January, 2015 |

Archive for January, 2015

Slice Forehand

Slice Forehand

To improve your level of play a variety of different shots are needed, let’s go over a few tips to help you hit a slice forehand better, or if you are new at it, get started.

Your first question is, I already have a decent topspin forehand why do I need a slice? Here are some of the reasons: 1- The slice is used on the approach shot when coming into net. 2- When playing a serve and volley player in either singles or doubles it is a great return at their feet. 3- In singles matches you want to occasionally mix up spins and pace so the opponent does not always know what is coming. 4- In this age of the western grip forehand craze being able to slice will make that big forehand of your opponent harder to hit. What’s the common factor in all four of the reasons I just gave? Keeping the ball low; and the slice allows you to do just that. The backspin on the ball causes the exact opposite effect than topspin, the ball skids low instead of jumping up with topspin. So, when using it on the approach shot your opponent must hit up at you when you have reached the net. When facing a serve and volley player the first volley he or she must hit is a difficult one down at the feet. In a match mixing in some spins will change the pace and also alter the height of the ball from waist high to below the knees, and the western forehand is much harder to control when the ball is down because the face of the racquet is too closed to hit low balls easily.

The forehand slice is an elongated forehand volley. The volley is a short high to low punch in the Continental grip. The forehand slice is the same shot but with a backswing and follow through struck after the ball has bounced. This shot is also held in the Continental grip, the stance is closed so you have turned sideways to the net, the head of the racquet is about shoulder high with the face slightly open on the backswing, after a step toward the ball on your front leg the swing is high to low making contact with ball in line with the leg and brushing down the backside of the ball resulting in backspin. Unlike the topspin forehand when the wrist is loose and snaps up, here the wrist is very firm with no snap at all. Make sure you have a full follow through, but again not like the topspin over the shoulder finish but extended forward.

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One Shot Difference

One Shot Difference

You are a competitive tennis player and enjoy the heat of the battle. Wins are great and some losses are fun too. The problem is that you can’t get past that certain round in a tournament, the third or the quarters, whichever round is the hump round for you. Maybe one shot that is not in your arsenal will make the difference. Obviously, the further you go in the tournament the more difficult the opponents become, and smarter. If they notice a weakness it will be exploited. Even if they don’t notice anything you will still have to hit more varied shots just because you’re playing better opponents.

When I was teaching up north a friend, and student, was playing USTA tournaments in the seventy five age bracket. He never could get past the semi-final. Remember, there are not a lot of entries in many of the events due to the age involved. The larger events had full draws but the average tournament fielded about ten players. So, not making it past the semi meant he really only won one or two rounds. I was asked to go to one of his tournaments and watch a match to see if I could pick up on what the problem might be, so I did.

It goes without saying those who are playing USTA tournaments into the mid to late seventies are very competitive by nature, my friend was no different. He could stay out there all day if need be, and run forever. The only problem was so could all of them. The strokes he had were not the issue either. He had a good serve, solid volley, great slice backhand and above average topspin forehand. He was missing one shot.

I’m watching the match and after awhile one weakness jumped out at me. The quality of the tennis was very good, but because of the age involved there were an extreme amount of short balls hit, requiring my guy to have to move forward and hit a lot of low balls. Every time he came in for that shot he would try to hit a low short ball with his topspin forehand, resulting in way too many unforced errors. He needed to learn a slice forehand. A weakness was being exploited by pure luck.

We went to work on it, and in a short time he had the shot. We carried it a step farther and had him follow that shot to net and end the points faster. In the next tournament he lost a very close match in the semis, then a loss in the finals, and then finally winning the tournament. He went on to have some great years attaining very high rankings.

When you hit that round that always seems to end your tournament bring a friend to see if a weakness can be spotted, or if another shot is needed to be added to your game. One shot can make a difference!!

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In singles and especially doubles, having a solid overhead is essential to a well rounded game. In this LESSON let’s go over the most common errors that occur. What we will see is that many will be also common on the serve.

First is letting the ball drop to low before hitting it. You want to make contact, as with the serve, at full extension of your arm. Remember to think of the two “L’s”, if the ball is struck Low it will generally go Long. As the racquet head lowers the face opens up and you cannot snap over the ball as needed to keep it in the court.

