March, 2015 |

Archive for March, 2015

Practicing for Doubles

Practicing for Doubles

The importance here is that I am talking shots, not strokes. There are five shots that dominate doubles play, they are (not in any order) the serve, return, volley, overhead and lob. If you can find a partner willing to practice towards improvement like you it will be fun, and you will improve.

The serve and return can be practiced together; one serves while the other practices returning cross court. Try to practice serving down the middle. Strategically, you want the highest percentage of serves to be down the middle so the opponent’s options are limited on their return. The returner should spend time practicing both deep returns and low, service line returns, this will have you prepared for an opponent who serves and stays back or serves and volleys. In either case, depending on the speed of the serve, you may need to shorten the backswing so contact is being made early. The low service line return is best hit with backspin, learn the slice, or chip return. You want the return low to a serve and volley player so their first volley is at their feet, forcing an upward shot.

In doubles you will spend at least half the match at the net, so having a solid volley and overhead is essential. Feed each other volleys, player A at the baseline starting the feeds while player B is at the net. Practice hitting cross court, down the line and angles. One great drill is to have both players at the center of the service line and volley back and forth, the quicker the better. This will improve your hand- eye coordination and reflexes. It will also help stop the dreaded backswing on your volley.

For the same reason you need a solid volley you also need a solid overhead. Practice the overhead from the service line, then move in and practice backing up for the overhead. Remember do not back pedal, turn sideways with your racquet back and slide step. Smart opponents do not try to hit through players already positioned at the net, if the passing shot is not there, they will lob.

Practice the lob to make you a smart player. The lob will take the opponents out of offense and have to back up; this will allow you to move in. The lob is a feel shot, so practice it often. You’ll be glad you did.

Go to my Home Page for the links to my 117 lesson app “Complete Tennis Mastery”.

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Outside the Box

Outside the Box

When I was in New England I taught a junior player Brian from the time he was ten until he left for college. Brian began playing USTA tournaments in the 12 and under division and kept it up into the 18’s. Brian had an exceptional one handed backhand, both topspin and slice. The problem arose when he entered into the 16 and under division; the kids were getting stronger resulting in harder serves. Brian was having a rough time hitting the topspin backhand on return of serve, due to the pace and kick, the ball was always up around his shoulders. The slice return was never a problem except for the fact the opponents knew that an attacking return would not be coming from that backhand return side. If I had him backup he could generate more pace but that only led to giving up court space to the other half of the court. The answer was a third backhand. So, we worked on a two handed backhand for return of serve only. With the two handed he could move in and drive those shoulder high serves back with the power hand behind the ball. There is nothing wrong with three backhands.

When Brian was in college he and I teamed up for some memorable doubles tournament wins. [I’m not stupid when picking partners; young, fast and talented is always good.] Brian went onto college on a tennis scholarship and the last I knew he was working as a teaching pro in New England.

Currently, one of my students here in Florida is a sweet, smart fourteen year old named Emma, she is new to tennis. Emma started karate at the age of four, which helps in certain areas, but tennis is her first sport involving a ball. Most people just beginning with balls in sports find the judgment of distance, ball speed and spin difficult, Emma is no different but making constant progress. When we began working on basic ground strokes I noticed after a few sessions that the two handed backhand was looking so much better form wise, the forehand was not improving and erratic. After a brief discussion with Emma’s mom I decided to go to a two handed forehand. The forehand has improved dramatically. There have been many great players who have hit with both hands on both sides, let’s not forget Monica Seles. The new forehand keeps Emma’s body lined correctly and generates more power and she can see improvement.

The point here is there is more than one correct way. If you need three backhands, do it. If you need to hit two hands on both sides, do it. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!!

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Play Well- Have Fun!

Tennis Physics

Tennis Physics

If you are taking tennis lessons I hope your pro is explaining why certain ball reactions happen. The best instructors have the ability to teach the same thing by explaining it different ways. I may explain something one way but it is not understood by the pupil, having multiple explanations allows one of them to make sense to the student.

Let’s go over some of the basic principles using some physics to have you understand why the ball reacts the way it does.

You hear all the time that for basic forehand and backhand drives that the correct swing is low to high, this is correct for the simple reason that you have to overcome gravity. The net is thirty nine feet from the baseline; if there is not a low to high swing the ball cannot clear the net. The problem that arises is that if you are putting power on your shot keeping the ball from going long is difficult. This is where topspin comes into play; if you read my blog often you know that spins are the controlling factor in your shots. Topspin is created by brushing up the backside of the ball causing a forward rotation. Physics comes into play when the air mass the ball must travel through will push the ball downward, after some distance, because of the forward ball rotation. So, a hard shot with no spin will travel until gravity forces it to come down, usually out of the court, and a hard shot with topspin will come down inside the court due to the air pushing the forward spinning ball down.

The opposite is true for backspin or slice shot. To create backspin the shot is hit with a high to low swing brushing down the backside of the ball. The same air mass that pushes down on a forward spinning ball will lift a backward spinning ball. This is why the slice shot is appropriate for low balls, especially short low balls.

One more area of tennis where you should know the physics involved is power. Let’s quickly go over two areas, one in ground strokes and then the serve. Power is created by head speed. The greater the arc of the swing the harder the ball can be struck. If you are too close to the ball when hitting you will have to pull the arm in closer to the body which will shorten the arc of the swing, resulting in loss of power. The same is true on the serve. The lower the contact point when serving the shorter the arc, losing power. You want the serve at your full extension to form the longest arc possible for maximum power.

Check out my book by clicking the link up top and my App by visiting my Home Page.

