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View Full Version : High Risk High Reward: Smaller Sweet Spot


maxpotapov
07-21-2011, 11:42 PM
It is commonly believed that smaller sweet spot racquets are only good for developed players. Take for example Pacific X Feel Pro 90 Vacuum (http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/Reviews/PXFLP/PXFLPReview.html) - "The feel from the sweetspot is sublime" if you can locate it. The same (to a lesser extent) can be said about many others "retail player's racquets", such as Babolat Pure Storm GT Limited, Head Youtek Prestige Mid etc.

Now, how about using such racquets not for developed players but for player's development? Think about it: if hitting "anything outside the sweetspot is severely penalized (http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/Reviews/PXFLP/PXFLPReview.html)" and hitting sweetspot is a "bliss", is not such racquet the perfect training device to improve your ability to watch the ball and biomechanics in general?

I understand that high risk high reward hitting is good only for practice sessions and I myself would opt for something more (or most) forgiving to play a match, but it is practice that makes perfect. What do you guys think, would you use a "player's racquet" for player's development purposes?

TennisMaverick
07-21-2011, 11:55 PM
It is commonly believed that smaller sweet spot racquets are only good for developed players. Take for example Pacific X Feel Pro 90 Vacuum (http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/Reviews/PXFLP/PXFLPReview.html) - "The feel from the sweetspot is sublime" if you can locate it. The same (to a lesser extent) can be said about many others "retail player's racquets", such as Babolat Pure Storm GT Limited, Head Youtek Prestige Mid etc.

Now, how about using such racquets not for developed players but for player's development? Think about it: if hitting "anything outside the sweetspot is severely penalized (http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/Reviews/PXFLP/PXFLPReview.html)" and hitting sweetspot is a "bliss", is not such racquet the perfect training device to improve your ability to watch the ball and biomechanics in general?

I understand that high risk high reward hitting is good only for practice sessions and I myself would opt for something more (or most) forgiving to play a match, but it is practice that makes perfect. What do you guys think, would you use a "player's racquet" for player's development purposes?

Nope....younger modern players who rip up the back of the ball do not use the sweet spot; they hit higher towards 12:00 and more towards the side, at 3:00. The wider and stiffer the frame, the better it is for their game.

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 12:25 AM
Nope....younger modern players who rip up the back of the ball do not use the sweet spot; they hit higher towards 12:00 and more towards the side, at 3:00. The wider and stiffer the frame, the better it is for their game.

That's what I'm usually trying to do, ripping the felt off the ball, hence there's a diagonal felt trail on the string bed (going somewhere from 10:30 to 4:30) and strings usually break at upper left corner of the "sweet zone", not in the center which kinda proves your point.

But when I'm trying to flatten out the shot and of course when I serve, the sweet spot is still relevant. And even with extreme top spin brushing I can somehow feel if I hit sweetspot or missed it.

Rogael Naderer
07-22-2011, 12:29 AM
I find the getting the right specs on my 200s is very important, I find if I go TOO head light I lose that almost "soft" feel of the sweetspot.

I also find that I hit my "heaviest" shots when I nail the sweetspot, getting considerable RPMs put penetrating the court much faster and thus making those shots for the most part, unreturnable beasts!

DeShaun
07-22-2011, 12:38 AM
Your idea that practicing with the exclusive or primary use of a smaller, control-oriented frame lies with my reasoning for why the first player's stick that I ever began playing tennis with was Head's 98' (really closer to 95) Prestige Pro. I believed that using a "more demanding" racket would fundamentally improve my strokes sooner. Since breaking that racket accidentally, I have been playing exclusively with a 93' mid. I will not use anything but a control-oriented frame because I believe it provides great training.

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 12:45 AM
Your idea that practicing with the exclusive or primary use of a smaller, control-oriented frame lies with my reasoning for why the first player's stick that I ever began playing tennis with was Head's 98' (really closer to 95) Prestige Pro. I believed that using a "more demanding" racket would fundamentally improve my strokes sooner. Since breaking that racket accidentally, I have been playing exclusively with a 93' mid. I will not use anything but a control-oriented frame because I believe it provides great training.

That's exactly my point! I think, so-called "game improvement" frames do nothing good to actually improve a player. On the contrary, unforgiving player's bats discipline you to improve (or quit in frustration or go back to a drawing board and study bio mechanics some more)

Gee
07-22-2011, 02:32 AM
Interesting article (http://www.racquetresearch.com/sevencri.htm) you should read. Especially the paragraph Are Big Head Racquets Better?

