April, 2015 |

Archive for April, 2015

Tennis Surfaces

Tennis Surfaces

Indoor clubs have many different artificial surfaces-from carpet (fast) to different type mats (slow) to even wood, of which I practiced on in college (lightning fast). For the purpose of this article I’m sticking to the main three outdoor surfaces-clay, grass and hard.

The slowest of the three surfaces is clay. There are basically two types of clay courts, the base of the courts are the same-compact clay, but it is the topping that’s the difference. If you watched the French Open you saw the red clay with the top covered with pulverized brick, or brick dust. The other popular clay is gray because it is covered with minutely crushed stone, commonly called Har-Tru courts. Har-Tru is actually the name of the brand but is used so often that the name is attributed to the courts themselves. Kind of like when you ask someone to make a Xerox of a paper instead of asking for a copy.

Clay is easy on the body due to the give in the in the court and the balls bounce is much slower due to the topping gripping the ball after the bounce. Players, especially as they get older, tend to enjoy clay because of the less pounding on the joints, however, the points tend to last much longer due to the slow bounce, so if you play singles and are beginning to age a bit you better stay in shape for the longer matches. Baseline singles players who do not make many unforced errors, hit with a lot of spin and can retrieve well enjoy clay. The court will enhance the spin, especially backspin; the ball will stay much lower off the bounce. Topspin will jump more off the bounce. The key to clay is patience. The points must be set up for a winner and it will obviously take longer to accomplish. The big hitters with hard serves and flatter hard ground strokes for the most part do not like clay because the court surface neutralizes their power making them frustrated. They are used to quick fast points-will not happen on clay. The downsides of clay are the occasional bad bounces and constant maintenance.

The fastest of the three surfaces is grass. The players I mentioned who do not like clay will love grass. The ball skids after the bounce and requires a continual bending of the knees to hit low skidding balls. When returning serve on grass you need to shorten the back swing and move forward to cut off sliding away angles. On grass the volley is your best friend. The less you have to hit the ball off the bounce the better off you will be. Backspin is another favorite for grass; the spin creates a low bounce by itself, then couple that with the natural skid and you have a very effective shot to move into net on for the winning volley. Just like clay, bad bounces and maintenance are always an issue. Grass is like clay in two other respects, easy on the body and easy to slip and fall.

Hard courts can vary in speed, the installer can make the court slow, medium or fast by how much or how little sand is mixed into the court surface. The more sand, the slower the court-the less sand the faster. All types of players are comfortable on a hard court- you can adapt your game accordingly. The good news is there are no bad bounces and no maintenance; the bad news is it is a little rough on the joints.

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

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Two Hand Backhand

Two Hand Backhand

I have seen many questions concerning the two hand backhand, asking about grips, stance, power and topspin; let’s try to answer them all here. I will base this on the player being right handed.

Different variations of grips are acceptable but both hands in the Eastern grip are preferable, the “V” formed in the hand between the thumb and index finger should be at twelve o’clock, or down the center of the top of the racquet. If you are having problems keeping the ball in the court I suggest moving your left hand slightly to the Western grip, this will slightly close the face of the racquet, allowing topspin to be easily produced.

While I teach both, the open and closed stance, I like the closed stance for the two hand backhand. It is more natural due to the fact that the upper body rotates sideways by itself, which allows the hips and legs to follow comfortably. It is also easier to disguise your shots and generate more power by transferring your body weight into the shot. However, if pulled wide, I like the open stance for a faster recovery time back to the center of the court.

I think we can incorporate both power and topspin in the same discussion. A two hand backhand has all the characteristics of the left hand topspin forehand. In other words, the left wrist and hand generate the power in the shot; you want to snap the left hand, using your wrist, up the backside of the ball. When the right hand is primarily striking the ball it is difficult to put any topspin on the ball because the shot becomes a push and the follow through incomplete. Power and spin are generated by the left hand as the power hand!!!

Those asking if they can change from a one to a two hand backhand, the answer is yes; however, the longer you have been playing with a one the harder it will be. Having said, the left hand is the power hand, the muscle memory of the right hand wanting to hit the ball will be much tougher to break the longer you have played with the one. If you are new at the game, the change will be relatively easy.

There are 117 lessons on my app “Complete Tennis Mastery”, go to the home page for links.

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Air or Bounce?

Air or Bounce?

When playing doubles there are many times we have to make the big decision- air or bounce. Do I hit it in the air or let it bounce? During the course of a point you can easily find yourself playing around the service line and this is generally when the decision comes up. You will let the ball bounce when at the baseline and hit the ball in the air when up at net. It is the in between area, at the service line, where problems may arise.

When playing from the service line forward there is a basic rule that says “try to take the ball in the air whenever possible” and for the most part I agree, but there are some times when bouncing will be more beneficial, especially if you are under a 4.0 in rating.

Too many times players lose an easy point by trying to hit an overhead they cannot totally get under. If you are at the service line and the opponent has hit a horrible lob that is just coming over the net do not try to do too much and lose the point. There is nothing wrong with letting the lob bounce, it will still go up high enough to hit an overhead for a winner. So, any overhead that is in front of you should be bounced if you cannot get under the ball in time.

The same is true with a weak oncoming ground stroke, if you try to move in and volley it in the air the ball will be below the height of the net forcing a weak volley that will float upward to your opponents and leaving you in a vulnerable position. The option of letting that ball bounce is a good one, the ball will be above the net allowing you to hit an offensive ground stroke, just remember, the backswing must be short because you are inside the service line.

The common factors in both of these scenarios, is the lack of pace and depth of the oncoming shots. That lack of pace can lure you into a false sense of security thinking your next shot, overhead or volley, will be easy, when in fact if the foot work is not fast enough to get under the overhead or hit the volley above the net the result is usually a lost point. Play smart and bounce those balls to win the point.

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

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

When to Attack and Not

When to Attack and Not

Most matches, under a certain level, are actually lost not won. Shot selection is the most important aspect when playing. If you can make the right decision choosing the type shot you hit with the right choice in power the unforced errors will drop dramatically and enhance your chance of winning.

Many players want to attack all the time, I like the attitude but the reality is it’s not too smart. Let’s start with when should you attack? The answer is pretty simple, when the ball is in the “comfort zone”. Attacking ground strokes require having the ball generally between your hips and knees in height, the ball can either have peaked in height and is slightly dropping or be hit on the rise. If you watch the pros on TV you will notice that most are trying to hit the ball on the rise, (they practice eight hours a day-you don’t) you will find it easier to hit the ball after it has peaked. This will also give you the extra second or two to get the feet in a comfortable balanced place. If you are making contact inside the baseline that is also a good time to be aggressive because you are moving forward. Be attacking, only if you can get there in time, on short balls net high or higher. Just remember to shorten the backswing because a quarter of the court is now behind you. When volleying, the balls between the hips and shoulders are easier to attack, you can also attack higher balls but you must remember to reach for them. Those type shots are too tempting and can easily be hit long due to a backswing that causes a late hit.

Here are some examples of times when you want to play it smart, stay in the point and bide your time. If the oncoming shot is backing you up, hit with less pace but with more height. When you are on the dead run, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a player at full sprint hit the ball as hard as he or she can. The only time I can see it is if you have a possible winner down the line. Oncoming shots that are below the knees or above the shoulders require more control than pace. Short low balls need backspin, not topspin, so again, pace is not needed but placement is. If the shot is too close to you or has you stretched out just hit the ball in the court. Low volleys need placement to set up the next volley, use less pace and try to keep the ball down so the opponent must hit up to you.

Return of serve will vary, if the serve is fairly weak-attack, if it is overpowering, shorten the back swing and use the opponent’s power in your return.

If you are 4.5 or higher you can attack more often because the skill set is higher.

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

Good Luck-Have Fun!!