A bit of an epiphany, but why is this not taught from the beginning?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by qwanta, Sep 20, 2011.

  1. qwanta

    qwanta New User

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    I am a 3.0-3.5 player and have been watching quite a few slow motion forehand captures of pros lately. One thing that I somehow hadn't noticed until yesterday, is that all the pros I watched bring their racquet back, point the racquet butt at the ball, then bring the racquet forward - WITHOUT ROTATING IT, ie. with the butt still pointing forward - before initiating the rotation. Keeping the racquet pointed forward while rotating the body sort of spring-loads the wrist (tendons?) to where when the racquet face is finally rotated towards the ball, it does so with tremendous speed and energy release.

    Here are some examples:
    Federer
    Djokovic
    Nadal
    Borg, Lendl,Federer

    This contrasts hugely with the typical amateur swing, where the racquet face rotation towards the ball is initiated right from the back of the swing (couldn't find any slow mo):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9YHZ1QFMhk

    I just played today for the first time with this in mind and it made a huge difference. I was getting more power and control with what felt like a very pure motion (not "muscling it"). This technique not only works on low and high forehands, but also on my 1hbh (high and low). I feel like I've finally added a key piece that I was missing to my swings - loading the wrist/arm with elastic energy and releasing it in a burst.

    So 2 questions:
    1) What is this technique called? (delayed swing, laid back wrist?)
    2) Why isn't more importance attached to this concept? I have 4 tennis books:
    Wegner, "Play better Tennis in 2 hours"
    Roetert, "World-Class Tennis Technique"
    Sadzeck "Tennis Skills"
    Littleford & Magrath, "Tennis Strokes and Tactics"

    and for the life of me, I cannot find any mention of this, especially not in the "forehand" chapters. Additionally, FYB's 5 step forehand doesn't mention this. Shouldn't it be one of the steps?
    In the FYB video where they compare 3 amateurs to pros in slow mo, Will says that the last amateur (Kevin) has a similar swing to Tommy Haas (at least in the basic steps). But if you go to minute 36 in the video (http://www.fuzzyyellowballs.com/welcome-to-the-fyb-community/) you can clearly see that whereas Tommy has a delayed swing, Kevin doesn't.

    Anyway, right now I am really excited about this and I am just a little mystified (and perhaps miffed to be honest) as to why my 4 books ignore it, FYB ignores it, my coach never mentioned it.
    Wouldn't all players benefit from knowing this from day 1? I know I would have. Starting players doing this coach kyril exercise that demonstrates the technique would IMHO prevent many bad swing habits from developing and focus a player straight away in the right direction to develop a good swing.
     
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  2. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, this is an important point, perhaps, the most important. I've heard people talk of thinking about the butt cap as a torch that you need to keep shining on the ball as long as possible.
    I think it's taught, but mainly in terms of laying back the wrist, which doesn't quite direct you to where the handle is in relation to the ball.
     
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  3. Caesar

    Caesar Banned

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    It's not taught in the manner you describe in order to keep things simple. Nobody can think about everything they are doing biomechanically during a stroke. The trick to effective teaching/learning is distilling things so that you concentrate on doing the least possible number of things directly and change as much as possible indirectly.

    This is one of those indirect things. As Bartelby notes, there's a couple of related things that are taught/mentioned that affect this. If you learn good basic mechanics you will in theory achieve the same outcome automatically and organically as part of your stroke development.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2011
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  4. Bertie B

    Bertie B Semi-Pro

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    The circular take back.
     
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  5. qwanta

    qwanta New User

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    Well, I've always struggled with my 1hbh swing - how much to turn back, how far out to hold the racquet, how far forward to hit the ball etc.... Today, I noticed that if I focus on achieving the delayed swing/whip with the idea that the max racquet speed should be happening when I hit the ball, then all the other things naturally fall into place - I know exactly how far back to turn, and so on. The swing becomes a tool, rather than an end in itself, and so you can self-calibrate - you're no longer flying blind as it were.
     
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  6. sabala

    sabala Semi-Pro

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    I think you're looking for a term called "Hitting in the slot". I have an old tennis mag from 1990 with a Tim Gullikson article I've been meaning to scan and post up, just to see how relevant it is today.

    This vid pretty much says the same as the article though...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siEDEWDw70s

    Is that what you are thinking of?
     
