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Second Chance Greatness

The US Open at Flushing Meadows gave me the chance to have a true New York City experience filled with stars and one of the NYC’s most historic sporting events… Where else can you go in the Big Apple where backhands, smashes and faults aren’t followed by flashing lights and police sirens?

While I admit that my passion for US Open tennis far outweighs my actual skill level on the courts, I couldn’t help but notice while I was there last week the number of errors and mistakes made by some of the greatest tennis players on the planet.

The first serves were flashy and powerful, but in many cases resulted in a fault. Wimbledon champ Roger Federer–as great as he is, failed 33% of the time on his first serve through his first 5 matches at the Open. Of his 349 first serves, he missed 116 of them. Novak Djokovic (67%) and Andy Roddick (68%) both had similar battles with the tennis racket.

The lesson here should be in the importance of a second chance–or in tennis terms, the second serve. The efficiency and precision of a second serve is where the truly great players begin to differentiate themselves from the rest.

Few tennis stars understand the significance of a second chance more clearly than 5-time Wimbledon champ and recent Olympic gold medalist Serena Williams. Her incredible career was nearly cut short in 2010 after a series of surgeries and life-threatening health issues took the racket out of her hands for 10-months. Sunday, she completed an amazing comeback by capturing the US Open title in a 3-set showdown with top-ranked Victoria Azarenka. Serena claimed the $1.9 million top prize for winning the US Open—her 4th time doing so – but one look at the statistics showed that she couldn’t have done it without taking advantage of second chances.

Serena is known for her powerful first serves—she led all women in the tournament by clocking in a serve at 125 mph. And while she recorded 63 aces over 7 matches, nearly 300 of her 453 total points were scored on the second serve.

Clearly it’s what she did on her second chance that helped her win her 15th career Grand Slam. In most cases, she took a little off of the second serve in order to ensure greater accuracy. Then she served most of those points wide and with precision so that her opponent was kept on the move. She had a plan for the second serve that included a more disciplined approach toward success.

Second chances are just as important in life and in business. Many of us miss the first time around…but it is what we do when we get that second chance that makes the difference.

Has a second chance – or second serve – given you a shot that led to success?

Join the conversation today.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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