practice! Tomorrow I will tell you the result/Score! Hope to Win 🙂 Excellent tips! Best Regards!

  • saurintparikh

    Reply Reply May 20, 2011

    Classics advice.

    Its really true advice.

  • Jack Phifer

    Reply Reply May 19, 2011

    great tips, excellent idea this gives you something to think about it really helps with the nerves etc. when you are focusing on winning the first point ,first game, first set . Keeping the ball in play is fantastic because players hate to see that little ball keep coming back. thanks

  • JimF

    Reply Reply May 19, 2011

    Good post!
    I like to joke about the “critical first point”, and claim that the first point is the most important of all — other than the last point.
    I once bet a friend that in an ATP match we were watching the player that won the first point would win the game 75% of the time. I won. Never seen tour stats, though.
    p.s. with 4 out of 3 keys you missed a chance for a Monty Python “Spanish Inquisition” joke.

  • Kris Tuttle

    Reply Reply May 19, 2011

    Good points here. I hadn’t thought about the first point/first set rule but agree with it. Partly because it helps to focus on the concentration at the start which is an area where I can drift a little.

    On the observation side it’s a great point. It’s important to hit a variety of shorts (each one more than once) to see how your opponent reacts to them. For example some guys I play just love a hard hit backhand. They return it with joy. But softer slices they don’t digest as easily or high loopy shots to the backhand. I agree that you need to try everything and observe the results.

    One big point I’d add to this is to hit the ball deep. Of course “it’s obvious” but still I don’t think there’s enough focus on it. In terms of “why am I winning?” it’s almost always because I’m getting the ball deep on a good opponent. When I’m losing my shots are often shallow at mid-court which opens up too many angles and shortens my time to react.

  • Noushin Kananian

    Reply Reply May 19, 2011

    Excellent. Thanks for sharing.

Leave A Response To Joannis Roidis Cancel reply

* Denotes Required Field