November, 2014 |

Archive for November, 2014

Ball Recognition

Ball Recognition

Here are some tips to help you recognize what type of shot is coming toward and how to respond.

When warming up for a match with your opponent the first thing to notice, especially on his or her forehand stroke is what grip is being used. If the opponent is in the Continental grip expect shots to have some topspin, not to an exaggerated degree, and maybe some backspin shots because that is the grip a slice forehand causing backspin is used resulting in a low bounce. If the Eastern grip is used expect the same topspin shots as the Continental fairly consistently with little slice shots. When you see the Western grip topspin will be more prevalent with a higher arc crossing the net, deeper landings near the baseline in your court and a higher bounce off the court. The slice shot will probably never happen.

Now, all I just described in the previous paragraph is based on intermediate range players. The more advanced the opponent the more you will see him or her changing grips to hit the type of shot dictated by the type of shot that is coming in the point.

Backhands, while having different spins, will not have the exaggerated topspin as a western forehand.

One simple thing to watch on the opponent’s backswing that will give you an advantage in knowing what is probably coming is where it is behind in relation to the height of the ball. To hit topspin the racquet head will be below the ball when beginning the forward swing. If you see the head staying above the ball and coming forward expect a slice or backspin.

tennis forehand

I am asked how to counteract the high bouncing topspin shot near the baseline a lot, here are a couple of tips. There are basically four options- One, try to hit the ball on the rise so the bounce does not have enough time to kick up too high. Remember to shorten your backswing, bend your knees and completely follow through. Second, if the ball is bouncing right at the baseline treat it as if it is a half volley and pick it up on the short hop. You will need to bend the knees with no backswing, stay down until the stroke is completed and follow through. Third, if you are confident in your volley move in and don’t let it bounce and take it in the air. Fourth and most popular in the intermediate range is to back up and try to let it come down. If that is the only option to stay in the point-do it, but I recommend you work on the three previous options. When you back up too much court space is being given up on your side of the court giving the opponent opportunities to hit angles you cannot reach or drop shots because you are too far back.

tennis slice

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Opposite Hand 2

Opposite Hand 2

Having troubles with some of your strokes? Let’s discuss how the proper use of the opposite hand might help.

When hitting your forehand the opposite arm and hand should be extended out equally as far and at the same height as your arm and hand is on your back swing preparation. If you have a relatively straight back preparation the arms will be identical, extended down and out with the hands approximately hip high.

The loop back swing will bring the opposite arm and hand up around chest high and drop simultaneously as your loop lowers to prepare for the upward swing. In both cases the opposite hand provides equal balance and weight distribution in the upper body allowing for a much more fluid shot.

The two hand backhand is pretty self-explanatory. The opposite hand is on top on the hand grip and provides most of the power and topspin in your shot. The opposite hand and wrist will snap up the backside of the ball with a complete follow through leaving the opposite hand over the opposite shoulder.

The one hand backhands are a completely different story. When attempting the one hand topspin backhand the opposite hand will pull the racquet back to the correct position allowing your hitting hand to comfortably change grips. Keep the opposite hand on the throat of the racquet until you step in to hit the shot.

The same holds true for the one hand slice backhand, the opposite hand pulls the racquet back, except this time shoulder high, and will stay on the racquet until the step before contact. The key of the opposite hand remaining on the racquet is to keep the racquet at the correct angle in relation to your forearm. If the opposite hand comes off the racquet too soon the head of the racquet will drop ruining the form of the stroke.

The forehand volley opposite hand is as high as your hitting hand at contact, again maintaining balance.

The backhand volley is the same as the backhand slice when discussing the opposite hand. Have the hand remain on the throat of the racquet until the forward step to keep the head at the correct angle.

Overheads and Serves-opposite hand up in preparation-and then will start down as the hitting arm is reaching up.

Pay attention in form to your opposite hand for balance and control!

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Opposite Hand

Opposite Hand

The higher you are on the ability chart the more you will be aware of how important your opposite hand and arm plays in hitting your strokes correctly. If you are just beginning or have only been playing a little while you probably do not, but should- and if you are in the intermediate levels pay more attention to it to help improve more quickly. Let’s go over some areas.

