June, 2016 |

Archive for June, 2016

Wimbledon Observation

Wimbledon Observation

It’s Wimbledon time-so let’s learn while we watch!!

Observation plays an awfully important role in the learning process of the game. We all observe things in our everyday lives that are then stored in our memories and used in our own experiences later. What is the difference in observing mental experiences than observing tennis strokes or strategy? Why is it so easy to copy mental experiences and not so easy to copy the tennis motions? The answers lie in the transferring of the mental images into physical actions.

A baby observes an adult eating with a spoon and then imitates. Lack of coordination and muscle training contributes to the baby’s inability to perform the action. However, after a long period of repeated tries it is done correctly and turned into a habit. We have the same problems with the physical actions of tennis. We can observe a perfect stroke and not be able to imitate because of lack of muscle training. This inability to perform immediately is, as all tennis players know, frustrating; but it will come with practice. The frustration should not detract from the valuable learning one can receive through observation.

When watching quality players on television, at your club or in the parks; observe what will help you best. I have heard too many people say to quality players as they come off the court, I really enjoy watching you play, your strokes are beautiful. That person had a great opportunity to gain in the learning process has wasted his or her time watching, not observing.

If you know that you have a particular problem in your stroke, for example, a too high racquet head on your backswing, key in on that part of the player’s swing you are observing. When we watch, we tend to watch the total stroke and game the player is involved in, however, nothing is being learned because there are too many physical actions going on in too short of time. Try to observe how that player handles your particular problem in that stroke. Always start your observation from the player’s ready position and follow from that position to the area of the stroke that is your problem. Many times a problem in a specific area is caused by early mechanics. The observer should key in on the arm, wrist and racquet head of the player, also take note of body rotation.

We can do this in segments of all areas that give us problems. Once you have determined your specific needs do not give up chances to see how better players handle them, don’t watch-observe!

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Good Luck-Have Fun!!!

Errors-Good and Bad

Errors-Good and Bad

Many players believe that any shot not landing in the court is an error. This, while taken literally may have to be defined that way, is really is not so. Let’s discuss ones that are and ones that are not.

You’re playing a point and drive an aggressive forehand down the line and the ball lands a couple of inches wide, in my opinion that is not an error, that’s a miss. You never want to get down on yourself at any time; it will only hurt your game. Never get down after a miss!! Misses are going to happen when you are playing well and trying to win a match as opposed to playing too conservatively and trying not to lose.

tennis forehand

If you miss on ground strokes you want to have the ball land either long or wide. Ground strokes that hit the net are errors. No shot has a chance of landing in if it does not go over the net. When you practice try to hit all your shots past the service line, this way even if the ball falls short of the service line it is still over the net. Take putting in golf as an example. Where would you like a missed putt to end up? (No, close to the hole is not the answer.) The ball should end up past the hole; if it stopped short it could not go in. The same in tennis, the ball has to go over the net to have a chance of landing in. So, hit up and follow through for good shots and some misses, but not errors in the net.

tennis follow through

There are errors on ground strokes that do land long or wide, called unforced errors. This is when there is no pressure on you with the oncoming shot and you are not trying to do too much with your shot and for no apparent reason you hit it out. Concentrate on your form harder after one of those.

Another example of a miss or an error is in serving. Your good hard first serve is out, that’s a miss. A double fault is an unforgivable error, never give a point away!

tennis overhead

Errors occur due to lack of concentration, another example is a shot hit off the frame because the player is just not watching the ball. Misses are due to a bit of inaccuracy, do not equate the two.

Concentration is the answer for both misses and errors. Focus in more and you’ll cut down on both. Again, please don’t get down on yourself, it never helps.

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Backhand Cures

Backhand Cures

Having problems with the backhand? Here some easy cures that will it improve. We’ll begin with the one hand backhand.

If you have read this site often enough you already know that all ground strokes should have some degree of spin on the ball for control of your shots, the spin could be either topspin or backspin. When discussing topspin the three biggest areas of concern should be the grip, preparation and follow through. The topspin grip is a past the Continental to the left (for right handed players) so the top knuckle of the index finger is on top of the bevel on top of the handle. The left hand is one key in the preparation; it will take the racquet back, placed on the throat of the shaft, to allow for an easy grip change. The left hand stays on the racquet to maintain the correct angle and will release as you step to hit the shot, the butt of the handle must lead the swing and never face in towards your body, so when the racquet is back your arm and racquet should almost form a forty-five degree angle having the butt facing toward the sidelines of your half of the court, not the net. To create topspin, brush up the backside of the ball with a firm wrist (you can add wrist snap as you improve) and follow through completely.

If your shots are sailing long-make sure the grip is on top enough, then, complete the follow through to make sure the ball is on the racquet face long enough for the spin to take effect. If your shots are going into the net you have not angled the racquet enough behind you so the butt is incorrectly facing toward the net. This will cause the face to turn over too quickly and send the shot downward.

Two handed backhand shot that sails long is not for the same reason. The grips for both hands can be in the Eastern, there are different combinations that are perfectly fine. The top hand is the power and controlling hand, it will snap up the ball creating topspin. If you are using the bottom hand for power the ball will sail because you are basically pushing the ball and the follow through will be short; you need the top hand to get over the shoulder on your follow through.

