Allen Fox, Ph.D.

Dr. Allen E. Fox is a former world-class tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s who went on to be a college coach and author. He was ranked as high as U.S. No. 4 in 1962 and was in the top ten in the U.S. five times between 1961 and 1968.

In 1960, he won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) doubles title with Larry Nagler for the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). 

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In 1961, as team captain, Fox won the NCAA singles title. He was named All-American in 1959, 1960, and 1961, and was named All-UCLA and All-University of California Athlete of the Year. 

Fox helped lead UCLA to NCAA team championships in 1960 and 1961. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in physics in 1961 and later earned a Ph.D. there in psychology.

In 1961, as team captain, Fox won the NCAA singles title. He was named All-American in 1959, 1960, and 1961, and was named All-UCLA and All-University of California Athlete of the Year. 

Fox helped lead UCLA to NCAA team championships in 1960 and 1961. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in physics in 1961 and later earned a Ph.D. there in psychology.

 

When he graduated, Fox was the 4th-ranked singles player in the United States. He won the singles title at Cincinnati in 1961. He won also the 1962 US National Hard Court title. That year, he reached the singles final in Cincinnati, falling to Marty Riessen. In 1965 he reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

In 1966, he won the Canadian Nationals and the (40th annual) Mercedes-Benz Cup, formerly known as the Pacific Southwest Championships, as a graduate student, beating the then-current Champions of all four Major Slams - Manuel Santana, Wimbledon, Fred Stolle, US, Tony Roche, French, and Roy Emerson, Australian, in the Finals.

Fox coached the Pepperdine University men’s tennis team, at the highest level-Division 1, for 17 years. His teams, which included Brad Gilbert, reached the NCAA finals twice, the semifinals three times, and the quarterfinals six times. In his career, he coached his teams to a 368–108 won-lost record between 1979 and 1995; the .778 winning percentage is the best in Pepperdine tennis history.

Fox has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and lecturer. He has authored several books, including Think to Win: The Strategic Dimension of Tennis, If I'm The Better Player, Why Can't I Win?, TENNIS: Winning the Mental Match, and The Winner's Mind: A Competitor's Guide to Sports and Business Success. He is a former editor of Tennis Magazine.

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AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2021

Women's Final

By Allen Fox

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The Osaka – Brady final was a disappointment for me. Of course, as a former UCLA Bruin myself, I was a Brady fan to begin with. In addition, I was pulling for her as an underdog. And finally, I am not a fan of Osaka’s social activism, which has, in my opinion, no place in sports.

It was a tough day for Brady, since Osaka was superior in every aspect of the game including the forehand, serve, and backhand. The first set was sketchy from both players – a mixture of errors and good shots, but mostly errors – up until 4- all. At which point Osaka served a good game to reach 5-4, and Brady served quite a bad one to lose the set 6-4.

In the second set, Brady continued to be shaky and make errors. In fact, she was even shakier than the first set as Osaka stabilized and sprinted to a 4-0 lead. I was getting frightened that Brady might embarrass herself by totally falling apart. I was relieved when she began to hit in a few big forehands and serves and even some excellent backhands to make the set credible. She was helped in this effort by Osaka, who, serving at 4-0, may have begun to think of the trophy. She made some timely errors, and Brady connected with enough groundstrokes to break serve and get on the scoreboard.

Brady then got in every first serve and blew through Osaka to reach 4-2, and it appeared that Osaka might be tightening. Maybe there was hope for Brady after all. But it was not to be. Osaka began with a barrage of big first serves and followed up with heavy groundstrokes to stretch her lead to 5-2.

After Brady held it was closing time (Or maybe not. This is when the nerves are most likely to act up.). Osaka began the game with a smoking forehand winner up the line. Oh oh. Brady followed up by missing a forehand. Not good. This is just when she needed to keep the pressure on to see if Osaka might be thinking “trophy” and tighten. Another two missed forehands by Brady (a routine rally ball and a serve return) and she handed the match and title to Osaka.

It was not a good ending. Brady needed to keep the ball in the court to test Osaka’s nerves. Instead, it looked like she thought the match was over and was resigned to her fate. She went down tamely. In summary, it was a fine and fitting win for Osaka, who was clearly the better player, but was disappointing in that the tennis was not up to either player’s highest standard.

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Unfortunately, at least for Medvedev fans, the men’s final wasn’t any better than the women’s final. He just didn’t play well. Why? Several reasons appear to be the case to me. (And there are probably more that I am not aware of.) The obvious and simple one is that Djokovic played great throughout, and when your opponent plays that well, you are likely to play poorly. By the third set, Djokovic totally broke Medvedev down mentally, though the score didn’t show it. The tournament was, overall, a great achievement for Novak.

Another possible reason for Medvedev’s poor play is that Djokovic worked to dominate him early. How? 

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First, Djokovic early in the match worked on Medvedev’s forehand, which is usually his big shot. Instead of avoiding it, as most players might, out of concern that Medvedev might hit it well and control points, Djokovic hit extra balls to it to show Medvedev he had no fear of it. In response, Medvedev began to think too much and make errors off of it. (In general, most players can hurt opponents more with their forehands, but it is a “confidence” shot as compared to the backhand, which is usually a more “mechanical” one. Thus the forehand can break down if players start thinking too much when they hit it.)

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Another way Djokovic dominated was to threaten Medvedev with the drop shot and the net attack to throw him further off balance. Early, Medvedev had to worry, during the rally, that Djokovic might hit the drop shot so he had to consider the forward-backward issue in addition to the side-to-side issue. And Novak came forward occasionally to give Medvedev something else to think about. And all along, Novak punished Medvedev’s second serve, taking control of too many of them to get Medevev on the run.

Overall, Medvedev played a reasonable (though not great) first set, other than a bad game on his serve at 5-6 down to lose it. Then after failing to consolidate an early service break in the second by immediately losing his own serve, Medvedev got a bit shaky and played a bad set, losing it 6-2, making too many routine errors, and missing too many of his big first serves. Djokovic took advantage of this and kept the ball rolling in his favor by playing consistently, intelligently, and aggressively the entire time. He had control of most of the points, serving consistently with pinpoint accuracy, and had Medvedev running desperately and far from deep positions while he was able to hug the baseline himself.

The third set wasn’t as close as even the 6-2 score indicated. Medvedev totally broke down mentally. He was muttering to himself and shaking his head after virtually every point. This is no way to improve your control of the ball when you are making mistakes. It ensures only that you will continue to make them and even make more. When you are playing poorly, your obligation as a competitor is to shrug off your errors, remain cool emotionally, and figure out how to raise your game. Medvedev did exactly the opposite, even double-faulting twice by hitting first serves as second serves and missing them.

This was an expensive tennis lesson for Medvedev. It cost him about $1 million, so hopefully will get his money’s worth. He must learn to keep better control of his emotions when he is being dominated by an opponent and his game is misfiring. Tennis matches are about problem-solving, and you can only do this when you are emotionally balanced and rational.

For example, when you are missing your first serve, as Medvedev was, you must work to get it functioning by relaxing for a while, hitting it slightly less hard, but more smoothly and in synch, in order to regain feeling, not by trying to hit it harder. Had he kept cool and focused, his groundstrokes may have improved as the match wore on rather than deteriorated. Finally, it wouldn’t hurt Medvedev to work, in his off time, on his volley so he can slip in net attacks when he is not playing his best on the baseline. But nothing can be accomplished without maintaining emotional control, which should be Medvedev’s primary lesson for the day.

Look for the Allen Fox bestsellers "Winning the mental match" and "Think to win" on Kindle, Tennis Warehouse or directly on his website allenfoxtennis.com

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