Be open to being better by failing forward.
Mike Lucente
USPTA Teaching Professional, ROG Director

As a player of average height and athleticism, my father always gave 100% with no excuses. It took me until I was a 16-year-old junior tournament player to beat him, simply because he never gave up―he never gave up on a ball, a shot, or during a match, no matter the score. This was a trait he showed me throughout life that translated to the tennis court and inspires me every day. 

I have been playing tennis since I was seven years old and started playing competitively when I was eight, continuing through juniors, high school, college, and as an adult player on Satellite Tours and USTA Leagues. I began teaching tennis when I was 16 years old, helping run summer camps, and as a country club assistant pro and freelance instructor for beginners. I have lived and played tennis in Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, New York, Tennessee, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  

I was on hiatus from the game when my children were little from 2001 through 2007 but started training and competing again in 2008. Still completely in love with the game, I was offered an opportunity to promote and teach for a program that had been struggling to retain both players and instructors. Having spent nearly 20 years in the Restaurant, Hotel, & Hospitality industry as a manager, owner, and director, I was able to use my skills to help the tennis program gain consistent retention and players, increasing profits by 20 percent. In 2016, I was named Director of Tennis at the Western Area YMCA. During my tenure there, I had the good fortune to meet Jan Irwin. 

Meeting Jan was more than serendipity. In 2018, the Western Area YMCA was permanently closed after severe flooding. Jan offered me an opportunity to join her team, serving as USCTDP’s Director of the ROG Program. In addition to the 10-and-under players, I instruct both advanced and beginner adults, as well as college, high school, and middle school students. As a coach, I talk to my players a lot about how gains are made in losses; thus, my favorite saying: Be open to be better by failing forward.  

My credentials include being a 10+ year member of the Allegheny Mountain District USTA Council, Moon High School Coach, Certified Cardio Tennis Pro, and Certified 10-and-under Instructor. 


Favorite Female Pro: Martina Navratilova

Martina overcame so many obstacles on and off the court that, at times, I couldn’t believe her focus. She was told by her country she would be limited, so she defected to the US. Once in the U.S., she was ridiculed for her weight, so she worked tirelessly to become perhaps the fittest player in history. She would routinely win singles and doubles Grand Slams―the last when she was 50 years old! 

What’s most impressive about Martina is that she didn’t always win. Her game was always to push forward and get to the net. Her life has been the same―she has pushed forward through obstacles to become the greatest female champion of my time, and an ambassador to the game today. Martina taught me how to fail forward, and I adopted my game from her style and life examples.

Favorite Male Pro: Michael Chang

When I was 17 years old, my father took me to the US Open. On September 1, 1987, we sat in the bleachers and peered at an outside court where 15-year-old Michael Chang would make history as the youngest player ever to win a match in the US Open main draw. His record would remain unchallenged in the following 34 years.

Two years later, Michael would become the youngest Grand Slam champion at the French Open, overcoming cramping in the semifinals against #1 player and multiple Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, and then, again, in five sets in the final versus Stefan Edberg. Witnessing Michael’s grit and determination was unbelievable, setting a standard that would mark his entire career. As I continued my tennis journey, Michael Chang inspired me to play as hard as I could―in victory or defeat. 

Favorite Tournament: US Open

Great memory from 1987 that I try to relive every chance I get!

Favorite Stroke: Volley

From early on I enjoyed the simplicity and artistry of hitting balls at the net. I always attacked and never feared the ball. As I progressed, it was my fast hands (certainly not my fast feet!) that set me apart. I grew up admiring attacking net rushers like John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Martina Navratilova, and Paul Annacone. I modeled my game after them―succeeding even today as a serve-and-volley player.