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Coil for Power

Coil for Power

Power in tennis shots comes from different areas, one of the most important is the coiling down to generate power as we come up.

Our ground strokes require a preparation that allows us to bend our knees when taking the racquet back. Whether discussing the Traditional forehand or backhand, or the more Modern style, knee bends are essential. The Traditional strokes, where our bodies are turned more sideways to the net and our stances are closed, have a knee bend in the rear leg, which will automatically bend the front leg a bit. This bending allows the player to come up, and through, the ball at contact resulting in more power. With the Modern style the body is more open to the net and so too is the stance. Notice in the picture how bent the right knee is while preparing for the forehand, the term “ loading “ is used instead of coiling, but we are talking the same thing here, lowering the body to generate an upward motion creating power.

Serving also requires a coiling action. We want to hit our serves at the apex of our reach. When this is accomplished two things occur, one, the trajectory downward is greater, giving us a better angle to hit the serve in, and two, there is a much larger arc in the swing which will generate more head speed, thus power. Remember L=L, or, if the serve is Long you probably hit it too Low. To be able to reach that apex the knees have to bend as the toss is being lifted. This coiling process allows us to push upward towards the toss and contact the ball at our maximum height. [See picture]

Let’s not forget the overhead either. We need to hit that shot high also, for the exact same reason as the serve. Ever wonder why your overhead is continually flying long? Go back to the L=L theory, they are being struck too low.

With both the serve and overhead remember to keep the head up through the entire stroke; this will insure longer eye contact and an extended reach.

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Think Shoulders

Think Shoulders

What does throwing a great pitch, a touchdown pass, hitting a baseball, smacking a perfect drive in golf, scoring a hockey goal with a blazing slap shot or good tennis ground strokes have in common? The answer for all these is a consistent shoulder rotation. When you have some time, watch some of these other sports and take note of where the shoulders are in relation to the ball just before the ball is thrown or struck. You will instantly pick up on the fact that the shoulders have rotated sideways and maintain that position until release or contact and then rotate forward for power and direction.

The same holds true for all tennis strokes-shoulders are the key for power and consistency.

The forehand and backhand topspin ground strokes, whether you hit in a closed or open stance, need the shoulders to rotate sideways to the ball and then be at a forty-five degree angle at contact turning towards the net when following through.

The back spin, or slice, forehand and backhand ground strokes are hit in a closed stance and turned shoulders. You should maintain that position through the contact point and not rotate the shoulders forward after the shot, but keep the shoulders sideways to the net until the follow through is completed.

To hit the volley correctly the opposite leg must step forward toward the ball and net, this will correctly force your shoulders to turn toward the ball and create a forty-five degree angle at the point of contact. Again, maintain that angle until the ball has left the face of the racquet.

When hitting the serve or overhead begin with the front shoulder facing toward the net. As you coil and then reach up for the shot the shoulders should begin to rotate forward-be at a forty-five degree angle at contact and then rotate forward towards the net completing the follow through.

Remember, the shoulders are the key ingredient for keeping the face of the racquet level at contact, thus giving your shots more consistency and the rotation adds power. Think shoulders and your game will improve.

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Back Swing vs.Loop

First let’s understand that on the forehand both the loop and straight back backs wings are correct. There are advantages for both and obviously some disadvantages too.

The main plus for the straight back is compactness of the swing. I’m a firm believer that the less body parts moving during a swing, the less causes for error. When using the straight back technique, think of the three Hs, Hip-Handle-Head, if the hip, handle and head of the racquet are in alignment on the backswing the stroke is compact and the head of the racquet will be below the oncoming ball to allow you to hit up the backside of the ball to generate topspin. Another plus for the straight back is when you are playing a particularly hard hitter, there will be less time to prepare due to the oncoming speed and the straight back backswing takes a shorter amount of time to get the racquet in the proper position.

Two disadvantages of the straight back are footwork and power. There is a lack of fluidity while swinging, which can cut down the head speed of the racquet, possibly resulting in a slight loss of power. The straight back swing generally dictates a closed stance which will force you to move your feet faster to get into position to hit correctly and recover back to the center of the court.

The loop backswing has been part of tennis for years and years, it has become more popular in the Modern tennis era. The advantages may be more power, condensed foot work and more control. The modern loop backswing is generally hit with the western grip, creating more spin which means more control. The power is generated by a continual swing that can form more of an arc which can give you more head speed, and if the western grip is being used, more wrist snap is needed to enhance the head speed at impact. The loop is hit more often in an open stance, so getting to the ball is faster as well as the recovery time.