I like this phrase in particular:
Accept that you will have to learn to hit the ball better, and don't rely on "forgiveness" to improve your game.

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 02:57 AM
Interesting article (http://www.racquetresearch.com/sevencri.htm) you should read. Especially the paragraph Are Big Head Racquets Better?

I like this phrase in particular:
Accept that you will have to learn to hit the ball better, and don't rely on "forgiveness" to improve your game.

Wow, what an excellent read!

One thing to note though, the reference point for the author are players of "modern classics" era, culminating with Pete Sampras/Roger Federer. Now the context has changed: 5000 rpm spin is extreme case of the situation, when "the ball is not flattened against the strings as much, so it tends to just roll down the face when you stroke for topspin" (http://www.racquetresearch.com/sevencri.htm) Hence, new biomechanics and racket research is needed for modern technique.

Gee
07-22-2011, 03:21 AM
Wow, what an excellent read!

One thing to note though, the reference point for the author are players of "modern classics" era, culminating with Pete Sampras/Roger Federer. Now the context has changed: 5000 rpm spin is extreme case of the situation, when "the ball is not flattened against the strings as much, so it tends to just roll down the face when you stroke for topspin" (http://www.racquetresearch.com/sevencri.htm) Hence, new biomechanics and racket research is needed for modern technique.
I agree this article needs to be updated but many things mentioned are still valid. For most tennis players like us (below level 6.0) at least. How many players are able to hit 5000 rpm spin like Nadal?

Rogael Naderer
07-22-2011, 03:29 AM
I agree this article needs to be updated but many things mentioned are still valid. For most tennis players like us (below level 6.0) at least. How many players are able to hit 5000 rpm spin like Nadal?

My framed shots (intended of course) are much spinnier than that! Who even needs strings?

Gee
07-22-2011, 03:32 AM
My framed shots (intended of course) are much spinnier than that! Who even needs strings?
:):):)
Very clever if you can win a match that way!

Iron57
07-22-2011, 03:57 AM
Your theory is good, but tennis is also a mental game. All of that negative reinforcement for off center shots wouldn't do much for confidence, and there would be fewer players in our great sport.

One other thing, if the bigger head sizes, increased sweetspot area, or even forgiveness on off center shots produces a consistent in the court shot with the pace an direction intended, what does it matter? In my mind the player with such strokes would be at advantage, given they are more apt to be aggressive and produce higher quality shots from body positions that aren't ideal.

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 04:28 AM
I agree this article needs to be updated but many things mentioned are still valid. For most tennis players like us (below level 6.0) at least. How many players are able to hit 5000 rpm spin like Nadal?

Nadal's forehand is not that difficult to imitate, because it is a brute force approach to the shot execution as opposed to Federer's. I mean, Nadal's "running forehand" brushing movement takes more physical strength than coordination to master, you can learn how to do it even with you left hand :) At the same time Federer's perfectly energy efficient kinetic chain would take 20 years to develop and then some talent too.

I personally like setting a higher rpm goal for my stroke development: after all, physical strength is the easiest thing to improve in tennis. Besides, who needs precision with such error margins (huge net clearance, sharp curved trajectories)? Or will you really need a sophisticated game strategy if you develop 3000+ rpm forehand? I mean, not too many people can attack when the ball constantly bounces to their shoulder level, especially on a backhand side...

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 04:38 AM
Your theory is good, but tennis is also a mental game. All of that negative reinforcement for off center shots wouldn't do much for confidence, and there would be fewer players in our great sport.

One other thing, if the bigger head sizes, increased sweetspot area, or even forgiveness on off center shots produces a consistent in the court shot with the pace an direction intended, what does it matter? In my mind the player with such strokes would be at advantage, given they are more apt to be aggressive and produce higher quality shots from body positions that aren't ideal.

Yes, it is mental game and like I said, I would prefer something most forgiving to play a match. At the same time, will I be able to perform at my best without strict discipline in my training program?

Most of the time body positions are not ideal because you don't push yourself hard enough, and "more forgiving" racquet tolerates such attitude, so you have a lesser chance to develop into a greater player. I prefer to loose a match to overcome my weakness rather than to "win ugly" and stay ugly.

spaceman_spiff
07-22-2011, 05:09 AM
One flaw in the theory is that many pros use frames that are modified to produce a very large power zone. For example, you can go to TWU and look at the power zone sizes for the KPS88 and the Boris Becker 11 Special Edition. Although those two are not huge frames, and the BB11SE has a tight string pattern on top of that, the power zones are very large and forgiving.

