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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Kenny G and Emmo

February 2022

I recently watched a documentary about the popular musician Kenny G. Yes, Kenny G. The originator of doctor's office "soft jazz," featuring that whiny Soprano Saxophone lead. Not my thing, but I found Kenny G an interesting success story.

Kenny G Playing Clarinet

I was especially intrigued by a segment in which the interviewer is commenting to Mr. G how amazing it is that one of his 20 year old hits – one that happened to sell a gazillion records worldwide – still is heavily played on the radio even today. After praising Kenny's masterly playing and phrasing on that referenced piece, G eagerly responds with pride,

Yeah thanks, and I still play it at my concerts today, but I play it much better now (incredulously)…I've been practicing it for 20 years.

The great Roy Emerson, aka Emmo - a contemporary of fellow Aussie Rod Laver when the down-unders were dominant - and holder of the most major tour titles until Pete Sampras eventually surpassed him at 14, also had an equally great appreciation of practice and its rewards.

I once attended an Emerson on-court clinic/seminar years ago in Tucson, AZ. Emerson, the headliner of the convention, proceeded to demonstrate – and show off a bit since he still could - a number of live ball drills with some very good young players. After well over a half hour of highly paced drilling, accompanied by a growing, but respectfully silent frustration among the attendees – all of whom were familiar with the nothing new tried-and-true drills being demonstrated – who were sitting adjacent to me waiting for the clinic pearl. He finally made his way over to the bleachers and said, "That's what myself and the "boys" (Aussie speech) did for a couple of hours every morning, then we would play practice sets in the afternoon for a few more hours. We did those 2-a-days in preparation for Davis Cup Ties. After a few weeks of that we could see the ball pretty well. Any questions?"

No sir. Got it. Pearl time.

Roy Emmerson "Emmo" Playing Tennis, black and white photo

So why do the vast majority of club players, just about all of whom view winning as the coin of the local realm, actually avoid game improvement through practice (and reading about it as well) like the plague? Instead preferring to focus exclusively on match play – league and friendlies – often embracing embarrassing, truncated pre-match warm-ups that are in complete contradiction, and unsportsmanlike too, to far more functional, long since established traditional warm-up protocols that are instrumental in helping you settle to the task and play well.

Never mind actually practicing.

Both G and Emerson, both hugely successful players in their own disciplines, are, hopefully, motivating examples of what it takes to reach a high level, and then continue to get better in G's instance.

What did Pete Sampras once say about practice? "No one realizes how hard I work at it to make it look so easy."

You can make it "easier" too.

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Past Essays

  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
    [read more]
  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
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  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
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  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
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  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
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  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
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  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
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  • March 2022 - Caving
    [read more]
  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
    [read more]
  • January 2022 - The Knees
    [read more]
  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
    [read more]
  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
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  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
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  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
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  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
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  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
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  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
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  • May 2021 - The Focus
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  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
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  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
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  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
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  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
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Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays

2020

  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
    [read more]
  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
    [read more]
  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
    [read more]
  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
    [read more]
  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
    [read more]
  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
    [read more]
  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
    [read more]
  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
    [read more]
  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
    [read more]
  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
    [read more]
  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
    [read more]

2019

  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
    [read more]
  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]

2018

  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]

2017

  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.