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Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis--Lessons from a Master
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Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis--Lessons from a Master [Kindle Edition]

Brad Gilbert , Steve Jamison
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"Winning Ugly explains Brad's formula for a winning tennis game. He understands the mental part of tennis better than anyone I have ever met. Brad helped me improve my game and I believe he can improve yours." (Andre Agassi)

"Priceless for tennis players of all levels." (Chris Fowler, ESPN)

"Winning Ugly is great. These are pro tactics that will improve a recreational player's game fast. Winning Ugly teaches how to play better tennis and is very entertaining." (Pete Sampras)

"Winning Ugly is a totally new approach to getting more out of your tennis game. I wish it had been around when I was learning how to play." (Jim Courier)


The tennis classic from Olympic gold medalist and ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert, now featuring a new introduction with tips drawn from the strategies of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, and more, to help you outthink and outplay your toughest opponents

A former Olympic medalist and now one of ESPN’s most respected analysts, Brad Gilbert shares his timeless tricks and tips, including “some real gems” (Tennis magazine) to help both recreational and professional players improve their game.

In the new introduction to this third edition, Gilbert uses his inside access to analyze current stars such as Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, showing readers how to beat better players without playing better tennis.

Written with clarity and wit, this classic combat manual for the tennis court has become the bible of tennis instruction books for countless players worldwide.


Advice from a pro on how to improve your tennis game lists the six reasons never to serve first and covers psychological aspects of the game.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Brad Gilbert is considered by experts to be among the world’s foremost tennis analysts. A former “Giant Killer” on the ATP Tour, his acute observations are now heard worldwide on ESPN.  Gilbert has coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Andy Murray among others. He lives in San Rafael, California, with his wife, Kim, and three children, Zach, Julian, and Zoe. Visit his website at

Steve Jamison collaborated with legendary UCLA coach John Wooden on the national bestseller Wooden on Leadership. He lives in San Francisco, California. Visit his website at

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

Chapter 1

Mental Preparation: The Pre-Match Advantage

Turning Pro: Young and Innocent

One of the first lessons I learned when I turned pro in 1982 was how much of an edge could be gained before the match even got started. It became obvious to me that for the best players in the world their match had begun a long time before the first serve. They came ready to play and wanted to grab me by the throat as soon as they could.

As a member of the tennis teams at Foothill Junior College and Pepperdine, I liked to just show up and play. I'd settle into the match mentally and physically during the first set. A lot of times I could get away with it because my opponent was doing it too. Do you approach your matches the same way?

On tour this wasn't such a good idea. The slow start didn't work against McEnroe, Lendl, Connors, and some of the veterans. By the time I got settled into some of those matches, the match was already over. One time I started out by losing the first sixteen points of the match. It was over so fast I almost didn't need to take a shower afterwards. Brutal -- I was learning the hard way.

The top players came expecting to have me for lunch, and they'd been thinking about taking that first bite since they found out I was on the menu. Four or five games to work up an appetite? They arrived ready to eat. The main course? Glazed Gilbert.

Being down a couple of breaks early, with no rhythm, no plan, no continuity, put me at too great a disadvantage. I was clobbered regularly by the smart guys on tour. They knew something I didn't.

Start Your Match Before It Begins

What I discovered by looking, listening, and losing was simple. The guys making money out there started honing in on their target (me, for example) before the target was even in sight. The smart ones were consciously and subconsciously reviewing information about the opponent ahead of them as soon as they knew who that player was. The process began hours before the match. The smart players wanted to seek and seize advantage as early as possible. And they wanted to do it in as many ways as possible. For them, one of the big opportunies was good mental preparation. And that means early mental preparation.

When Does Your Warm-up Begin?

Let me tell you when the warm-up doesn't begin. It doesn't begin when you arrive on the court. It may for your opponent, but it shouldn't for you. A smart player starts to prepare for the match on the way to the match, or even before. The warm-up should continue on into the locker room and out onto the court.

