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Thu, June 27

Column: Tennis book titles - make or break them?

There are thousands of tennis books that have been written over the past 140 years, on instruction, rules, biographies, history, books of records and stats, humor, novels of fact and fiction, equipment, psychology, training, antiques, the list is as long as your imagination.

Each one of these endeavors took a fair amount of time, effort and cost to produce and market.

Before the writer(s) went to press there was surely much thought on what the title and sub-title would read - the hook of what just might catch your interest to get you to read and buy it.

Dr. Allen Fox, an NCAA singles winner, three-time Davis Cup member, Wimbledon quarter-finalist, tennis coach at Pepperdine and author of many tennis books said, "With my first book, 'If I'm the Better Player, Why Can't I Win?', came from having heard this question from so many players - so many times. Players think they are better than their opponents because they hit the ball better (or harder).  

"As Brad Gilbert showed people, this isn't so.  What's between the ears is equally important.

"My 'Think to Win' book title was given to me by Charlie Hoeveler, owner of the Nike tennis camps and a very smart guy. 'The Winner's Mind' came from discussions with my publisher, Crawford Lindsey of USRSA, a very smart Ivy League type of guy.

"The word 'winning' is in the titles in one form or another because this is the reader's basic objective and he or she wants to know how to do it more."

With instructional books, which of these titles grab you?

"Tennis for the Future" - "Tennis 2000" - "The Inner Game of Tennis" - "Winning Ugly" - "Text Book of Lawn Tennis" - "Winning the Mental Match" - "The Art of Doubles."

Vic Braden, one of the most well-known tennis instructors of our time commented, "While working in our sports research center, everything was focused on changes that were needed in the future ... thus, "Tennis for the Future."

"The Inner Game of Tennis" has been the best selling tennis book ever written.  Certainly the content and word-of-mouth played the largest part, but what about the title?

"Winning Ugly" the title by Brad Gilbert is also intriguing enough to get you to pick it up.

Some tennis biographies that tout famous tennis players have been named below.  Do the titles make sense to you based on who it's about?  McEnroe's title, "You Cannot Be Serious" has become a phrase that's entered our culture - so it becomes a pretty good headline for his book.

"OPEN" (Andre Agassi) - "The Outsider" (Jimmy Connors) - "Aces, Places and Faults" (Bill Tilden) - "Acing Depression" (Cliff Richey) - "Venus Envy" (Venus Williams) - "You Cannot Be Serious" (John McEnroe) - "Days of Grace" (Arthur Ashe) - "Breaking Back" (James Blake).

And just how do you get across what's in a tennis novel that reflects the books nature in its title?

"Proudly She Serves" - "Death Serves an Ace" - "Tie-Break" - "The Promising Young Man" - "The Good Loser" - "The Tennis Terror and Other Tennis Stories."

There's no doubt the words bring a picture to mind, and add to that a cover picture or illustration that also wets your appetite.

Maybe you heard about the book through a friend, a review in TENNIS magazine, or were at the book store in the sports section and read the forward, opened it and thumbed through the pictures; but it seems the title has a lot to do with that first impulse to pull it off the shelf to take home with you to cozy up with for a period of time.

Bottom line is that each author and publisher comes up with the best possible title they can, knowing these few words can make their creation or break it.  After all the work put into a special work of art, who wants a lame name?

Allen Fox has had the word "winning" in all his books' titles, so I've decided to go through the back door and title my first tennis book, "How to Avoid - LOSING."  No doubt a best-seller in the making.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry.  He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@q.com.

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