Disadvantages might be errors due to form or lack of preparation time. The height of the top of your racquet head should not be higher than your eyes. Too high, and the swing will be too slow for hard hitting opponents and too difficult for balls lower than your knees. I’ve seen too many times players using the open stance forget that “open stance” is from the waist on down, a shoulder rotation is still needed to hit the shot correctly.

I suggest picking one that you’re comfortable with, and then try to learn the other. I play matches and use both when the oncoming shot dictates one or the other.

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In modern tennis the open stance has emerged as a popular way to hit the ball, especially on the forehand side. I will go over the positives of the open stance and then discuss when the closed stance is a must.

In the above picture is the forehand open stance, the picture below is the forehand closed stance.

As the game has become more powerful, due to equipment, the open stance forehand allows a bit less footwork when responding to the oncoming faster shots. Power can be generated by exploding upward off the bent back knee when making contact with the ball, make sure not to be completely erect off that knee before contact or your shot will generally end up in the net due to the ball contact on the face of the racquet will too low. You want to hit topspin by making contact with the ball from the center of the racquet on up-you will be able to brush up more of the strings which will give you more spin. Personally I like to hit the forehand with a closed stance when the shot is in the middle of the court and an open stance when pulled further out wide, you have options.

The backhand, one or two hand, is more consistently hit with a closed stance. Where I preach the open stance on the backhand, especially the two handed, is when you are pulled wide. (picture 4) On both the forehand and backhand wide shots the open stance allows you to get to the ball faster and return to the center of the court more quickly after making that wide shot.

The other shot that the open stance is an asset is the mid court swinging volley. Make sure you stop before you hit so your forward momentum will not carry your shot too long. (picture 3)

When is the closed stance a must when hitting a shot? The answer is the service return and the conventional volley. Both of these shots are fundamentally the same. They both require a split step right before your opponent’s contact, a short backswing and early contact. The early contact cannot be attained if there is not a cross over step with your opposite leg. On the service return the contact point is usually higher than a normal ground stroke due to the trajectory of the oncoming serve, without the forward step the ball will be hit late. When at net the oncoming shots are arriving much quicker and require a forward reach (no backswing) that is only accomplished by a cross over step. In both cases the closed stance will get you moving forward to help you take the shots earlier.

Practice the different stances for your ground strokes and be committed to the closed for returns and volleys.

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Tennis on the Service Line

Tennis on the Service Line

Playing from the service line is not the most opportunistic place to be on the court, but in the course of the match you will find yourself there. The only time you will begin a point there is if your partner is receiving serve when playing doubles. By the way, in that position you call the cross service line and your partner calls the service side lines.

This will be a bunch of small tips when at the service line. The shots presented to you will be the volley, swinging volley, half volley, slice forehand or backhand and in some cases a limited ground stroke-so here we go!

When starting the point from the service line, be prepared for three scenarios. First- after your partners’ return passes the net player move forward to net when the server is playing back, also move forward if your partners’ return is low making the server volley up when the server is following in the serve. Third- be ready for a reflex volley if the net player can cut off the return.

If you are coming to net either after your serve or moving in on a short ball from your opponent, in singles or doubles, change your grip to the Continental. This grip will be used for the conventional volley, half volley and the slice forehand or backhand.

Conventional volley- split step as your opponent begins the forward motion to hit the ball (not the backswing) then step on the opposite leg and reach as if you’re trying to catch the ball. The wrist is locked with no backswing and very little follow through.

Half volley- with the oncoming shot low and bouncing almost at your feet, you have already completed your split step; now all that is left is to turn, drop and lift. There is no backswing and the face of the racquet is slightly closed to prevent your shot from floating too high. Again, a firm wrist is required.

When the opponent’s shot is short, low and bouncing in front, not at your feet, a slice approach shot is needed to clear the net and keep your ball bouncing low for a high response from the opponent to give you an easier volley when reaching the net. The slice is an elongated volley. The shot is high to low brushing down the backside of the ball with a firm wrist. Please keep your knees bent and your shoulders turned through the entire shot.

Short high balls allow you to be more aggressive. Playing from your normal forehand and backhand grips allow you to hit either a swinging volley or attacking a high ball that already bounced. The swinging volley will be struck the same as your groundstroke just in the air. After the ball has bounced remember to move in-stop-and shorten the backswing since a quarter of the court is now behind you. A complete, over the shoulder follow through is needed for both strokes.

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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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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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Singles Play

 Singles Play

Here are some tips that will help you improve your singles game.

