Today, in the French Open Men’s Final, Roger Federer was leading his nemesis, Rafael Nadal 5-2 in the first set and ended up losing the set, 7-5. All he had to do was hold serve once and the set was his. Instead, Nadal won seven games in a row and gained a tremendous amount to momentum, and eventually won, 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1.

This happens all the time in sports.

Recently, I began giving one-on-one mental toughness sessions to a competitive female tennis player. One of her biggest challenges is that she cannot close out a set or match. When she has a lead, she tends to ease up, lose focus, and/or celebrate victory before it actually happens.

What happened to Roger Federer today?

Only Roger knows that.

But, for the most part, there is no excuse when you lose a 5-2 lead.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Most people play better when they are losing, so…pretend that the score is 2-5.
2. Focus on your strategy (placement, effort), not your situation (so close to winning the set).
3. Play one point at a time.
4. If you feel the momentum shifting to your opponent, SLOW the game down; take your time between points to minimize the length of the rally for your opponent.
5. Go all-out and do what got you to 5-2.

Is finishing a set or match simple?


Is it easy?


You cannot control results, but you can certainly do things to help put yourself in the best possible position to win. Focus on those things and you should be pleased with the results.


Today’s message is especially dedicated to the great Julie Martin-Kolb. Happy Belated Birthday to a passionate tennis mom!

I love hitting aces while playing tennis, but there is an ACE I like even more…

ACE—Acting Changes Everything

The other day I was watching some tennis players and when they hit a good shot, they had great body language and looked extremely confident. But when they missed a shot, they had terrible body language and looked extremely negative.

Here’s what Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer know…

You don’t have to act how you feel. You can feel tired, negative or not into it, but you can still ACT like you are energetic, positive and totally into it. The best part is that when you start acting like the player you want to be, you start feeling like the player you want to be.

Most people have it reversed.


I have a confession.

I like taking notes at movies.

The movies I like to watch are inspirational. They have a lot of great quotes. Recently, I went to see The Karate Kid, I knew it would have some good quotes. Here is my favorite…

There is no such thing as bad student only a bad teacher.

The “evil” kung fu instructor’s motto was “No fear, no mercy.”

Mr. Han’s (good kung fu instructor) motto was “Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. Fight hard, earn respect…Kung Fu is about making peace.”

I know coaches that tell their players to call the ball out when it is close. They teach them to be jerks on the court. They think winning is everything.

Is it?

When I work with athletes and business professionals, I ask them, “At the end of your life, what do you want to be known for?”

The answer is never, I want to be #1 in the world, or I want to be a millionaire with five homes and a boat.

The answer is always something like, “I want to have been a role model; someone who made a difference and led by example. I want to be known as someone who went all-out, regardless of the situation.”

We may not all be coaches, but we are all teachers. We may be teaching our children, our friends, our parents, our fans, our employees or a stranger on the street. But what are we teaching them?

Roger Federer said, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.”

People say, nice guys finish last.

I say, nice guys are winners before the game begins.


Today’s message is especially dedicated to all of you who think that Roger Federer was born with more tennis talent than you. And Happy Birthday to tennis great, coach John Carrigan in the UK.

I’m currently reading a great book, “Bounce – Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success” by Matthew Syed.

The premise of the book is that hard work, not talent determines success. Syed talks about the iceberg illusion. This is when we see a Roger Federer and only see the end result (tip of the iceberg). What we don’t see is the thousands of hours of hard work that he put into this “end product of a process measured in years…What we do not see is what we might call the hidden logic of success.”

Now here’s the interesting thing…

In 1984 Desmond Douglas, the greatest ever UK table tennis player, was placed in front of a screen containing a series of touch-sensitive pads at the University of Brighton. He was told that the pads would light up in a random sequence and that his task was to touch the relevant pad with the index finger of his favored hand as soon as he could, before waiting for the next pad to light up…After a minute, the task ended and Douglas’s teammates gave him a round of applause. Douglas grinned as the researcher left the room to collate the results. After five minutes, the researcher returned. He announced that Douglas’s reactions were the slowest in the entire England team: he was slower than the juniors and the cadets; slower even than the team manager…Douglas was universally considered to have the fastest reactions in world table tennis…

When Roger Federer returns a service, he is not demonstrating sharper reactions than you and I; what he is showing is that he can extract more information from the service action of his opponent and other visual clues, enabling him to move into position earlier and more efficiently than the rest of us, which in turn allows him to make the return – in his case a forehand cross-court winner…

…Federer’s advantage has been gathered from experience: more precisely, it has been gained from a painstaking process of encoding the meaning of subtle patterns of movement drawn from more than ten thousand hours of practice and competition…It is his regular practice that has given him this expertise, not his genes.



I’m reading two amazing books right now – “Bounce” by Matthew Sayed and “The Genius in All of Us” by David Shenk.

Here is a great quote that starts “The Genius in All of Us”…

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources…Stating the thing broadly, the human individual lives far within his limits. -WILLIAM JAMES

What a great quote. And tomorrow, as promised, I will talk about how Roger Federer does not have faster reflexes than you and me…


“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Kim Clijsters won.

Juan Martin del Potro won.

They weren’t supposed to.