Second is pulling the head down before contact. This will cause the exact opposite result and dump the ball in the net. There is a tendency on shots above the head for players to want to see if the shot was in or not, the problem is the ball has not been hit yet, the result is a shot in the net because when the head comes down so do the shoulders. As a golfing friend of mine likes to say, “every time I look to see where my ball went, I see a bad shot”. You should look at the sky for a split second after contact on an overhead or serve to make sure you have kept your head up.

When you hit an overhead turn sideways as you bring the racquet back behind the head, then there is a step toward the net right before the uncoiling to reach for the ball. Another common mistake on the overhead is that the player will step sideways instead of toward the net and hit the ball almost always into the net. Remember, step forward-not sideways.

So, in review, for a better overhead reach high for the ball, leave your head up and step toward the net.

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Tennis Math

Tennis Math


Tennis is a game of angles, from strategy angles to the correct angles formed between the forearm and shaft of the racquet, and the angles that are created on the face of the racquet for different shots. Once these are understood a player will be better suited for improvement.

I always speak about percentages when discussing strategy. Hitting cross court is a much safer shot than hitting down the line. If you hit the ball late when attempting a cross court shot, the ball may not land where you intended, but, it will still stay in the court because the margin of error is that much greater than down the line. Let’s say your opponent hits you a shot cross court and you intend to return that shot back cross court, the reality is you are basically hitting a straight shot, you are not changing the angle of the shot, but when you decide to take that oncoming ball and hit down the line the angle of the ball coming off the face of the racquet must be altered. The face of the racquet is now not facing straight back towards where the shot came from, so the ball will hit the face with an inside out angle, making the shot more difficult. When hitting down the line from a cross court shot you must maintain a longer shoulder turn to compensate for the different angle coming off the racquet, if not the ball will land wide due to the different angle of ball and racquet. There are many examples like this that cannot be covered here, not enough space.

In many strokes the angle and height of the racquet head in relation to the wrist and hand will pre-determine where the shot will land. To cover one, we’ll talk about the volley. I’m going to assume that you are holding the correct Continental grip for your volley, if not, this will not apply. If at the point of contact the head of the racquet is above the handle the shot will naturally go cross court, if the head is parallel to the handle it will go straight, and if the head is below the handle the shot will naturally go inside out. Notice the head of the racquet in the picture! The natural cross angle is determined by the grip and the height of the head above the handle.

The angle between the forearm and shaft will also determine the outcome of your shots. In Geometry an angle is formed by two lines (rays) joined at a common point called a vertex. Pretty good for an English major huh!! The angle on your ground strokes should be an obtuse angle, or greater than ninety degrees. Having the correct angle will maintain a perpendicular racquet face at the point of contact.

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Want More Power?

Want More Power?

When I am teaching, or answering questions from members online, the same question often arises, which is, how can I generate more power in my shots? The answer is by creating more head speed in your strokes.

Head speed is created in two important areas, the first one being distance away from the ball. The larger the arc formed in the swing before contact the greater the head speed created. We have all over run a shot and hit the ball too close to the body, you remember what happened? There was no power on the shot, just a half a swing. If you are at home now pick up your racquet and attempt a swing with your elbow near your ribs, you will see how small the arc of the swing is compared to a correct swing with the arm away from the body. The arc will be twice as large, thus creating distance and more available head speed.

This is true for not only your ground strokes but also for serves and overheads as well. The amount of extension when uncoiling on serves and overheads will create head speed. The higher the reach and contact point the larger the arc in the swing, resulting in more power.

The second area to generate head speed is by having a flexible wrist when making contact with the ball. In the old days, players were taught to hit their ground strokes with a firm wrist. While that did help in controlling shots it did not allow for any real power. In today’s modern game the emphasis is on generating topspin with an upward brushing action on the ball creating that spin. Players need to snap their wrists up while making contact, that upward wrist snap will generate more head speed giving your shots more power while the topspin gives you control on the ball.

The wrist must be loose on your serves and overheads as well. We already discussed the importance of extension for more power; now add a flexible wrist snapping over the ball and you will maximize your available power.

Just a quick side point-remember to be balanced when hitting your strokes-all the arc and snap in the world will not help if the body is not stable and balanced.

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