So, although those frames are heavy to swing, they do produce a solid shot off of just about any part of the string bed rather than only on the sweet spot. And those two frames were designed specifically for Sampras and Becker, who didn't have ugly, flawed technique.

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 05:30 AM
One flaw in the theory is that many pros use frames that are modified to produce a very large power zone. For example, you can go to TWU and look at the power zone sizes for the KPS88 and the Boris Becker 11 Special Edition. Although those two are not huge frames, and the BB11SE has a tight string pattern on top of that, the power zones are very large and forgiving.

So, although those frames are heavy to swing, they do produce a solid shot off of just about any part of the string bed rather than only on the sweet spot. And those two frames were designed specifically for Sampras and Becker, who didn't have ugly, flawed technique.

It does not really change my point: whether with extremely small sweetspot or extremely high swing weight, those rackets will punish you anyway if you do not comply with highest bio-mechanical standards. They leave you no choice but to make your shot right.

And yes, I totally enjoyed KPS88 generous sweetspot and produced quite a lot of spin with it... for like 30 minutes max at a time. I felt like I have to dance around the racquet, not just around the ball. I would definitely use it as my fitness equipment to develop better footwork and Nadal-grade muscle (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_OSXFSxLuaTY/SwylUvd7B0I/AAAAAAAAAE4/HdW3bD_qDZ8/s1600/PeteSampras.jpg) On the other hand, to train myself not to take my eyes off the ball I need something with the sweetest and smallest sweetspot just to get that extra reward for properly executed shot and extra punishment for not paying enough attention to the ball (jerking my head, loosing balance etc.).

spaceman_spiff
07-22-2011, 05:53 AM
On the other hand, to train myself not to take my eyes off the ball I need something with the sweetest and smallest sweetspot just to get that extra reward for properly executed shot and extra punishment for not paying enough attention to the ball (jerking my head, loosing balance etc.).

In that case, an old coach of mine had the perfect solution. He had an old aluminum frame which he strung up with only four main strings and four crosses.

That will definitely teach you to stay smooth and keep your eyes on the ball. If you don't want to go to that extreme, a wood racket is a good practice tool as well.

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 06:20 AM
In that case, an old coach of mine had the perfect solution. He had an old aluminum frame which he strung up with only four main strings and four crosses.

That will definitely teach you to stay smooth and keep your eyes on the ball. If you don't want to go to that extreme, a wood racket is a good practice tool as well.

I started playing with a wooden racquet, in 1984, I know how that feels :)

Nowadays I prefer to learn by playing, not by doing baseball exercises with a wooden or aluminium bat. I need a racquet which will help me (or force me) to improve while I'm playing.

DeShaun
07-22-2011, 10:16 AM
Nadal's forehand is not that difficult to imitate, because it is a brute force approach to the shot execution as opposed to Federer's. I mean, Nadal's "running forehand" brushing movement takes more physical strength than coordination to master, you can learn how to do it even with you left hand :) At the same time Federer's perfectly energy efficient kinetic chain would take 20 years to develop and then some talent too.

I personally like setting a higher rpm goal for my stroke development: after all, physical strength is the easiest thing to improve in tennis. Besides, who needs precision with such error margins (huge net clearance, sharp curved trajectories)? Or will you really need a sophisticated game strategy if you develop 3000+ rpm forehand? I mean, not too many people can attack when the ball constantly bounces to their shoulder level, especially on a backhand side...

Which is to say that Nadal's rally ball is attackable only with great difficulty for all of the rapid vertical movement that it makes. Rallying against him has been likened to seeing one nasty reverse (coming from a lefty) kick serve after another. It's one thing to judge the lateral spin component from such a powerful lefty effectively, but add to this the fact that his ball will spring up, through, and out of your strike zone like popped corn on a frying pan, it must be murder trying to take control of a point when that's what you're looking at all day long.

Fuji
07-22-2011, 10:21 AM
In that case, an old coach of mine had the perfect solution. He had an old aluminum frame which he strung up with only four main strings and four crosses.

That will definitely teach you to stay smooth and keep your eyes on the ball. If you don't want to go to that extreme, a wood racket is a good practice tool as well.

I've been wanting to try that to an old frame! I think it'd be a lot of fun to try and play with only 8 strings LOL!

-Fuji

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 10:34 AM
Which is to say that Nadal's rally ball is attackable only with great difficulty for all of the rapid vertical movement that it makes. Rallying against him has been likened to seeing one nasty reverse (coming from a lefty) kick serve after another. It's one thing to judge the lateral spin component from such a powerful lefty effectively, but add to this the fact that his ball will spring up, through, and out of your strike zone like popped corn on a frying pan, it must be murder trying to take control of a point when that's what you're looking at all day long.

