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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.

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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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Six Tips To Better Tennis

Six Tips To Tennis Improvement.

1-If you are beginning to take up the sport and are taking lessons try to put in as much practice in between lessons as possible. The optimum number of hours is five, but we are all busy and that may not be possible, but if you want to save money on lessons, please practice.

If you are a player of some standing and time-here we go!

2-If you want to get higher than 3.5 on the NTRP rating system learn to use the Continental grip at least on your volleys and serves. The grip is also used on slices, drop shots, half volleys and overheads but will improve your level with the volley and serve.

When discussing the serve the grip will enable you to learn a kick and slice serve which will keep your opponent guessing, rather than always knowing that a flat serve is coming their way generally with the same speed and spin.

The grip with the volley, If hit correctly, will put backspin on the ball forcing your opponent to hit low bouncing balls back up to you at the net for an easier put away. Volleys can be hit in the Eastern grip fairly effectively, but if you volley in the Western grip that area of your game will not improve enough to raise your level.

3-Learn to hit the forehand in both the closed and open stance. I like the closed stance when the oncoming shot is in the middle two thirds of the court and the open stance when the opponent has pulled you wide. If you hit the forehand with either Eastern or Continental grip I especially like this scenario, but if you hit with the Western grip hit in the open stance whenever it is comfortable to do so. The open stance is needed in all grips when you are pulled wide so a quicker return to the middle of the court is easier and faster to accomplish.

4-If you hit the two hand backhand make sure the top hand is the controlling hand in the shot. The power and upward snap is primarily done with the top hand, this will generate more topspin on your shot with the low to high swing and create more control in power and distance.

If you hit a one hand backhand make sure the butt of the handle leads your low to high swing for topspin and also leads your high to low swing for backspin. When the butt leads the swing the face of the racquet will not turn over too early, thus maintain the correct perpendicular racquet face at contact. Remember contact is made in line with your stepping front leg with the two hand backhand and approximately a foot in front of that leg with the one hand.

5-When hitting power ground strokes from the baseline make sure the head of the racquet is below the ball before you begin your forward swing motion. I don’t care if you have a loop, straight back or middle variation of both on your backswing the head must approach the ball from low to high to create the topspin needed to keep the ball in the court.

6-Maybe the most important of these six tips is to follow through over your shoulder on all topspin ground strokes. Our eyes cannot see it but the ball stays on the face of the racquet, and the longer you can keep the ball on the face the more spin and control you will create. The shorter the follow through, the higher the ball will go- the longer the follow through the lower the shot will be.

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Common Two Hand Backhand Errors

Common Two Hand Backhand Errors

The two handed backhand is now a basic fundamental in tennis these days, the percentage of Juniors and beginner adults being taught the two handed backhand is considerably higher than the one handed, and for good reason. It is easier to control the more aggressive, power shots than the one and it is easier to add power more consistently because the slice backhand is used less often than with the one handed backhand.

There are some common errors that may derail you, let’s go over them. For discussion purposes I will be instructing from a right handed point of view.

One is the grip. While there are different combinations that can work for individuals, the easiest combo is to have both the left and right hand in eastern grips. You never want the left hand in the continental; this will lead to an open racquet face sending your shots up and out. To generate more topspin move the left hand toward the semi-western.

The second is too short of a back swing. When preparing for the shot remember the left hand is the dominating hand and should be controlling the swing. Bring the racquet back with the left, do not push it back with the right, this will lead to a complete back swing and full shoulder rotation; then more power and complete follow through (over the shoulder) will be easier to accomplish.

Lastly, too many players hit with the wrong hand as the power hand. Most of the power and dominance of the shot is with the left hand and wrist. Picture your topspin forehand; you brush up the ball with the right hand, that’s what is needed with the left hand for the two handed backhand. The left hand brushes up the ball and the left, snapping wrist generates the power. If the right hand dominates you will only push the shot and not be able to follow through completely. All left- all the time!

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Forehand Grips

Forehand Grips

Let’s begin with the forehand grip. Many pros use different grips successfully; they are the Eastern, Western and Continental.