Hitting into the net on the two hand backhand is caused primarily by just not hitting up the ball enough. Many players think they are finishing over their shoulder but are really finishing over their elbow, that’s not high enough. Another might be that your backswing is too high; the head of the racquet must be below the ball as you start your forward motion to allow for the low to high swing. If you are really having problems aim three feet above the net to give yourself a greater margin of error.

For all ground strokes trying to have your shots land past the service line is a good thing, even if they land short-they have cleared the net.

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Grips and String

  • Grips and String

Here are a few facts about grips and string that will help you play better tennis.

The type of grip you use is obviously up to you, there are many different ones out there. I personally like the synthetic cushion grips that are flooding the market. When mine start to wear out I just go to Wal-Mart and buy the Wilson Cushion Pro, it’s inexpensive ( around- $4.00 ) and extremely comfortable. Grips are very easy to put on, just follow the directions.

The grip size is very important to your play. To find out your correct grip size, take a ruler and spread the palm of your playing hand. Measure from the middle of your second life-line in the middle of the palm to the end of your ring finger, that measurement is the grip size your racquet should show. Racquets generally range from four to five inches in grip size and is displayed either on the butt of the racquet or the side. If you see ¼, that means 4 and a ¼, if you see 3/8, that means 4 and 3/8, and so on. Comfort is all important- you can deviate from your actual grip size by an eighth of an inch either way. If your hand measures a 4 and a ½, your comfort grip range is from a 4 and 3/8 to a 4 and 5/8, whichever one of those three sizes feels the best is fine to play with. Do not play outside of your range; if you do there will be gaps in space between your hand and the racquet causing the racquet to turn in your hand at contact of the ball.

There are so many different strings on the market that it can become very confusing. For the average player here are my recommendations. Find a medium priced 16 gauge synthetic string. String gauge, or thickness, runs from 15 up to 19 gauge with the lower gauge being the thicker string. If you play with a 15 gauge string the durability is greater but the playability is less. In other words, your strings will not snap as quickly but the feel of your shots will be less. The thinner the string the more spin you will be able to put on your shots. I find that for the average player the 16 gauge is durable enough and offers the thinness to play the different spins.

There is another way to get both durability and playability when having your racquet strung. Consider asking for 15 gauge strings used for your cross strings and a thinner gauge used for your main strings. When you put spin on the ball the only strings affecting the shot are the main strings. Thin strings snap more easily because the strings move in your racquet causing friction, so, it stands to reason that thinner strings have less mass and will break faster. If the cross strings are thick and the playing main strings are thinner you will maintain the playability and have half your strings with more mass resulting in less breakage. If your stringer uses large reels of strings the price should remain the same, but if the stringer uses individual packages of string and has to open two- the price could go up.

Racquets will have the recommended tension range on the side of the shaft. If a racquet’s range, for example, is 55 to 65 pounds stay within the range. If you go above the range you run the risk of cracking the frame due to stress. If you are unsure of what your tension should be for your type of play you can never go wrong by staying in the middle. The simple rule is for more power go for a lower tension-for more control go for a higher tension. The lower tension creates more flex in the looser strings generating power. The higher tension means the strings are tighter and will not bend as much at contact giving your shots more control.

Keep an eye on your grip, strings and tension for better tennis performance.

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Good Luck- Have Fun!!

Positive Tennis

Positive Tennis

I have seen over the years, either through my own play or through players I have coached, many matches lost due to negative mental attitudes during the match. When I was first starting out as a junior I know I lost some matches purely due to negative thoughts. It was only after I came to realize that part of playing tennis is the mere fact you are going to lose points, games, sets and even matches- because that’s the nature of the beast- and it is okay.

We all want to win, but when winning becomes the only enjoyment of the game then it may be time to quit because you are not going to win all the time. For me, the fun of tennis is being on the court in the heat of the battle. I’ve won a lot of matches, but I have lost a bunch too and it was only after I learned that everyone misses shots did I enjoy the sport to the fullest.

Do not let a lost point or a miss on an easy ball start you down a path of negativity that will only increase your errors, because you are remembering points that are over and you can do nothing about them, rather than the points you can control-the next ones. Opponents are not blind, if you start getting angry and hanging your head you are just fuelling the opponent’s confidence and depleting your own, a simple recipe for losing quickly.

When playing in a tournament I am a firm believer in not knowing my opponent until the day of the match. I’ve seen too many players check out the draw to see they are playing a seeded player and then spend the next week before the match getting that losing feeling. Instead, spend that week focusing on your strong points building a confidence; you have an excellent chance to succeed no matter who the opponent is going to be.

There is no shame in losing to a superior player; there is no fun in losing because you have mentally beaten yourself up before or during the match. Stay positive all the time during matches, do not hurry in between points and breathe, play to your strengths and enjoy the battle of shot making and wills. If you are winning do not change and try to hurry the end, stay on an even keel. If you are losing a tight match you can play the same strategy because the difference is probably only a few more unforced errors on your part, concentrate harder on less errors. If the match is lopsided against you change your strategy to something different.

Stay positive and you’ll have more fun and win more matches.

Good Luck-Have Fun!!