Tennis: Winning The Mental Match
By Allen Fox, Ph.D.
Reviewed by Bill Cole, MS, MA, Founder and President,
Purchase Tennis: Winning The Mental Match: printed
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Allen Fox about his book, Tennis: Winning The
new book by Dr. Allen Fox, Tennis: Winning The Mental
Match, is a visionary, groundbreaking treatment of
the mental game that all tennis players need to own. Dr. Fox
covers volumes of new material that has never been discussed
The International Mental Game Coaching Association enthusiastically
endorses Tennis: Winning The Mental Match, and
highly recommends it to all tennis players, tennis parents,
tennis coaches and tennis-teaching professionals. It is an
extremely valuable addition to the sports psychology literature.
It is so well done, and applies to all sports so acutely that
the IMGCA believes any athlete, parent or coach could benefit
from reading it.
Allen Fox is without doubt, of all the mental game of tennis
authors, the best player, the deepest thinker, the writer
with the most clarity and simplicity of ideas, and with the
most practical treatment of the mental challenges facing tennis
players. Dr. Fox truly is one of the Renaissance men of tennis.
He has worn every hat there is to wear in the game, and has
done so with high distinction.
This book, Tennis: Winning the Mental Match,
is his Magnus Opus, the grand culmination of a life's work
as a player, coach, teacher, analyst, observer and writer.
Dr. Fox is a supremely clear thinker and precise, creative
teacher of the mental game. He is able to quickly cut through
the clutter that seems to abound in the sports psychology
world and diagnose and prescribe the exact concept, approach
or technique needed to handle the particular issue a player
is facing. That, among his other talents, may be his lasting
claim to fame. He gets to the heart of the matter directly
and gives practical, actionable advice like no other writer
on the mental game, in any sport.
Too many sports psychologists come from very weak, ineffective
positions when giving psychological advice. Either they began
their careers in physical education departments, and may have
earned a Ph.D., yet they have a second-class citizen inferiority
complex mindset in the academic community. They then try too
hard to make people think they are smart by using an overblown
vocabulary, and by referencing everything they say to a research
study of some sort. Or, the sport psychologist came up through
a department of psychology, but had very few actual courses
in sports psychology, and as a result, they are extrapolating
from research based on non-athletes, or even from populations
of rats and people who are mentally disturbed. Worse, in many
cases, the sports psychologist, from any background, has a
very limited (if any) background as an athlete, teacher or
Dr. Fox is a different breed of sports psychologist cat. He's
the consummate dispenser of psychological wisdom that hits
its mark like the arrow launched from a Zen master's bow.
Since he has worn so many hats, as an analyst, performer,
teacher and coach, he knows what actually works, and what
does not work. He's had to get real results on a daily basis
with his athletes, and what he says has been tested in the
trenches of tennis warfare for years. This is where the usual
sports psychologist falls far short. They live in a world
about two levels removed from what the athlete needs to hear,
and even though what they say may (or may not) be backed by
research, it has such little end-user value as to be virtually
worthless, or confusing, or actually downright wrong.
Dr. Fox has the street smarts, backed with high-level academic
training, to quickly go to the exact place his athletes need
to go. He then leads them through their mental morass and
brings them out the other side, and gives them the tools they
need to bring forth peak performance when they need it most-under
Here are just a few of the many concepts Dr. Fox teaches in
his book that you will want to investigate further.
- Tennis is an intensely emotional game. The goal is to
manage these emotions.
- The three biggest issues Dr. Fox sees are: Angerthe
easiest to fix, tanking, and chokingthe hardest to
- A prime question all players face is the existential
one that causes untold stress: What does winning and losing
mean to me? Dr. Fox has a way of cutting to the chase by
asking us to remember that tennis is a game, and to treat
it as such. Enjoy the sport.
- Don't lie to yourself about your actual desire to win.
Honor that goal and drop your defense mechanisms and compete
- Stress comes when people attempt to control that which
is uncontrollable. Winning a tennis match is not under your
- Under pressure, our logic system becomes unreliable as
emotion corrupts it. The trick is to manage the emotions.