On the forehand the opposite arm should be extended out from the body about the same distance the hitting arm is in preparation on your backswing to maintain an equal balance of the weight and body.

If you hit a two hand backhand the opposite hand is the power hand on the shot. That is the hand that will snap up the backside of the ball creating power and spin. When preparing to hit either the one hand backhand topspin or slice the opposite hand is holding the throat of the racquet to maintain the proper angle between forearm, wrist and racquet shaft. The topspin preparation has the head and handle of the racquet parallel, while the head is above the handle when preparing for the slice backhand. The hand stays on the throat until you step forward to hit, this will maintain proper form.

The opposite arm on the overhead must go up when you bring the racquet back behind your head. Some players like to point at the oncoming lob to help track it, which is fine, but the real reason you need it up there is for shoulder balance.

The serve is pretty self explanatory, because it is the opposite hand and probably is not used to doing a whole lot, practicing your toss is a must to develop a consistent toss for a consistent serve.

The opposite hand on the volley is very important in two areas. First, the hand is on the throat of the racquet when in the ready position and helps to keep the head of the racquet above the handle forming the correct angle. Just like on the one hand backhand it stays on the throat until your forward step, if you volley with two hands, the opposite hand reaches forward to make contact with the ball.

So, both hands are needed to play good tennis.

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Tennis- Knuckle Up

Tennis- Knuckle Up

If you’re having trouble with the consistency of your topspin forehand here’s a tip that will help. This first picture is a semi-western forehand grip, not a complete western grip. This tip can be useful when hitting the forehand in either grip.


I have a student who has developed a decent topspin forehand but can get out of rhythm and completely lose the feel of the upward snap of the wrist to hit the shot correctly. Good tennis instructors have to be able to teach or describe the same technique multiple ways, so the student will understand one of them.

tennis forehand

The simple notion of keeping your finger joint knuckles pointing toward the opposite side of the net and then upward toward the sky on the follow through over your shoulder. If you think of that, your low to high swing will maintain the brush up motion. My student would get into a funk of finishing the swing over the elbow, thus creating zero spin and loss of control. This tip is for players who use the Western forehand grip.

tennis rotation

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Tennis App-Get on Board

Tennis App-Get on Board

My new tennis app Complete Tennis Mastery is now up at Apple for iPhones and Andriod phones at Google Play. There are 117 lessons covering all strokes, strategies and other important tennis learning tool information. The app is available for all mobile devices.

I appreciate your support, the app cost is only $4.99. For all of you that have already purchased I appreciate your comments.

tennis forehand

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Thank You, Bill Longua-USPTA

Think Tall

Think Tall

I’m often asked is it an advantage to be tall, or more often is it a disadvantage being short. It is true that on the pro tours both men and women are getting stronger, faster, and yes, taller. This trend is happening in all sports, I think it’s just the natural evolution of the world’s top athletes.

In the non-pro world of tennis being tall is an advantage in some areas and a detriment in one. Bending for low balls may be more difficult for an above average tall player, but the advantages in reach and height while serving or hitting overheads definitely outweighs the bending problem.

If you are of average height, or maybe a bit shorter, I need you to think TALL when serving or hitting your overhead. Any shot that is struck above the head has a major opposite factor. The lower contact is made the angle of the face of the racquet is more open thus the shot goes more on a direct line instead of the downward trajectory we are looking for, sending the shot long. The more extended the body and arm are at the point of contact the face of the racquet will be coming over the top of the ball, sending it down on a sharper angle, keeping the shot in.

Another hint to help you be TALL is to leave the head up while hitting both the serve and overhead. There is a tendency to pull the head down too early, normally to see if the shot you just hit was in. The problem is that you truly had not quite made contact yet, so it probably was not. Pulling the head down too soon will also pull the shoulders down, which just happens to be holding the racquet, resulting in a lower hit. Try looking at the sky, or ceiling if indoors, for a split second after contact is made. There is plenty of time and you will insure full extension in the shot.

Coiling before the serve and uncoiling to reach for the serve is great. A slight jump off the back leg for the overhead is also a benefit for a more extended stroke. Remember, the higher the better for shots that are over the head. Think TALL!!

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