The warm-up begins with your brain. Your mind is usually the last part of you to get activated (if it gets activated at all). Players stretch incorrectly for a minute, hit a couple of forehands, and three serves, and it's "Let's start." They barely warm up the body, but that's more attention than they give to their mental preparation. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, and tennis players waste it all the time.

Get into the habit of evaluating your opponent and thinking about the match before you arrive at the court. If you drive to the match your car is the place where your warm-up begins. If you walk to the courts, then the sidewalk is where it happens. No matter what, your warm-up starts on the way to the match.

For me it can begin even earlier than that. The night before a match I'll be in my hotel room thinking about the next day's competition. I'll actually play points out in my mind. I can see myself making shots and winning points. I visualize points we've played in the past. I'll see myself making specific shots against that player. It's almost like watching a videotape of segments of a match. In the morning I'll continue the process.

That little five-minute warm-up you see before a match begins for the players on tour is probably misleading. It looks like we just trot out to the court with that big bag over our shoulder, hit for a couple of minutes, and start the match. For most of us the process has been going on throughout the day -- hitting, stretching, loosening up, a massage, and most of all, that mental review.

The Pre-Match Mental Checklist

Whether I won or lost to a player in our last match, I want to think about the reasons. How did I beat him? What does he do with his shot selection and pattern? Does he attack? Is he a retriever? Does he serve big? What's his return of serve like? Did I make mistakes against him last time? What kind and why? What shots are his best? His worst? Was he forcing me to do something that bothered me? Does he start strong and get too cautious on pressure points? Was it a close match? Were the points long? I review everything that pertains to my opponent's game (as far as strokes and shot tendencies are concerned).

It is also important to consider the "personality" of the game your opponent produces. What does he do to affect the atmosphere, mood, or tempo of the match? Is she very slow between points? Does he get emotional? Does she protest a lot of calls? Is he great when he gets a lead, but not so great when he's losing? Do your opponents give you a lot of small talk on changeovers, taking your mind off the match like McEnroe tried to do to me? Do they always show up ten minutes late? Do they rush through the warm-up and want to start the match as soon as possible?

Prepare yourself mentally for the "stuff" certain players bring with them into the match. I want to be mentally and emotionally set for the fast play of Andre Agassi or the deliberate methodical match tempo of Ivan Lendl. I want to be ready for the temperamental outbursts of Connors and McEnroe or the stonefaces of Michael Chang or Jim Courier. It makes a big difference to me because I'm better able to control my own game plan, tempo, and composure if I know what's likely to be happening on the other side of the net. Believe me, it can make a huge difference, as you'll see later.

The Game Plan

This process of review will lead me right into the equally important process of planning my strategy:

1. What do I want to make happen?

2. What do I want to prevent from happening?

By evaluating my opponent I start solidifying my own approach to the match. As I review their game style and strokes I'm preparing my basic game plan. If they broke down my backhand last time I'll be thinking about how to prevent the same thing from happening this time. If their serve is weak I'm alerting myself and going over how to take advantage of that. I'm planning a specific approach for that specific player. All of this before I even see them at the court.

Set Your Compass

Your body will try to do what your mind tells it to do. In this pre-match review you're programming your mind to give the body correct information once the match begins and things start happening quickly under fire. You're setting the course you want to take to arrive at your destination. That destination is victory.

In its most basic form your plan evolves as you answer these questions:

1. What is my opponent's best weapon?

2. Where is my opponent weak?

3. What is my best shot and how can I direct it at my opponent's weakness?

4. What can I do to keep my opponent away from my own weakness?

Your pre-match effort creates a mental compass. You know where you want to go and how you're going to get there. There may be detours along the way, your opponent may present some surprises, you may get lost, but the basic route is laid out in your head in advance and your mental compass keeps you on course. (Coming up I'll show you how following this procedure helped me beat both Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors, in totally different ways.)

Even if you tend to play the...
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