- Make your mind the captain of the ship, with the emotions
as first mate.
- In tennis, you can play a nearly perfect match and still
lose. That compounds the pressure.
- Choking happens to everyone, so accept it.
- Recognize that every match usually has multiple opportunities
to win, not just one.
- Stop getting upset at things you can't change. Accept
- The unique tennis scoring system is diabolical, and must
be understood to play within it effectively.
- The Golden rule: Never do anything on court that doesn't
help you win.
- In a close match the difference can be but a few points.
How you manage you mind and emotions determines your success.
- Angry outbursts are essentially the player giving in
to feeling good instantly by blowing up to escape stress.
Better to face reality, grow up and control yourself to
get what you are really playing the match forto win.
- In a boxing match, as in a tennis match, it does not
take courage to attack the opponent. It does take courage
to get hit and to keep going. Be mentally tough.
- Use dominance techniques and momentum-enhancing strategies.
- Manage expectations by pretending in your mind, even
if you are expected to win easily, that you will be fortunate,
and happily accept, a win in the third at 7-6. That way,
anything else that happens better than that seems wonderful.
- Optimism is one of your biggest on-court weapons. Hone
it and rely on it.
- Develop higher values and character traits that can serve
you well on court and off.
Dr. Allen Fox is one of the most highly-respected figures
in the tennis world. His years of observing the game from
every conceivable vantage point has made Tennis: Winning
The Mental Match a veritable goldmine of wisdom. He
uncovers the essential truths about a multitude of mental
issues a player faces in a match, and does so with great clarity.
There is no fluff in this book. Every thought is as honest
and searching and helpful as Allen is himself. He could write
a book no other way. The man is a true original thinker, and
the tennis world is the better for having him.
In summary, Tennis: Winning The Mental Match
is as of now the best book ever written on tennis psychology.
The reason I say now is because we will have to wait to read
the next book from Dr. Fox. It probably will even be better
and more revealing than Winning The Mental Match. Knowing
the mind of Dr. Fox, I am sure it will be another gem worth
To purchase Tennis: Winning The Mental Match:
Chapters in Tennis: Winning The Mental Match
- Chapter 1: Why Do We Want To Win?
- Chapter 2: The Emotional Issues Of Competition:
- Chapter 3: Using Emotion To Help You Win:
- Chapter 4: Reducing The Stress:
- Chapter 5: The Problems Of Finishing:
- Chapter 6: Choking Its Causes And How To Minimize
- Chapter 7: Confidence And How To Get It If You Don't
- Chapter 8: Game Plans
- Chapter 9: Breaking Down Your Opponent Mentally
- Chapter 10: Maintaining Mental Effectiveness In The Heat
- Chapter 11: The Value Of Optimism
- Chapter 12: Developing Your Game And The Role Of Parents
- Chapter 13: Courage And Higher Values
- Chapter 14: The Psychology Of Doubles
Bio For Dr. Allen Fox
See the full bio for Dr. Fox at www.allenfoxtennis.net/about/
To contact Dr. Fox, go to his website, www.allenfoxtennis.net/
been a top player, college coach, analyst, writer, clinician,
TV personality, promoter, and sport psychologist, among other
Allen earned a B.A. degree in physics and a Ph.D. in psychology
from UCLA where he won the NCAA Singles and Doubles titles
and where he was named UCLA Athlete of the Year and All University
of California Athlete of the Year. He was a three time All
He held the number four ranking in the United States, and
was a three-time member of the US Davis Cup Team. In one magical
week, at the 1966 Pacific Southwest Championships in Los Angeles,
he defeated the current holders of all the Grand SlamsWimbledon
champion Manuel Santana, French Championships victor Tony
Roche, U.S. Champions titlist Fred Stolle, and Australian
Championships winner Roy Emerson. ALL in straight sets!!
