As I worked closely with the very top tennis players in the world, I discovered something very interesting...
Hi - I’m Allon Khakshouri.
That’s me in the middle of the picture, at the trophy ceremony of the Thailand Open, where I was both the tournament director and owner. To my left are Paradorn Srichaphan, the first Asian tennis player to break into the top 10, and Novak Djokovic- two players I managed.
I’ve been involved in the tennis world for the last 20 years:
As a tennis manager representing many world-class players, including three of the world’s best players (Novak Djokovic, Marat Safin, and Dinara Safina). I also managed Ivan Ljubicic who now coaches Roger Federer. I spent thousands of hours with them - at practice courts, airports, player lounges, and tournaments.
As a member of the ATP council for the last ten years.
As an owner of my own ATP tournament which was staged in Bangkok and Shenzhen, and featured players like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray.
In all these roles, I had the opportunity to get to know and interact with players like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Maria Sharapova.
I worked with tennis players from when they were juniors (I started working with Novak when he was 14) up until they became multiple grand-slam winners.
I also witnessed many extremely talented kids who couldn’t handle pressure and ended up having mediocre careers.
I saw how they trained, what they did before and after matches, and how they coped with all the ups and downs that shape the life of any athlete.
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There was always one thing that fascinated me…
I noticed that the very top tennis players are not more talented than everyone else, contrary to everyone’s beliefs.
And they don’t necessarily have more money or better coaches, at least early on in their careers...
Strangely, often the seemingly most gifted and privileged players ended up “wasting their talent” and their “opportunities” and never made it onto the big stage.
Other players beat all odds and exceeded everyone’s expectations:
Take Novak for example:
He wasn’t viewed as a future prodigy by most tennis experts.
I actually remember how hard it was to get him his first international commercial deals.
To complicate things, Novak also suffered from health and fitness issues in his early years, often struggling to finish 5 set matches.
In fact, even when he was #3 in the world, most people in the tennis world didn’t think he could seriously compete with Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.
Novak not only became the world #1, but he also stayed there for more weeks, months, and years than anyone else and already belongs to one of the greatest players of all time.
As a sports agents, this is the critical question we need to ask ourselves so we can predict future stars.
I have always been fascinated with topics related to high performance and have consistently asked myself things like:
What separates the very best tennis players in the world from everyone?
What makes a player become a world #1?
And what defines the few players who can stay at the top for many years?
So I went on a journey. I read thousands of books about high performance.
I reviewed scientific studies.
I attended seminars and online courses.
I talked to and observed all the best tennis players in the world. I also chatted with their coaches, agents, sponsors, and even ex-tennis players who dominated the ATP tour.
I observed them. Studied them. Thought deeply about what really separates them from everyone else.
Eventually, I noticed a fascinating trend...
I discovered that what separates the top tennis players from everyone else is not widely talked about.
Because it’s not sexy, fun, or exciting to the media and the larger population.
At the same time, it is the ONE thing that can transform your career and make such a huge difference regardless if you are playing club matches, future, professional tournaments, or Grand Slams.
It’s the ONE thing that helps the top tennis players train with more intensity so they get more bang for their bucks.
Win the match points without choking, or concert breakpoints without hitting silly unforced errors.
Dig deep and perform at their best when it matters most…
Recover from tough losses, losing streaks, and injuries, often returning stronger than ever ( like Nadal just recently did)
Handle all the pressure of a professional tennis career (from parents, coaches, sponsors, and media) without it hurting their training, focus, or performance.
And love the journey of competitive tennis regardless of their results ( which paradoxically helps them win more).
So you want to know the “secret” that lets them stay on top of their A-game - for years at a time?
Let’s return back to Novak Djoković.
How did he become one of the best tennis players in the world, despite what everyone thought about him?
The answer is pretty straightforward:
He was great at getting great.
Novak constantly improved as a tennis player and was always eager to finetune his game.
But that was not all.
He constantly transformed himself and his lifestyle.
For example, he changed his fitness regime and diet and eventually became one of the fittest players on tour.
He also started to practice mindfulness and meditation to become more focused, calm, and recover better.