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  7. maxpotapov

    maxpotapov Hall of Fame

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    I'm not sure if this video reveals a mindset of a player. I doubt any of those pros make conscious effort to aim butt cap at the ball. It happens automatically (as body rotates into the shot, meaning it is not done by arm) and in most cases it's a very quick transition to utilize wrist/arm elasticity
     
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  8. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I'm pretty sure that is in Wegner's book, "Play better tennis in Two hours".
     
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  9. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    I've heard this described and taught it to kids in a few different ways. The traditional "point the buttcap at the ball", or "pull the racquet through the strike zone", "laying the racquet back", "pet the dog" or even the "bullwhip", although I don't like the last one as it tends to make people involve the wrist too much.
     
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  10. thug the bunny

    thug the bunny Professional

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    This is called "laying the wrist back and using the core and not flipping or arm-hitting" to hit the ball. Using the core (or 'the human racquet' as some call it) in combination with a laid back wrist creates a natural lag where the racquet gets loaded up before the hit, very much like Sergio Garcia's golf swing.
     
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  11. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    Yes exactly. It is nice to be aware of, but if you are sitting there thinking about it, then you are probably not thinking about your footwork..etc.
     
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  12. olliess

    olliess Semi-Pro

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    Throw a baseball, sidearm if you want to make the analogy closer.

    There's one way that has a "snap" to it and the other way(s) that feels like arming the ball, right?

    Now imagine the same thing with a racquet in your hand.
     
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  13. CoachingMastery

    CoachingMastery Professional

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    I've described this (in my books) as "Keeping the plane the same"...the idea of maintaining the integrity of the swing plane and the plane of the racquet face, the same within the contact window. You can do this by doing what the OP suggested, or, depending on the grip, keep the orientation of the racquet to the forearm similar through the contact window. (Either way, you end up using leverage without letting the racquet roll, flip or dish through contact.) If a player integrates the kinetic chain correctly, they will generate substantial power without having or trying to use the wrist to generate speed.
     
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  14. qwanta

    qwanta New User

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    He talks a lot about accelerating the racquet before contact, but doesn't really explain clearly how to do it, ie. NOT by using your arm muscles to force the racquet to speed up (as I was trying to do initially), but by rotating the body and allowing the racquet to lay back after which the acceleration happens automatically.
     
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  15. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Qwanta, the wrist should lay back and you have a plethora of views above on what it is called and different ways to do it. Just note that it is a transitional part of the swing. In the old days, it was taught to lay the wrist back as part of the initial pivot and this is no longer acceptable as a modern technique especially on the forehand side. Your pivot should have the racket head up above the wrist, and then you loop down and into contact. As you rotate forward into contact the arm pulls thru first and the wrist lays back a bit into the "slot" or "laid back" position. Just remember that the once you start into your swing from the position where the racket head is up somewhat above the wrist, the swing is continous and does not stop and point the butt at the ball. The butt point is just a phase of the accelerating loop into and thru contact.
     
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  16. junbumkim

    junbumkim Professional

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    The only time I heard a coach explicitly say the butt cap should point at the incoming ball was at Nick Bollettieri's, including himself.

    This is true in all technique - serve and backhand..

    But, it's usually implied in different terms or descriptions.
     
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  17. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    It's called opening the wrist or racket lag (bat lag or wrist cocking in baseball)
     
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  18. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    What? I've never seen a pro point the butt of the racquet at the ball on the takeback. Not one. Most point the butt of the racquet toward the ground, or, in extremely wristy strokes, at the back fence on the takeback, including your video examples. I have no idea what you mean by "without rotating it."
     
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  19. thug the bunny

    thug the bunny Professional

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    I think he means they pull the racquet back, then during the drop, the butt points towards the ball, and stays pointing at the ball during the initial acceleration without closing the face to the ball (the lag).
     
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  20. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    The whole "buttcap pointing at the ball" is a side-effect of the initial acceleration. If your swing speed is of a decent pace, it should happen naturally. Also, the laying back of the wrist should happen naturally as well.

    Again, here we go with more forced things like "making sure the buttcap is pointed at the ball" and "make sure the wrist is laid back through the shot".

    I really don't think people should be consciously thinking about these things. If they just use proper overall forehand fundamentals... they should happen naturally.
     
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  21. wihamilton

    wihamilton Hall of Fame

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    Bingo.

    We focus on the big stuff and purposely gloss over the minutia to prevent overthinking, at least in the 5 Fundamentals of the Forehand series.
     
