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Tennis Strategy Archives

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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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.

tennis forehand

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.

tennis backhand

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!!

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.

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Wimbledon

Wimbledon

If you’ve been watching the Wimbledon, I bet you’ve been really enjoying the great matches, I know I have.

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Good Luck-Have Fun!!

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!!

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!!

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!

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Volley vs. Passing Shot

Volley vs. Passing Shot

It is commonly said in tennis that a player’s first volley is only as good as he or she’s first serve or approach shot. If you are a serve and volley player in singles you need to develop a good and consistent first serve. While power on the serve is great, first serve percentage is as important for success in the serve and volley game. If you want to play the majority of points in the style you like when serving a percentage of seventy percent would be great, sixty percent still gives you the advantage, but if you are fifty percent or less you are in a losing situation. To serve and volley on your second serve, work on a kick serve. You can negate the less power on the serve with an awkward higher bounce so the opponent cannot tee off on the return; it will also give you more time to get closer to the net.

Placement in singles is not as defined as it is in doubles. The doubles serve should primarily be down the middle leaving the opponent to limited options, mainly back to you or a lob. You do need to change it up to keep the opponent guessing and if there is a glaring weakness off of one side to take advantage of, but for the most part down the middle serves are best. In singles, again down the middle does not give the opponent angles to pass with off the return, but you will want to take advantage of a weak stroke and you will want to move the serve around so as not to be too predictable. The wide serve will open up options for the return, either down the line or an angle cross court, but if you have an effective wide serve it will give you an open court to hit your first volley.

If you are the player who is uncomfortable with the serve and volley but does like to attack the net on short balls I beg you to learn the slice forehand and backhand. Most short balls are low and require the slice approach to create backspin on the ball. The backspin will keep your shot’s bounce low forcing a higher shot coming back to you for the first volley. If the ball is short and high, above the net, then shorten your backswing, use a solid shoulder rotation and hit to a corner with some margin of error, you do not have to aim for lines.

Remember the first volley is not normally the winning shot it is used to set up the next volley and allow you to close in on the net more, there is nothing wrong with a series of volleys to finally hit the winner. When moving at net after either of the above scenarios shade the side of the court you just hit the ball to. If you approached to the ad side of the court take a step from the center service line towards that side, you can still cover the cross court pass with a good split step and cross over step while at the same time giving the opponent less room to pass down the line.

I encourage you to also work on the half volley. When coming in and making the first volley around the service line you will encounter a lot of low balls at your feet. The keys to the half volley are no backswing, continental grip, bend the knees to get low and close the face of the racquet to keep your ball down. If you hit the half volley with a non-closed face the ball will float giving the opponent a myriad of options to pass. See the above pictures!

Good Luck-Have Fun!!

Use Your Senses

Use Your Senses

Playing better tennis depends an awful lot upon using our physical senses. As you know our five senses consist of smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch; use of our natural gifts will lead to improved play.

You can eliminate the first two of the above smell and taste. The only way they might be involved are in extremely bad situations- first, taste would only occur if your opponent smashed it down your throat and second, if you are playing so badly that you happen to really stink that day could bring in the sense of smell.

The other three senses definitely have major roles in your game.

tennis forehand

Sight is fairly self explanatory- tennis is a game primarily of movement and sight. How many times have you heard to keep your eye on the ball? This is the basic premise when discussing the sense of sight in tennis, but there are many other factors that include sight. Watch the opponent’s racquet before contact. If the swing is low to high expect topspin coming toward you or if the swing is high to low expect to see backspin. Topspin will cause a higher bounce while backspin will bounce lower. While the oncoming ball is in flight it is possible to see the amount of spin on the ball. If the ball has a great amount of rotation on it you will be able to prepare for a more exaggerated bounce. Also, look for the amount of pace and arc of the approaching ball to help you know the type of response needed with your preparation and shot.

tennis volley

Hearing comes into play when the opponent is hitting the shot. The sound of the ball coming off the racquet gives you a lot of information. First, the hardness of the hit tells you of the oncoming speed and will have you prepare for a full backswing or tell you to shorten the backswing to adjust for the power. If you hear a brushing sound during the opponent’s hit expect more spin. Lastly, if you hear the opponent hit the ball off the frame of the racquet you will probably get an erratic bounce, so beware. If you are playing a point and are at the service line or closer to the net I would advise not to let the ball bounce when you hear that frame shot.

If you don’t think sound is not important, then why did the players fight to have the airport’s take off and landing traffic changed at Laguardia and JFK outside of the US Open? -To hear the ball at contact!

Touch comes into tennis the more your ability improves. Touch and feel are basically the same thing in our discussion here. If you are recently new to tennis I urge you to carry your racquet around as much as possible so that your comfort level in the feel of different grips becomes natural to you as soon as possible.

The feel in hitting different spins and touch shots comes with ability. You will know when you have reached an upper level in the game when you can sit in your living room and mentally feel hitting your forehands, backhands and other strokes.

So, come to your senses for better tennis.

Good Luck-Have Fun!