The Eastern grip is attained by shaking hands with the racquet. Place the palm of your hand on the strings of the racquet while holding the racquet vertical to the ground. Then slide your hand down to the handle and close your fingers. The thumb is resting beside and touching the middle finger and the index is slightly separated.  The “V” that is formed between the thumb and index finger should line up down the center of the racquet.

001

To locate the Western grip, start with the Eastern and move the  ”V” , which we will say is at 12:00 o’clock  while in the Eastern, and move it slightly to the right or 11:00 o’clock.

tennis grip

The Continental   is found by moving the “V” to the left, or 1:00 o’clock.

tennis pictures 3 004

All three grips are fine. You should find one that is most comfortable for you. In today’s   game the Eastern and Western grips are used for the forehand stroke more often than the Continental.[The Continental  grip is an extremely important grip for many other facets of stroke production and will be covered in detail later on]

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Drop Volley

Drop Volley

All tennis shots have some degree of feel when considering the amount of spin we put on the ball, touch shots like the drop shot and drop volley require much more feel. Let’s go over the important points when attempting a drop volley.

In singles the drop volley is used when a player has taken over the net and the opponent is back at the baseline. You only want to hit the drop volley if you have a reasonably controllable ball coming toward you, the shot may be angled but does not have to be, a straight drop is fine too, just as long as it is short enough to win the point.Doubles offers more opportunities to employ the shot and angles are required most of the time.

tennis volley

Just like the drop shot the drop volley takes the oncoming pace off the ball. When you normally volley there’s a firm wrist and a forward punch of the ball with very little follow through. To hit the drop volley correctly you need to let the ball hit the racquet with no forward punch and at impact open the face of the racquet slightly having the palm of the hand face upward. It’s like trying to catch or cup the ball on the face of the racquet, with absolutely no break in the wrist. The shot should be hit in the Continental grip with the head of the racquet slightly above the handle.

tennis continental grip

 

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The Volley Doctor 2

The Volley Doctor 2

Now it’s the backhand’s turn. Remember the Continental grip.

If you go back and read the forehand volley article you will see how a lack of a shoulder turn can cause many issues. The shoulder turn for the backhand volley is equally as important, but much more natural in the backhand volley. If you have either a one hand or two backhand volley the hitting hand and arm must cross your body to prepare correctly for the shot which naturally turns the shoulders to the correct forty-five degree angle. Grab your racquet and stand as if you are at the net in volley ready position. Without moving your feet prepare the upper body as if you’re about to hit the backhand volley, notice how the shoulders turn all by themselves.

If you are hitting the volley long there is probably a too large a backswing. Unless the oncoming shot is a high floater the tip end of the head of the racquet should not go past your ear. The large backswing will cause a late hit and send the shot long. Make sure there is a cross over step forward and toward the ball, this will get you attacking the shot and help keep the racquet out in front. You must hit the ball in front, not have the ball hit your racquet when back on your heels; the shot will go long.

One handed backhand volley players have a common problem, especially starting out, that two handed do not, that is, a breakdown of form due to improper use of the off hand. The offhand cradles the throat of the racquet to insure the proper technique of keeping the head of the racquet either above the handle or parallel to the handle. The hand stays on the throat until your forward step and then releases. If you let go too soon, or don’t use it at all, the proper height and angle will not be there causing late contact, a weak volley, or both.

Two hand volley players should emulate the form of your forehand volley. The top hand on the grip should reach forward to the shot. Have someone toss you some balls at the net without your racquet, step and reach to catch the ball with your opposite hand. You will see that you do not pull your hand back behind your shoulder to catch, you simply reach- do the same with the volley.

If the volley is going into the net too often remember the butt of the racquet leads the hit. If the head is leading your stroke the face is turned down. Try hitting the stroke with the butt slightly in front with the head catching up at impact, now the face is correct.

Two other key areas for both the forehand and backhand volley are keep a firm wrist and the shots are hit with a slight high to low motion. This will impart backspin and keep the bounce low to the opponent forcing an easier next shot for you.