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Tennis Angles Two

Tennis Angles Two

Last lesson I discussed some of the basic angles when playing a singles match, today is doubles. Here are three basic strategic angle hints that will improve your play.

First, when returning serve, have a plan. If the serve is down the center of the service square, as it should be, there are no true angles to hit your return to, so don’t get cute. The two optimum return options are directly back to the server cross court or a lob over the partner’s head at the net. When the serve is not down the center but wide the options now open up to back to the server, sharp angle cross court, down the line past the net player or lob down the line. It’s not always easy, try to have a planned return for both serve scenarios, coming toward you down the middle or wide. When you or your partner is serving it will increase your chances to hold serve dramatically if you can keep the serve down the center of the court seventy percent of the time.

Second, when you are hitting your volley the height of the head of the racquet at contact determines the placement of your shot or angle. The wrist must be locked up and the grip should be in the Continental grip. Having said that, if you are in the middle of the court at net as a guideline, if the head is above the handle your shot will go cross court, if the head is parallel to the handle the shot will go straight and if the head is below the handle it will go right, or inside out. Lowering the head of the racquet is fine as long as the wrist does not loosen and drop to do it, but the entire angle drops maintaining that firm wrist.

Lastly, do not make overheads difficult-take angles out of the picture for the most part and hit them down the middle of the court. In doubles the opponents will be covering their sides of the court, so a down the center overhead will be placed where no one is standing and your margin of error is the greatest. “Down the middle solves the riddle”-that works for volleys also.

Go to the Home Page for my app “Complete Tennis Mastery”

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Tennis Angles

Tennis Angles

Tennis is a game of physics, concentration, feet, agility and finally math= angles and percentages. Let’s cover some basic singles angles today and discuss double in the next article on Monday.

When playing a point from the baseline you have three options of where to hit the ball (four if you count hitting short on purpose) and they are cross court, down the line or down the middle. If the oncoming shot is down the center of the court I’m not telling you anything brilliant in saying percentage wise the safest shot is back down the middle, this also takes away any angles for your opponent to take advantage of but it leaves you with the same problem. In a match where you feel the opponent’s ground strokes are stronger this is a good strategy to neutralize the situation and possibly go on offense when a short or weaker ball is returned to you.

If the oncoming shot is cross court this opens up opportunities for you. The safest is again is down the middle, but now you have an angle to hit an offensive shot cross court. Do not aim for lines; give yourself a margin of error between where you are aiming and the sideline. If you are too aggressive or hit the ball too early the shot may go wide, the good news is that a cross court is extremely safe because you are not changing the direction of the ball and if you happen to hit it late the margin of error is the whole width of the court.

Both of the above scenarios can easily be hit in either the open or closed stances.

When the shot is coming at you cross court a return down the line is a great shot but it is the least safe. The ball is hitting the face of your racquet at an angle as you are trying to redirect the ball down the line. The ball- if left alone- will automatically want to go in the opposite direction it just came from-inside out. Remember, the margin of error is now minimal, the risk and reward are the same. Personally I would hit that shot in a closed stance to keep my shoulders more square sideways thus maintaining a square racquet face for a straighter shot.

If the ball is approaching you from down the line a cross court return is the play for offense and safety at the same time. The opponent is going to start to drift toward the center of the court after he or she hits the shot expecting a cross court response from you, hitting behind the opponent back down the line is always a great play.

Go to my Home Page for links to my App “Complete Tennis Mastery”

Good Luck-Have Fun

Doubles Serve Line Strategy

Doubles Serve Line Strategy

How often will you find yourself at the service line when playing doubles? The answer is a lot.

As I stated in the last article the only time you will actually begin a point at the service line is when your partner is receiving serve, but you won’t stay there long. After your partner’s return passes the server’s partner at the net you need to move forward towards the net when the server is staying back after the serve. If the server is coming in behind the serve you will stay put at the service line and watch your partner’s return. If the return is above the net be ready for reflex volley, if the return is low, below the net, take a step forward and towards the middle ready to cut off the server’s first volley which is generally going cross court and weak because of the low return.

half volley



Too many times I see partners of the server back off from the net and move back to the service line because the returner has hit a few good lobs over his or her head. Please do not do that. All that does is open the court up for easier returns and leaves that player open to low returns at the feet. You really should be in the middle of the square, if you begin the point closer to the net then back up to the middle of the square.

If you want to serve and volley, the first volley will be at the service line. Remember, you do not actually have to get to the line-you have to get almost to the line and split step so you have stopped and can then step forward on the line to hit the first volley. Having a very hard serve is normally a good thing, but if the opponent’s return is good- lessen the pace if you serve and volley. The faster the serve the faster it’s coming back so there is not enough time to get to where you need to be. Learn a kick serve down the middle of the service boxes and your volley will get a lot better. There will be time to reach the service line and the returner will not have any angles, so the return will come straight back to you.

When playing the net in doubles there will be many different scenarios that will force you to back up to the service line, which is fine, just do not play the rest of the point there if you don’t have to. When the opportunity allows you to move back in and retake the net-do it. It is too easy to become a watcher and then BAM, you end up with a low shot at the service line when you could have had an easy put away if you had moved back forward.

The two most constant situations that will back you up are when your partner is back and hits a short ball so both of the opponent’s are now moving forward and when a lob is hit over your head causing a switch. Generally when there is a switch with you at the net your partner is going after a tough shot and may hit a weak response, you will switch to the service line and then move accordingly, depending on what type of shot your partner hit.

Doubles play requires quick reflexes from the service line on in. Work on your volley, half volley and over head.

Go to the Home Page for my App “Complete Tennis Mastery”.

Good Luck-Have Fun!!