Exactly! Unless your backhand is tailored to attacking on a shoulder level, like Novak's. But that's just one guy, plus maybe another lefty Spaniard, the rest have major problems with Nadal's cross court forehand, especially one handed backhand players

DeShaun
07-22-2011, 10:35 AM
Interesting article (http://www.racquetresearch.com/sevencri.htm) you should read. Especially the paragraph Are Big Head Racquets Better?

I like this phrase in particular:
Accept that you will have to learn to hit the ball better, and don't rely on "forgiveness" to improve your game.

I've read that page a few times in the past. The scientific look of the information on it is the reason why I set up my rackets to be heavy overall but somewhat head light. That page looks legitimate. If I swung a more massive racket I might tear my arm off, but I like swinging a great deal of mass because it allows me to swing smoothly and focus on control. Light, head-heavy rackets never felt right to me anyways.

Iron57
07-22-2011, 12:27 PM
Yes, it is mental game and like I said, I would prefer something most forgiving to play a match. At the same time, will I be able to perform at my best without strict discipline in my training program?

Most of the time body positions are not ideal because you don't push yourself hard enough, and "more forgiving" racquet tolerates such attitude, so you have a lesser chance to develop into a greater player. I prefer to loose a match to overcome my weakness rather than to "win ugly" and stay ugly.

I guess I should give you some background -- as a 4.0 recreational player with a soon to be two year old wild boy and full time job, there is not much time during the week or weekend to implement a highly regimented negative reinforcement training program. Getting out there and playing some competitive matches when I can is what my game is about, so I need some help from my equipment to say the least. Although chasing the little guy around the house is improving my footwork and stamina :)

Also, there may be a component of adapting to the equipment during such a session, that may mess up the way you would hit with a more forgiving frame during match play. Seems like the frames in such a case would be too different to easily switch between the two of them, and would lead to some freebie points for your opponent early on in the match. I could imagine catching the ball too early, hitting long, netting a few with too much spin, etc...Losing enough of these matches, while albeit looking good, will only get you demoted to lower leagues and create much frustration.

And hey, nothing wrong with winning ugly. As no doubt has been discussed previously, Brad Gilbert did this to great effect and made it to #4 in the world.

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 12:59 PM
I guess I should give you some background -- as a 4.0 recreational player with a soon to be two year old wild boy and full time job, there is not much time during the week or weekend to implement a highly regimented negative reinforcement training program. Getting out there and playing some competitive matches when I can is what my game is about, so I need some help from my equipment to say the least. Although chasing the little guy around the house is improving my footwork and stamina :)

Also, there may be a component of adapting to the equipment during such a session, that may mess up the way you would hit with a more forgiving frame during match play. Seems like the frames in such a case would be too different to easily switch between the two of them, and would lead to some freebie points for your opponent early on in the match. I could imagine catching the ball too early, hitting long, netting a few with too much spin, etc...Losing enough of these matches, while albeit looking good, will only get you demoted to lower leagues and create much frustration.

And hey, nothing wrong with winning ugly. As no doubt has been discussed previously, Brad Gilbert did this to great effect and made it to #4 in the world.

Mine is soon to be 2 years old girl - and I don't need to go to gym too :)
I see what you're saying... It's like some people enjoy the game and some people (like myself) enjoy the quest to perfection. That's probalby why there are so many racquets that are be comfortable enough for a weekend match day and demanding enough to keep player in check.

About frustration from losing those matches, my attitude is, "losing a battle but winning the war". I use matches as my learning/training experience, to overcome myself, not the opponent. And it is just a matter of time when I win the war - which is, against my limitations and inabilities, - and find myself in a higher league.

"Winning ugly" worked miracles not only for Brad, but for Andre too (I totally enjoyed his book btw). But "winning ugly" should not be confused with "playing ugly", the same way "game improvement" racquets should not be confused with "player improvement" frames.

whomad15
07-22-2011, 01:06 PM
Well... Still gotta hit the ball properly to make it go over the net.

prjacobs
07-22-2011, 04:56 PM
Nadal's forehand is not that difficult to imitate, because it is a brute force approach to the shot execution as opposed to Federer's. I mean, Nadal's "running forehand" brushing movement takes more physical strength than coordination to master, you can learn how to do it even with you left hand :) At the same time Federer's perfectly energy efficient kinetic chain would take 20 years to develop and then some talent too.