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Tennis-The Volley Doctor

Tennis-The Volley Doctor

Here are some quick cures to help improve your forehand volley.

First, as those of you already know if you read this blog weekly, the volley is hit in the Continental grip. If you use the Eastern grip balls above the net can be hit, but balls below the height of the net will end up in the net because the racquet is not open enough to have your shot clear the net. In the Continental it is open enough. If you use the Western grip at the net-STOP! Try to learn the Continental, if that is too drastic of a change then move to the Eastern, once you have that the Continental is only a smidgeon away. Learning the Continental is not a quick cure, but necessary to improve your rating or ranking.

tennis continental grip

If you tend to take a too large a backswing on your forehand volley here are two ways to get the feel of reaching forward. I just got off the court with Emma who had the same problem, not any more. I fed balls to her forehand volley while she held her wrist with her non-hitting hand. With her left hand holding her right wrist (she’s right handed) Emma could not take a backswing and got the feel of forward only on the volley. The other is, stand at the net without a racquet and have someone toss you balls so you can catch them with your hitting hand. What you will see is that the only arm motion you will do is stick the hand up in front of yourself and catch the ball. What you will not do is take your hand behind your shoulder and then move it forward to catch-a waste of time and motion, the same as on the volley. Give these two a try.

tennis volley

If your forehand volley is constantly going in the net you must turn the shoulders more. Do this little exercise at home. Stand with your racquet as if you are at the net facing the opposite side of the court, lift your arm up and forward, notice how the face of the racquet is facing down. Now without moving the arm at all, turn your shoulders forty-five degrees toward your racquet and watch how the face will open up all by itself. The shoulder turn is the key in controlling the face of the racquet.

tennis volley

The opposite leg and foot will make your shoulders turn. Here’s an exercise that can be done at home to demonstrate how the opposite leg and foot will improve the forehand volley. In a perfect world the forehand volley is hit in front with the opposite leg crossing toward the ball and forward. This will cause a natural shoulder turn when making contact with the ball. As we know the ball is not always at the perfect spot, sometimes it is close enough so no step is needed, or it is hit too close to you and a step out is required. In both scenarios the opposite foot must turn in towards the ball. Stand in the volley position and pretend that a step is not needed and simulate a volley. If the opposite foot does not turn in the shoulders will not turn and you’ll see the racquet face aimed down, when you turn the foot you will see the shoulders naturally turn and the face open up. You will notice the same is true when a shot is coming too close but is still a forehand volley. An outward side step with the opposite leg is needed to create space and the foot must turn in. Practice these moves at home to develop muscle memory.

Use these little tricks and your forehand volley will improve. Next cures for the backhand volley.

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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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Tennis One Hand Backhand

Tennis One Hand Backhand

If you look back on my site you’ll see discussions of the backhand slice and the two handed backhand, it’s now time to give the one, handed topspin backhand some love.

There are some key areas to cover that will improve your backhand if you use this stroke. (This is all based on right handed players, lefties reverse)

tennis grip

The grip is more left than the continental, with the major factor of forming almost a right angle between the arm and shaft of the racquet. (See picture) The “V” in your hand should be at nine o’clock on the grip. ( Use your “V” centered on top of the grip as twelve )

Next, your preparation (back swing) needs a complete shoulder rotation with the butt of the handle facing out. Envision playing on a court in the middle of two others; the butt must be pointed toward the net on the court beside you, not the net on your own court. This does two things: one, maintain that right angle and two, makes sure that you can lead with the butt of the handle. Remember, the butt will always be going out and forward, it will never face your body.

tennis shoulders

You need the backswing to be low, think right hand-right hip, now you can brush up the backside of the ball to generate the topspin. I suggest using a firm wrist to start and then incorporating some wrist snap as you feel more comfortable.

tennis backhand

As always, a complete follow through is needed to keep the ball down and control your shot. The longer the ball stays on the face of the racquet the more spin you can generate. Spin is the controlling factor in your ground strokes. There is an opposite here, the shorter the follow through the higher the shot, the longer the lower the shot, ergo, it stays in the court.

tennis backhand

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