December, 2014 |

Archive for December, 2014

Partners-Keys to a Perfect Match

Partners-Keys to a Perfect Match

Finding a compatible tennis partner is not always the easiest proposition. I have some tips that will help.

One, I am certain that winning teams also have a winning friendship. It is extremely important that partners truly like and respect each other. On the pro tour pairs are formed depending on many factors, the primary one being the schedules of the players. At your local club you don’t have that issue, so make sure the two of you are buddies. The friendship off the court will lead to a stronger partnership and desire to win as a team on the court.

Two, try to be fairly even in ability. One might be stronger than the other in certain areas, but in general try not to play with someone who is much better or worse than you. The NTRP system make this much easier since to play in tournaments or on teams you have to be close in ratings. If the difference in ability is too great it will only lead to the lesser player feeling badly after losses, that’s no fun or fair to the player. Remember, you win and lose as a team!

Three, if you have different strong points all the better. Let’s say you return well from the deuce side and your partner is strong on the ad return, perfect. It is also fine if one partner can bang winners while the other is “steady eddy”. On the mental side having two partners who will remain calm in the heat of the battle is great, having one is a must. Someone has to take charge in the on court conferences and relax the other. You get the idea; differences that match well for the team are great. By the way, in general, the better volley and overhead should play the ad court, ( if right handed ) keeping those stronger shots in the middle.

Lastly, discuss some possible on court issues that may cause problems. I’ve never seen anything break up a partnership faster than over ruling partner’s calls. Let’s be honest, no one wants to cheat, but calls can be missed, discuss with each other that in the interest of fair play if your “out” call is over ruled by your partner do not take it personally, a mistake was made and corrected. Another is what I call the “continual down” factor. An occasional “I’m sorry” is fine, but not after every lost point. I don’t need my partner to say sorry; I know he did not make an error on purpose. Talk about staying positive and keeping each other pumped after every point, won or lost. There will be other things to be discussed, find a partner who wants to be on the same page and work them out ahead of time..

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Half Volley

Half Volley

When playing doubles we are positioned many times during the match at the service line, or we are attacking forward toward the net, in both cases, we are subject to low, oncoming shots that require us to pick the ball up off a short hop, that’s the half volley.

I like to say the half volley is “drop, close and lift”. When the ball is going to bounce at our feet the first move is to “drop”, in other words, bend the knees, not the waist, and get as low to the ground as possible. Always concentrate on bending your back knee, the forward knee will obviously follow and your body will stay upright and balanced. If the front knee bends more your body will be leaning too much forward and have you out of balance, or worse, falling forward.

The “close” refers to the face of the racquet. As you drop, I need you close the face so when the ball strikes it will stay low on your return and not pop up for an easy put away. You are actually hitting the ball on the rise; the ball hits the racquet face at an upward angle and will want to leave at an upward angle, so, to negate that the face must be closed. (See picture)

To finish the stroke “lift” the racquet up with a firm wrist. If you are new to this shot remember to keep the wrist firm, as you improve try loosening the upward lift and turning the racquet face over to generate some topspin. The lift refers to the racquet, not your whole body; you must stay low through the follow through.

The backhand, be it one or two handed, is the same form, “drop, close and lift”.

Try these tips and you will not pop those low balls up anymore!

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Countering Topspin

Countering Topspin

Topspin is the most common offensive ground stroke weapon used in tennis today. How can you counter it? There are different effective measures you can use to neutralize the spin.

In today’s game, power and spin are much more enhanced then they were back when the technology was not as good and the ground stroke forehands and backhands not as open and free swinging. While playing you will face different types of topspin coming towards you, most will not cause too much trouble. The type I will discuss here is high, heavy topspin (usually hit open stance and in the Western grip on the forehand) that kicks up high off the bounce and is generally deep in your back court.

Many players believe that backing up behind the baseline gives them the best chance; however, all that does is open up your court for an unreachable angle, drop shots, or allow the opponent to move in for easy volleys.

Move in a step or two. If you generally play one or two feet behind the baseline when rallying move in and play on the baseline. This will allow you to take the ball earlier and not let the high kick characteristic of topspin take effect, essentially, hitting the ball on the rise. Most mid-level players hit the ball on the way down after the bounce, so this will be a bit foreign at the start. (I suggest you practice this before trying it in a match) Hitting that ball on the rise will require you to shorten the backswing on your ground strokes, but you will be able to drive the ball with more pace and maintain your court positioning.