I'm joining in late here, and respectfully, my feeling it that it's not just brute force, but a high degree of coordination and athleticism to execute Nadal's brushing up stroke. It's one thing to do that motion in a vacuum, and another when you're redirecting a pro shot coming at you.
Obviously, Federer's stroke is seemingly effortless,because he's an incredible athlete. No one makes it look as easy as he does.
If I can relate this to playing piano on a high level, it's a matter of taking the best of your natural abilities and applying them. Some people, like myself play highly technical passages that require your hands to be spread apart and some can get in the cracks and play intricate patterns with their fingers close together.
Same in tennis. If your game is naturally suited to a smaller racquet head, then go for it. I don't see the need to practice the kind of strokes that frame is designed for if you're hitting a more modern brushing up stroke. It's like taking out a wooden driver and hitting golf balls. New advances in equipment have changed the game. I know golfers who were on the pro level and at 55 hit a ball as far as they did when they were twenty.
Pardon my running on here :) . I think you use what works and perfect your game with the frame you play matches with. But that's just my two cents....Cheers :)

maxpotapov
07-22-2011, 10:06 PM
I'm joining in late here, and respectfully, my feeling it that it's not just brute force, but a high degree of coordination and athleticism to execute Nadal's brushing up stroke. It's one thing to do that motion in a vacuum, and another when you're redirecting a pro shot coming at you.
Obviously, Federer's stroke is seemingly effortless,because he's an incredible athlete. No one makes it look as easy as he does.

Redirecting a pro shot coming at you takes excellent hand eye coordination and good reflexes among other things. But I mainly focus on mechanical side of stroke development and my point is, "brushing" technique is mechanically easier to master and maintain than "slingshot" style stroke.

Is Nadal ambidextrous? Don't think so, Never heard of it. Just how much you can rely on coordination when using your left arm when you are normal right-handed person? Brushing the ball up really takes less coordination versus rotating the racquet "effortlessly" in horizontal plane, because error margins are not comparable (due to increased dwell time/spin window, higher and sharper curve of resulting trajectory etc.) and you can compensate so much more by muscling whatever you missed with contact point, body positioning etc.
Effortless means racquet and body stays totally balanced throughout the shot, which takes a lot of time and effort to develop and maintain. That's why it is sometimes tender in Federer's game - if timing or balance is off, there's little he can compensate with a muscle. Ever saw Nadal making too many unforced errors with his regular (not flattened out) forehand?

vincent_tennis
07-23-2011, 12:37 AM
Redirecting a pro shot coming at you takes excellent hand eye coordination and good reflexes among other things. But I mainly focus on mechanical side of stroke development and my point is, "brushing" technique is mechanically easier to master and maintain than "slingshot" style stroke.

Is Nadal ambidextrous? Don't think so, Never heard of it. Just how much you can rely on coordination when using your left arm when you are normal right-handed person? Brushing the ball up really takes less coordination versus rotating the racquet "effortlessly" in horizontal plane, because error margins are not comparable (due to increased dwell time/spin window, higher and sharper curve of resulting trajectory etc.) and you can compensate so much more by muscling whatever you missed with contact point, body positioning etc.
Effortless means racquet and body stays totally balanced throughout the shot, which takes a lot of time and effort to develop and maintain. That's why it is sometimes tender in Federer's game - if timing or balance is off, there's little he can compensate with a muscle. Ever saw Nadal making too many unforced errors with his regular (not flattened out) forehand?

Thats why if you serve a hard, heavy and quick ball to his FH, u'll most likely get a weaker return :)

TennisMaverick
07-23-2011, 01:33 AM
If you train with a different stick, for any length of time, than your technique will adjust, and there will be an adjustment period. When you return to your regular stick, you will again, have to adjust. So what technique have you improved upon? The new one, the old one, or the new old one?

If the the different stick is used for a short time, as the medicine, and not the cure, than you are OK. But by short time, I mean 10-20 minutes per session. I frequently have players use a wood racquet for 10-15 minutes or an '80s frame, which are usually 80in2, like my old Kneissls, for various reasons.

Training to get better, as opposed to choosing a stick which enhances your abilities so that you can maximize who you are, takes a lot of on and off court training, and any adjustments done at the pro level, takes 3-6 months of 3-4 hours on-court plus 2-3 hours of off-court training to be become a better, stronger, athlete. If you can do that, without worrying about the bottom line, even as pros have to, that's awesome. If so, do you make contributions to those less fortunate, and how does one apply?

prjacobs
07-23-2011, 02:19 PM
deleted.....