When he was ranked 3rd in the world, behind Rafa and Roger, he didn’t say to himself that “this is just the way things are”.
He refused to accept the status quo.
Instead, he envisioned himself as the #1 tennis player in the world, analyzed what was holding him back from achieving that, and worked relentlessly to turn his weaknesses into strengths.
He was able to do that because he became extremely mentally agile.
This means that he was able to adapt his thinking, habits, and lifestyle to perform at his best and get every drop out of what he was capable of.
A mentally agile tennis player is able to:
Have big goals and yet enter a match completely detached from any outcome.
Train hard and stay focused during practice and still have fun.
Recover from losses, losing streaks, and injuries without losing the fire in the belly.
Stay calm and play their best tennis during key points of big tournaments.
Mental agility allows you to handle any situation that your tennis career throws your way in the best possible way so that you constantly improve and perform more consistently at your upper limits.
If you take a closer look at some of the top tennis players in the world, you can notice this quality in them as well.
Take a moment and think about how Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play.
What makes their game different from everyone else's?
With Roger it’s pretty obvious:
You’ll notice that he is loose on the court, not tense.
He flows through the points with a sense of grace and lightness.
Just like Roger, Rafa and Novak are agile in the sense that they are constantly able to adapt to different opponents and match situations.
They never give up.
At times they smile and at times they look like warriors.
One moment they look like they’re having fun, the next moment you can see the sheer determination in their eyes.
This is because they adapt quickly to specific match situations.
Then, as they get older, they keep getting better and add new weapons to their arsenal.
One reason for this is because they learn from experiences.
Another reason is they constantly look for ways to work on their game and improve.
Above all, they love what they do.
Even when things don’t go their way.
They’re not constantly swearing, blaming the umpire, fans, and everyone else for their mistakes.
They usually approach the game much more calmly.
They can handle the pressure during close matches. Not only that, they thrive on it.
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How can YOU become more mentally agile (and win more tennis matches)?
Based on all the research I’ve done and everything I’ve seen over my 20 years on the ATP tour, I know that anyone can learn how to become more mentally agile.
It’s not a thing that you “just have” or don’t have, it’s something you can learn and get better at.
It’s a skill that can be practiced, just like you can practice your forehand, serve, and netplay.
Scientists have shown that specific exercises can help you modify your brain to improve your memory, develop new skills faster, and perform better in sports.
In the exact same way that you can practice your serve, forehand, and netplay…
...through practice drills!
But where do you find those, and how do you apply them to immediately improve your tennis game?
I searched throughout the internet far and wide and couldn’t find a good enough resource that would teach tennis players how to become more mentally agile.
That’s why I decided to create one.
Let me introduce you to...
The Mental Agility Playbook
14 mental agility drills that will help you win more matches and tournaments, improve your game faster, and perform best when it matters most.
To help you become more mentally agile, I put together a book with 14 different mental agility drills, each specifically designed to help you improve a specific part of your mental game.
By incorporating these drills into your training, tournaments, and lifestyle, you’ll be able to play better tennis. Period.
The Mental Agility Playbook was designed for tennis players of all ages - from grown-up athletes who compete on the ATP tour, to junior tennis players, to their coaches and agents, as well as hobbyists.
If you want to improve your own mental agility or the mental agility of your clients… I can help you.
“Does the Mental Agility Playbook work?”
Before releasing the Mental Agility Playbook to the public, I thoroughly tested it.
I showed it to some of the best tennis coaches in the world and asked them for their feedback - and improved it based on what they said.
I tested it with grown-up tennis players and helped them turn losing streaks into winning streaks.
I tested it with a 13-year-old tennis player who struggled with keeping his cool and ended up losing matches he should be winning.
Within a few weeks of us working together, he started winning matches and fighting for every point with a newfound fire in his belly.
His dad ended up saying to me: “What did you do with him? I don’t even recognize him anymore!”.
I know that the mental agility drills in this playbook work and that they can give you an unfair advantage on the tennis tour (or in your local tennis club).
But don’t take my word for it - test them out for yourself and discover what you’re capable of!