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View Full Version : the truth about footwork


certifiedjatt
12-31-2008, 07:25 PM
admittedly, the guy who posted this isn't a scientist. however, the purpose of my post is to show that the idea of practicing footwork and movement strategy is not one that does not have its opponents. below is copied from http://www.tenniswarrior.com/myths/myth-footwork.htm:

Myth - You must practice precise intricate footwork to move on the tennis court and play tennis well.

Truth - The footwork may be precise and it may be intricate, but you do not have to practice like footprints on the ground in a dance lesson. Put this foot here and that foot there, cross step there and cross step here, trip over your feet here and stumble over them there!

The core of the movement in tennis is running. Sometimes forward, sometimes backward, and sometimes sideways. It is not really complicated! You are on the baseline, you see the ball going to your right or left and you run. Yes, you have one foot or the other in front when you hit the ball, and sometimes you take short little adjustment steps to position yourself better, as well as straddle steps here and there. The truth is most of this comes naturally with improved timing and judgment of the ball. Really!!!

I have seen this over and over and over and over and over again. As players improve with repetition they automatically begin taking adjustment steps to be in a little better position to hit the ball. The reason why is simple to understand. Before they practiced they were not exactly sure of the bounce of the ball, so how are they going to take some subtle adjustment steps? Once they have some repetition under their belt the brain begins analyzing by itself and the adjustment process, as well as other subtle movement, becomes automatic.

I have given lessons to straight beginners and never mentioned footwork when learning a forehand or backhand. It is amazing to watch them eventually hit with a closed stance (body sideways) or open stance (body facing forward) and learn it automatically. Their footwork begins improving as their judgment of the ball improves. Some hit more with open stances, and others hit more with closed stances. They are beginning to develop there own style like the pros.

There is no cookie cutter mentality here. Each player should learn to move with footwork that is based on their own style.

The next time you are playing do not concentrate on your footwork at all. Instead, just let your feet do what ever naturally occurs for the situation. Do not worry if you should step with the left foot here or the right foot there. Just play! Move your feet in a way that feels comfortable and natural. Do this for your next 5 to 6 matches and notice how your balance begins improving, notice how sometimes you will hit with an open stance (body facing the net) and sometimes with a closed stance (body sideways), and above all notice how you have become more automatic, instinctive, and relaxed.

Guess what? You are beginning to acquire a "feel" for the footwork. Not to mention you will enjoy yourself more!

Now, go back and concentrate on the correct footwork again and notice how mechanical and restricted you feel.

The result of ignoring this myth! A more natural, relaxed, spontaneous, instinctive player that is about to be unleashed on the world. My advice to you is - you better begin now because someday you may have to play them!!!

END OF QUOTE.

i've highlighted what i've seen in other, more scientific articles--which i cannot re-find at the moment.

LuckyR
12-31-2008, 07:49 PM
As usual, it depends. Many non-Pros players have excellent footwork from other sports. They need little to no instruction in "tennis" footwork. Most Pros started tennis first, so have little experience with court movement. In addition they have top flight instruction, so why not get instruction in detailed footwork? It's going to be their livelihood.

certifiedjatt
12-31-2008, 11:35 PM
As usual, it depends. Many non-Pros players have excellent footwork from other sports. They need little to no instruction in "tennis" footwork. Most Pros started tennis first, so have little experience with court movement. In addition they have top flight instruction, so why not get instruction in detailed footwork? It's going to be their livelihood.

i think the key here is that it doesn't really "depend." i've taken 2 tennis lessons in my life. both of which were done so i could see if what the coach was telling me to fix actually made sense. what/how i've learned is exactly what/how the writer describes. after playing for a while, i got to learn my OWN personally efficient way of getting to the ball. and that depends on (in addition to the stroke (backhand/forehands etc, of course):

1. my grip
2. speed i want to hit it with
3. spin i want to generate
4. where i want to place the ball (for example, the key to hitting a flat, hard one handed backhand down the line is to hold just a fraction of the second so it feels like you're catching the ball late)
5. some immeasurable, unidentified variable


since most people have different hitting zones, different preferences (risk preferers will generally like to hit the winner, while risk averse individuals will try to get the ball deep--i'm simplifying, of course), different grips, and so on and so forth, it is utterly RIDICULOUS to teach the same footwork, drills, steps, procedures to everyone.

over time, with match practice, people will develop their own style, their own way of maneuvering around the court.

m27
01-01-2009, 01:56 AM
I've watched and analyzed federer's footwork, frame by frame, in many many matches. He moves in a very specific fashion depending on the distance he needs to cover and the shot he plans to hit when he gets there. After watching a lot of points, I found that his footwork is actually quite predictable in terms of recovery (after a shot) and preparation (before a shot). He's simply developed efficient footwork patterns for covering X distance in Y time, ending up in Z stance. This is why he always appears in the perfect position to hit the ball.

The original post suggests that ideal footwork naturally develops with practice; if this was the case, the player would not just "find themselves" in an open or closed stance; they should really know how they're going to end up before they even start moving, lest they find themselves in the wrong position for the shot they are attempting or having to improvise their recovery (Roddick in particular does not recover well, which I believe is a big reason why Federer has such an easy time with him).

LuckyR
01-02-2009, 02:32 PM
i think the key here is that it doesn't really "depend." i've taken 2 tennis lessons in my life. both of which were done so i could see if what the coach was telling me to fix actually made sense. what/how i've learned is exactly what/how the writer describes. after playing for a while, i got to learn my OWN personally efficient way of getting to the ball. and that depends on (in addition to the stroke (backhand/forehands etc, of course):

1. my grip
2. speed i want to hit it with
3. spin i want to generate
4. where i want to place the ball (for example, the key to hitting a flat, hard one handed backhand down the line is to hold just a fraction of the second so it feels like you're catching the ball late)
5. some immeasurable, unidentified variable


since most people have different hitting zones, different preferences (risk preferers will generally like to hit the winner, while risk averse individuals will try to get the ball deep--i'm simplifying, of course), different grips, and so on and so forth, it is utterly RIDICULOUS to teach the same footwork, drills, steps, procedures to everyone.

over time, with match practice, people will develop their own style, their own way of maneuvering around the court.

Going to have to disagree. There are certain patterns of play be it, stroke production, shot making tactics, footwoork patterns that are, by definition very efficient, perhaps even optimally efficient. That isn't to say for an individual, they couldn't perform at a high level using their own "homegrown" style or pattern. The missing variable is "personality" or "temperament". Some personalities don't like to be told what to do. They like to think they are doing it "my way". In tennis they have the freedom to do this and some will succeed, but noone knows if their perfomance would have been even better still, had they taken the advice of the establishment.

TonyB
01-02-2009, 03:20 PM
The original post suggests that ideal footwork naturally develops with practice; if this was the case, the player would not just "find themselves" in an open or closed stance; they should really know how they're going to end up before they even start moving, lest they find themselves in the wrong position for the shot they are attempting or having to improvise their recovery (Roddick in particular does not recover well, which I believe is a big reason why Federer has such an easy time with him).



I think this is important to emphasize: Recovery. You can get *TO* the ball and hit it incredibly well, but if you fail to recover quickly, you're going to be in trouble.

I see lots of people hitting the ball and watching it for a second or two before they start moving. You need to recover IMMEDIATELY if you're going to get into proper position for the next shot.

Footwork and court positioning don't just "happen." You MAKE them happen by constantly improving your position on the court so that you don't have to make those last-second adjustments all the time. It's amazing how effortless it can be when you get a little "head start" by recovering quickly after your own shots.

Djokovicfan4life
01-02-2009, 06:29 PM
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