Before I get into some strokes and strategies that will help, I can’t emphasize enough how much your fitness will play a part in determining winning and losing a match. There are exercises and work out routines that will improve strength in the areas of the body that tennis needs-primarily legs, but I need you to work on your cardio capacity so as not to tire in the long matches and stretching to remain limber and agile-and avoid injuries.

I have discussed the five most important shots for playing good doubles, they are the serve, return, volley, overhead and lob. Now, when discussing singles you obviously need all of those- then let’s toss in the forehand and backhand slice and at least have an idea of how to hit a drop shot when you have an easy ball inside the baseline and the opponent is back behind the baseline. Developing a power weapon from the baseline will soon be discussed.

I am not diminishing the importance of the serve in singles when I say the serve is more important when playing doubles, all I am saying is that it is easier at all levels of play to break serve in singles. In doubles placement is more important than power when serving. When practicing serving for singles try flattening out the serve more for some extra power, you will get some easy points if you do. Remember the power comes from coiling in the knees and making contact up high with the toss slightly out front and at one o’clock for the flat serve.

Develop at least one shot that you can count on to put pressure on the opponent. For me, it was two, the forehand down the line and the slice backhand down the line. Those two shots won me an awful lot of matches. Try to develop a weapon you can confidently hit to either hit a winner or set up a weak response from the opponent to put you in control of the point.

Learn the forehand and backhand slice. Even if you have an awesome topspin forehand and a great two hand backhand, trust me, you still need the slice. You will need it for offense and defense. Defensively the slice will bail you out on wide shots, extremely low balls and the over powering first serve that you are having a hard time catching up to. Offensively the slice will allow you to hit an attacking approach shot when coming forward on a short low ball, remember an offensive shot does not always mean it has a lot of pace, in this case the ball will bounce low to the opponent so he or she will have to hit up to you after you have already reached the net. In singles you do not want to give the opponent the same look , the slice allows you to change pace and spins on your shots keeping the opponent guessing and out of rhythm.

Work on your serve, develop a weapon, learn the slice, don’t get angry-ever, do your cardio and stretch!

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The Forehand

The Forehand

When attempting the forehand stroke consider racquet preparation first. As soon as your opponent has struck the ball, you should begin to move the racquet back. This allows for a smooth stroke with lots of time. If the racquet is not back early the stroke is hurried and leaves many more chances for error. A straight back or a loop backswing are both used and both are acceptable. You should experiment with both to determine which is most comfortable for you.

A Traditional forehand can be used with any of the three grips and either backswing. Let’s talk about this forehand first.

Following your opponent’s shot to your forehand pivot on the right foot so that it is parallel to the net. The left leg should turn approximately forty five degrees to the right with the shoulders sideways to the net.

tennis pictures 2 005

When starting your swing move the racquet with a low to high motion, always keep the head of the racquet vertical to the ground. As you begin your low to high swing step onto your left leg leaving half your weight on the stable back right leg. If at contact there a slight bend in the right knee you will ensure proper balance. The follow through should go toward your target and continue over your shoulder. Remember, a full finish will determine how much Topspin is created. Topspin is your controlling agent for your shots.

tennis forehand

The Traditional forehand is basically broken down to Turn/Step/Hit

tennis forehand

With tennis players around the world getting bigger, stronger and faster the game is evolving. The ever improving technology has also brought more power to the game. This leads to the more Modern forehand. We broke the Traditional down to Turn/Step/Hit the Modern is Load/Explode/Land. This forehand is generally hit with the Western grip. The Traditional is hit in more of a closed stance, that is, the left leg stepping toward the ball and net. The Modern uses a loop backswing to generate more power and spin while in an open stance.

tennis forehand

The first part of the Modern forehand is the preparation or Load. There is a loop backswing, an open stance and most importantly the weight on the bent right leg. The weight and bending on the right leg will generate the upward swing power at contact or the Explode part of the swing, when the ball arrives there is an upward push off the right leg brushing up the backside of the ball creating topspin. The trunk of the body continues rotating until the shoulders have completely turned around and the follow through complete with the racquet over the shoulder, the Land.

tennis follow through

Players just starting out should start with the Traditional forehand. Intermediates may want to begin learning the Modern since the Traditional is already comfortable. The more Advanced, Competitive and Tournament players will want the Traditional and definitely the Modern.

I recommend that players using the closed stance learn to hit in an open stance when pulled to the corner for a forehand. The open stance will give you a faster recovery back to the center of the court.

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