Allen competed seven times at the US Championships, twice
at the French, once at the Australian, and five times at Wimbledon,
reaching the quarterfinals in 1962. He had wins over many
of the world's top-ranked players, including Arthur Ashe,
Jimmy Connors, Stan Smith, and John Newcombe.
He built the Pepperdine University tennis team into a national
power, mentoring, among others, renowned coach, Brad Gilbert.
Dr Fox's Pepperdine teams were ranked among the nation's Top
five for 10 consecutive years and reached two NCAA Team Finals.
He coached Robbie Weiss, NCAA Champion in 1988, and Marty
Laurendeau, the current captain of the Canadian Davis Cup
team. Allen was named to the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches
Hall of Fame.
Allen Fox was inducted into the Southern California Jewish
Sports Hall of Fame, the Southern California Tennis Association
Hall of Fame, the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, the Pepperdine
University Hall of Fame, and received the Tennis Educational
Merit Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the
Plagenhoef Educational Award by the PTR.
Author And Speaker
Dr. Fox wrote the tennis best sellers, If I'm the
Better Player, Why Can't I Win? and Think to
Win, and the book we will focus on today, Tennis:
Winning the Mental Match. He is an editor of and contributor
to Tennis Magazine, writes for various web sites, and
is well-known for his 1-Minute Clinics on the Tennis Channel.
He also lectures around the world on tennis psychology, including
at the national conferences of the USTA, USPTA, and the PTR.
He has been a consultant and coach to players at all levels
of the game, and is now working with the Russian Igor Kunitsyn
on the ATP World Tour, currently ranked #66.
There are many notable tennis psychology authors who have
made a lasting impact on the game's literature
- Tim Gallwey with his Inner Game series
- Jim Loehr
- John F. Murray
- Vic Braden
- Brad Gilbert
- Scott Ford
- Walter Luzski
- Robert Weinberg
- Robert Nideffer
- Barry Tarshis
Dr. Allen Fox has firmly ensconced himself at the top of
the tennis psychology hall of fame with his deep understanding
of the many nuanced layers this game possesses. He is a tennis
psychologist who "gets it", and who can "teach it". Tennis:
Winning The Mental Match will be considered an all-time
classic as a major contribution to the field of sports psychology.
Writer Steve Flink from Tennis Magazine called this
book "Indisputably the best book yet in his field."
Enjoy this audio interview
of an all-time great sports psychologist.
Questions Asked Of Dr. Fox In The Audio Interview
- What is the premise of your new book?
- What prompted you to write this book?
- How can listeners contact you?
- How can they purchase the book?
- Mental maladies in tennis run across all ages, levels
and nationalities. Do you see some distinctly different
psychological issues at higher levels, or is it largely
a matter of degree?
- What are the mental skills and attributes that the very
top echelon of tennis players possess that others do not?
- How do you teach mental toughness?
- You have coached many top players, including college
stars and professionals. Observing confidentiality constraints,
can you tell us how you worked with John McEnroe?
- What in your opinion, made Mac great, from a mental standpoint?
- Tell us about the diabolical scoring system that makes
tennis unique, and how to deal with it from a mental standpoint.
- What is your golden rule of tennis?
- You have spoken about how you had a temper when you were
younger, and how that came from wanting to win too much.
You then made a conscious decision to be calmer, and things
improved. In contrast, how do you teach an unmotivated,
non-competitive-minded player (who sincerely wants to do
better in competition) to have the killer instinct, and
to be a more determined competitor?
- How do you work with players who are highly defended
and think they don't need mental coaching? Or for players
who come to you, but are know-it-alls?
- Is there a chapter in the book you see as the most important?
- What mental game advice would you have for parents of
- What mental game advice would you have for coaches or
teachers of tennis players?
- One more time, how can listeners contact you?
- Tell me about your tennis consulting business.
- Once again, how can they purchase the book?
- If you could leave your readers with one major idea,
what would you want it to be?
A complete list of book reviews and interviews in the IMGCA
Expert Author Interview Series can be found in the Book