If you are accomplished with the slice forehand and backhand use them. Again, play along the baseline and try to hit on the rise. The slice will keep your shot low off the bounce and make the topspin much more difficult to hit by your opponent

Lastly, if topspin moon balls are coming at you, right before the opponent hits, move into mid-court, take the ball in the air and follow it in. I would throw this tactic in occasionally to try to force the player out of rhythm. Do not move in too soon or you will open yourself up for easy passing shots.

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Recognizing Spin

Recognizing Spin

To play tennis well knowing what type of shot to hit at the earliest possible moment is critical, the better you play means better opponents which means spin. Spin is the controlling factor on your shot, topspin causes the ball to dip down in flight and bounce higher while backspin, or slice, keeps the ball low in flight and produces a low, skidding bounce. While playing you can see what the opponent’s spin is going to be before the ball is even struck.

Topspin is generated by a low to high swing with a wrist snap up the back of the ball. When the opponent’s backswing, be it a loop or straight back, is dropping so the head of the racquet is below the ball you can expect a ball with topspin. Another way to figure out what type of shots to expect is the type of grip the opponent is using. On the forehand side topspin can be hit in any of the three grips but the Western is more of a topspin grip and the more exaggerated it is the more exaggerated the topspin.

tennis grip

Backspin is the complete opposite from topspin. The spin is generated from a high to low swing with a very firm wrist. Backspin shots will never have a loop backswing; the head of the racquet will be above the handle on the backswing, when you see that type of set up expect a low bouncing ball. Bent knees are important in most shots but returning a biting backspin ball bent knees are mandatory as well as a shorter backswing.

tennis backhand

When returning serve you can know how much spin is coming by the opponent’s grip and toss. If the grip is in the Continental, as it should be, the will always be some degree of spin. When the toss is out in front of the server it will have some topspin for control but maintain a lower bounce than a kick serve that bounces high. You’ll know a kick serve is coming when the server tosses the ball directly over the head. The server will generally stand a bit more sideways to the net.

tennis continental grip

Watch the set-ups to all shots to know what’s coming next.

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Volley Power

Volley Power


Just had a volley lesson with a student and I told her a story that I’ll relate to you concerning the nuance of adding power to the volley with very little effort and no swing.

The year is sometime in the early 80’s at Boston University [Walter Brown Arena] in Boston, I am watching a tennis exhibition between, one of the all time greats, Billie Jean King and more than upstart Tracy Austin. I was lucky enough to have first row seating in line with the service line.

Billie Jean displayed such power off the volley, and as I watched I could not understand how the ball flew off with such little effort. THEN, on one point I saw it; at the point of contact she opened her hand, imparting power and backspin at the same time.

The volley is a short jab, or punch, receiving power from the opponent’s shot. To generate your own power, without losing your form, right at contact I need you to open the palm of your hand slightly upward, towards the sky, and you will be amazed at the extra power you can generate. Finesse has never been more pointed out than that extra technique during this shot, but it is imperative to note that it should only be used when the height of the oncoming shot is below your shoulders. It is a completely feel and timing shot.

Remember, the wrist never waivers, it is always firm; it’s only the hand that moves and opens.

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Spin is the controlling agent in all but two of the strokes, one being a flat first serve and the other being a flat overhead. Without spin on your shots, be it topspin or backspin, there is no control on the ball if hit with power. Backspin, or another term under spin, is a must piece needed to improve your game.

If you are new to backspin the easiest way to begin to learn it is to start with the volley. Volleys are just condensed forehand and backhand slices; the slice is a brushing down the backside of the ball on ground strokes to create backspin, the opposite of an upward brushing of the ball to create topspin. All backspin strokes should be gripped in the Continental. (picture above) If you start with the volley you can get the feel without dealing with a backswing or follow through, because, as you better know, with the volley you have neither of those two. To create backspin when reaching for the volley the wrist is locked up forming an obtuse angle, (greater than 90 degrees) the butt of the handle is slightly in front of the head with the face of the racquet ever so slightly open. You will then punch out and slightly downward with a firm wrist which will create the backspin with no follow through. The head should have caught up to the handle at contact. This technique is the same for both the forehand and backhand. If hit correctly you will notice the spin on the ball and see that the ball will have a low, skidding bounce.

Once you get the feel move onto the full forehand and backhand slices. The technique is the same for both sides, so here-we-go! The slice should be hit in the closed stance with a complete sideways shoulder turn and the head is above the handle with the same grip, obtuse angle and open face as the volley technique. You will brush out and down the backside of the ball making contact on the forehand in line with your stepping leg or a foot in front of your stepping leg on the backhand. The wrist must be firm. Follow through out towards your target, not over the shoulder as done on your topspin ground strokes. Again, you will see the spin and low bounce. YOU NEED THIS SPIN IN YOUR GAME.


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