Clijsters had only played two tournaments since coming back from a two and a half year layoff.

del Potro had never won a Grand Slam or ever beaten Roger Federer.

Not everything that can be counted counts.

On paper, Clijsters was unseeded. An unseeded woman had never won the US Open.

Roger Federer had not lost a match in the US Open since 2004. But he lost to del Potro.

There comes a point in a match (and life) that you start to believe that something is possible.

It is then that anything is possible.

“When I broke his (Federer’s) serve for first time, I start to believe in my game,” del Potro said.

There is no statistic for belief. There is no statistic for desire.

Not everything that counts can be counted.

del Potro started off the match obviously nervous. He did not play to his potential in the first set. Federer won 6-3. I posted a comment on Facebook…

“Fed vs del Potro…Fed is too tough, but you NEVER know, esp if del Pot goes all out…”

No one believed me.

Am I psychic? No, so what happened?

At the beginning of the match, del Potro was not playing his game. He was nervous and he looked nervous. He was holding back.

The worst thing you can do on the tennis court is to hold back. I knew if del Potro fought through his nerves and went all out like in his other matches, he had a chance.

Even if he went all out and lost, that would be better than holding back and winning.

Take a moment and think about something that you’re holding back in; something that you don’t want to do.

I don’t feel like going to the gym before work.
I don’t feel like doing the bills.
I don’t feel like studying.

Now go and do it anyway…go all out today!

Thanks for reading.


“We are what and where we are because we have first imagined it.”

Today’s message is especially dedicated to yoga masters, Sue Elkind and Naime Jezzeny in Bucks County, PA.

The thoughts that you have are the results that you get.

Tiger Woods visualizes every shot before he takes it.

Roger Federer visualizes every shot before he hits it.

Anthony Robbins visualizes every seminar he gives before he gives it.

Do you think that they visualize negative events?

No way.

We are what we continuously think about, so if we keep thinking that we are not good at golf, guess what?

We’re not going to be good at golf.

Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The great athletes, students, business professionals and performers imagined themselves great before they became great.

Today I will be taping a segment for the “Let’s Talk with Gary Gellman” television show. Zig Ziglar has been on the show. Eli Manning (NY Giants), Nadia Comeneci (Olympic Gold Medalist), Dorothy Hammill (Olympic Gold Medalist), and Thomas Kinkade (International Artist), have as well.

I’m excited.

And I’m nervous.

Before I give a talk, I’m always nervous. But I don’t act nervous. I always visualize myself being successful and confident before I begin.

Today, while I’m driving to the studio, I will visualize myself on the show, in front of the cameras and being confident. I will mentally rehearse the main points of what I want to say. I will make the visualization as real as possible, imagining sounds and smells, as well as the surroundings. I will take deep diaphragmatic breaths to stay relaxed.

Anyone can use this technique.

Use it before a match.

Use it before asking someone out on a date.

Use it before taking a big exam.

But the key is, you have to USE IT.

Thanks for reading. Wish me luck today…


Last night I was a guest on the Essential Tennis Live radio show discussing the French Open Finals with Ian Westermann and Royce Sternquist. Bob Ryland, the first black pro also called in to the show. I had a great time. Listen to the recording here:

Yesterday I started teaching at 8am and finished at 7pm. A long day by any standard, but I paced myself, took breaks, drank plenty of water and brought snacks. I had just enough time to go home, eat, shower and prep for the hour-long radio show. And I wasn’t even tired afterwards! I was energized.

I love what I do. I like to think that I’m making a difference. It’s not work to me. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and start writing down ideas. Most people don’t have energy because they are not doing what they love or focus on all the negatives or things that might go wrong.

Should we just look forward to our summer break, or our two weeks of vacation? Should we just “live” for the weekend?

Or should we do what we love and enjoy the rest of the year?

Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life.

If you don’t want to change careers, try adding several activities during your week, including meditation and yoga to start enjoying every day.

At the beginning of every day, try appreciating everything around you. Be aware of everything you are doing. Be aware of your body. This will help you stay in the present instead of immediately turning the television or radio. We are on information overload nowadays. We are bombarded with information from the television commercials, radio, billboards, the internet and spam. Technology is great, but we need to consciously take time to get back to our true nature.

Take a deep breath right now…then begin.

Thanks for reading.


“In the long run, the sword is beaten by the mind.”

Roger Federer was seeded #2 and won the French Open.

Dinara Safina was seeded #1 and lost.

What was the difference?

The difference is how they handled the pressure. Even though Roger had never won the French Open, he has had more experience playing in pressure situations. And he knows that negative emotions produce negative results. This was Safina’s third Grand Slam final and she wanted it badly. She wanted it so she could say she truly was #1.

But as it turns out, Roger was calm and cool and Dinara self-destructed. She even double-faulted on match point.

Physically, there was very little difference between Federer/Soderling and Safina/Kuznetsova, so it all came down to the mental side.

If Safina focused on her game plan, her attitude and effort instead of the outcome, the result may have been different.

How you deal with pressure is up to you. You choose how you react. And your reaction/perception will affect your results.

Will this match make or break Safina’s career? Probably not, unless she lets it. If she learns from her experience and gets back to work, she’s young enough to still reach her prime. Much of what we think becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading.