November, 2015 |

Archive for November, 2015

Doubles Serve-Down the Middle

Doubles Serve-Down the Middle

The strategy in playing quality doubles is more intense than in singles. The reasons are as basic as with more players on the court, the less open space there is to hit into; to the more complex, of thinking ahead on non-put away shots to better position your team to gain the court advantage to win the point.

Holding serve in doubles is the obvious key to winning matches. I don’t think I came up with any brilliant enlightenment there, but let’s discuss placement of the serve to make that hold easier.

Serve down the middle!! I am not saying that an occasional serve out wide is not needed to keep your opponents honest, but for the most part down the middle is strategically the most advantageous. When your serve is angled wide the receiver has many more return options. Remember, for every angle you hit another angle is now created for the opponent. Let’s say you serve it wide to the deuce court, here are your opponent’s return options: 1-straight back to you, 2-an sharp angle back, 3-because the returner was pulled wide the pass up the line is now available, and 4-a lob. Now let’s say you serve up the middle, the return options are: 1-straight back at you, 2-a lob. HALF the options!!!

tennis serve

There is another strategic reason to serve down the middle just as valuable as the last, this one involves your partner. I said last paragraph that a wide serve opens up the return option of down the line past your partner to the alley. With that in play, your partner must slide towards the alley to cover that possibility, leaving the partner covering three feet of the court and you the rest. Not good! The serve down the middle frees your partner up to move a bit more toward the center and poach some weaker returns, resulting in some quick, easy points. Holding serve has just become much easier.

So, down the middle-solves the riddle!

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Doubles Service Return

 Doubles Service Return

It remains an ongoing debate about which shots are the most important when playing doubles, the serve, volley or the return. I won’t try to solve that issue here, but I will tell you all three are imperative to a solid doubles game with the return of serve maybe the most strategic.

In singles the return is obviously easier because the whole court is available to hit into, while in doubles we’re required to hit to one half and usually cross court.

tennis forehand

Let’s delve into our doubles return options. In classic serve and volley doubles, the server hits and comes to net; now both partners are up at net, a version of “king of the hill”. We need to keep our returns low so the oncoming server has to hit the volley up. There are two ways to accomplish this, either by shortening the backswing and brushing up the ball to add topspin, or chipping the return, creating backspin. In either case power is not the most important aspect, keeping the ball down is; in fact, less power is often more desirable. Remember, topspin we brush up and backspin we brush down and out.

Many doubles teams are now playing one up and one back when serving. I feel that is a real plus for the receiving team, now the pressure of having to keep the return low is not a problem. That formation will free us up to drive the ball cross court back to the server, it also gives us the opportunity to move into the net and be offensive.

tennis follow through

There are two other returns we need to keep in mind. The first is to hit behind the net player, we need to keep that player honest so he or she can’t continually poach our returns. If the net player sees that we always hit cross court it allows he or she to move closer to the middle of the court and pick off our returns. Second, is the return lob down the line over the net persons head, this return is strategic when we are having a tough time catching up to the pace of the serve, or we want to get the opponents out of their comfortable formations.

Double’s returns- don’t take them lightly!!

Good Luck- Have Fun!!

Contact Point

When discussing the proper contact point for our shots the level of the player is most important.

Most players following this blog are recreational, club, team and tournament players. I also believe they fit in the NTRP rating from 2.5 to 5.0, which covers a vast difference in ability levels. You will have to figure out where you are and pick the tips that suit you best. Let’s base this on the average player’s rating is in between 3.0 to 3.5.

It is easier to hit the ball on a ground stroke when the flight of the ball is slightly on the way down after the bounce. The better players (4.5 & up) may be making contact when the ball is on the rise after the bounce, that’s a good thing, but more difficult. Hitting on the rise requires faster footwork, more precise timing on the hit and less time to prepare. It does allow for more penetrating shots because the player is generally positioned on or just inside the baseline. They are also facing harder hitters; which does not allow the luxury of playing from just behind the baseline-being on defense all the time.

Forehand contact points are: if the ball is on the way down make contact off of your stepping in leg approximately thigh high when in the closed stance. Open stance players want to make contact at the same height and generally in line with the opposite leg. Players who hit on the rise want to hit the ball more in front in order to take the upward angle off the ball as it hits the racquet. When the ball hits the face going up the natural reaction is the ball wants to go up after contact, early contact negates that reaction.  Making contact with the ball slightly falling is easier because the brushing up on a ball falling does not have that mathematical problem when on the rise.

tennis forehand

You can play a lifetime of good competitive tennis playing the ball coming down-if you want to keep moving up the ratings you will have to start taking the ball on the rise.

Everything is the exact same for the two hand backhand we just discussed for the forehand. The one hand backhand contact point, for both topspin and slice is about a foot in front of your body and should be hit primarily in the closed stance whenever possible.

tennis backhand

Contact points for the volley is out in front and at a forty five angle based upon your body and the net. This should not be hard because as you already know, if you read me a lot, there is NO backswing.

tennis volley

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Good Luck-Have Fun!!



Tennis Serve Strategy

Tennis Serve Strategy

There are a few areas to cover when talking about strategy and the serve.

The first should be the pace of the game when it is your serve. Remember that you are in complete control of the action when serving, the point cannot begin until you decide it will, so do not rush in between points. Take your time and develop a plan for the next point. I also highly recommend that when at the baseline to serve you stop, relax and bounce the ball at least three times to gain your composure and then serve.

If you have a big booming serve, that’s terrific. The strategy here is hit away; win some free points either by aces or service winners. Remember to move the serves around to keep the opponent guessing. My concern is your first serve percentage, I would like to see all first serve percentages above seventy percent, but the harder server usually has lower percentages. While it’s not a ton of fun, you need to get out and hit buckets of serves. If you can maintain sixty percent or higher-keep banging away, but if you are in the 55 percent or lower take some pace off to improve the percentage.

tennis serve

Now, if you are in the majority of players that does not have that huge overpowering serve- percentage and placement- will be the keys you will need for success. A high first serve percentage is one key for the simple fact that if the first serve is not overpowering and winning you free points then it stands to reason that your second serve is weaker and will leave you vulnerable to punishing returns, so practice that serve and look for that seventy percent first serve range. Placement will allow you to stay on offense during your service games. Obviously, if your opponent has a glaring weakness on one side or the other hit to it, if both the forehand and backhand are relatively capable your service movement becomes all important. When practicing the serve (yes I’m still harping on practice) there are three zones to work on: middle, center and wide. Serving down the middle does not allow the opponent any angles and generally forces a return back down the middle of the court to you so you can control the point. Serving to the center of the box is also serving into the opponent’s body forcing a weak return. If you serve out wide the opponent is pulled off the court to hit the return leaving the court wide open for you to hit into the open court, if the serve is not wide enough the opponent will have an angle cross court or a shot up the line. Again, if there is not a huge weakness move the serves around to keep the opponent guessing.

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Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Tennis Service Toss

Tennis Service Toss

There are many facets to hitting a good serve. Technique, grip, reach-etc. are all great, but without a good toss they do not matter.

What constitutes a good toss? Answer- consistency in height and placement! There are different tosses for different serves. Let’s discuss the common denominator in flat first serve.

When we toss the arm needs to be extended while carrying the ball to the arm’s extension. If the elbow bends while lifting the toss will generally end up too far back over your head. If the toss is always too far out in front, the arm extension may be fine but you are not fully carrying the ball up to the arm’s extension, in other words, if the ball comes out of the hand too soon it will stay out in front.

tennis serve

Another common error is something not often picked up on. Your hand must be laid out toward the net upon release, not curled in towards you. Again, this will result in a toss too far back over the head.

One other area you need to concern yourself with is the grip on the ball. I suggest the ball be held in your three fingers and thumb, the pinky is not involved, this will give you more control of the ball. If the ball is just in the palm of the hand it will roll off the fingers causing too much rotation. A good toss has zero to very little spin rotation while in the air.

For the flat serve, the body is at a forty-five degree angle, or facing the net post. The toss should be approximately a foot in front and at one o’clock, lefties at eleven.

A kick serve requires a toss that is directly over your head and the slice serve toss is a bit more out to the side.

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Good Luck-Have Fun