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  22. maxpotapov

    maxpotapov Hall of Fame

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    Exactly! Moreover, those forced things can lead to injuries, especially if you talk about wrist.
     
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  23. darthfedererr

    darthfedererr New User

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    #23
  24. thug the bunny

    thug the bunny Professional

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    Absolutely. mr, you and I agree on this in one way or another all the time. If I focused on my wrist and the handle of the racquet during the swing I would whiff. Just get to the ball, decide on your shot, and pull the trigger.
     
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  25. qwanta

    qwanta New User

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    I have to respectfully disagree with the guys here who think that the "whipping motion" happens naturally when the proper fundamentals are in place. Again, case in point, the FYB comparison video of Kevin (amateur) vs Tommy Haas.

    (at minute 36:00)
    http://www.fuzzyyellowballs.com/welcome-to-the-fyb-community/

    Both of the players are doing all the 5 steps, and have similar fundamental form according to the video commentary, but only Tommy accomplishes the whipping motion.

    In addition, in my personal learning experience, before noticing the delayed swing/whip I was just going through the motions of the fundamental swing steps without really understanding why they were there. Once I changed my perspective to see that the ultimate goal of the swing is to produce the elastic whip, then all kinds of questions about swing form and timing became clear. The racket lag/whip seems to me more than just a bit of minutia in the swing: it's the goal.
     
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  26. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    Listen to what Will says right after that moment in the video.

    I'm paraphrasing here, but he says that the key to having an effective forehand is not focusing on the minute details like angle of the wrist and all of that. The key is just executing the basic (five) fundamentals with good technique and consistency.

    And that is really all anybody is saying here.
     
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  27. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    It's in Bolletteri's "Killer Forehand" video. Exactly what you are talking about. I think he spends some minutes on the buttcap pointing toward the ball as you swing. It is compared to pounding in a nail with a hammer. Unless you are just tapping the nail, this is exactly how you swing a hammer.
     
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  28. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Dude
    Listen to Will and mightrick. They are right in telling you to focus on the fundamentals. I thought Will explained every fundamental very well. The rest will click once you get more experienced. The elastic wrist whipping thing is just one component. Sometimes you need it sometimes you don't. For example when I run up to retrieve and hit a soft short, having no time I would want to have more control over my rackethead. So, a smart thing to do is stiffen up the rackethead and shorten up the swing. Doing an elastic wrist stroke might be too laggy or too big a swing.
    :)
     
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  29. TennisCoachFLA

    TennisCoachFLA Banned

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    True. You teach the fundamentals and once they master the stroke you have them 'hit as hard as they can'. Now you watch.

    In many cases what we are discussing on this thread happens naturally. In others you need to add some demonstration or imagery, for example, get them to 'pat the dog' then 'pull the racquet butt through'.

    A good coach will teach the fundamentals, then see what the player can naturally do once they know those, and then add just enough instruction to perfect the stroke. Chances are that none of the pros mentioned by the OP actually had every detail of this explained to them.

    And like you said it will be situational as to what extent it is done on a particular shot.
     
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  30. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    I don't think that this part must be thaught. if you have good acceleration you open your wrist. It's that simple.

    Laying back the wrist is a byproduct, not a goal. to contribute anything to acceleration the wrist would need to "snap" into contact. but that doesn't happen, the pros usually still have the wrist cocked at contact. that means the cocking doesn't add much to acceleration.
     
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  31. pushing_wins

    pushing_wins Hall of Fame

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    to you, when does "rotation" start?
     
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  32. qwanta

    qwanta New User

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    By rotation I mean the racquet face moving from a vertical plane perpendicular to the baseline to a vertical plane parallel to the baseline (at contact). For example in the Federer video from about 0:12 to 0:17 the racquet stays roughly in the perpendicular plane with a 'delayed' swing towards the parallel plane starting roughly at 0:17.

    This guy would have started rotating towards the baseline parallel plane at the 0:12 mark (in the Federer video)
     
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  33. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I agree with you that it is important to learn this. Different things will be important to players at different times in their learning. Nice thing about being taught the way you mention is that you can do it while hitting easy, and not be relying on accel to pull the racket back, but build it into your technique right from the start. Problem with just pick it up as you go like many here suggest, is that you may not be doing as well or consistently as you should.
     
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  34. DjokovicForTheWin

    DjokovicForTheWin Banned

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    I think the OP's point is that core rotation with loose arm/whipping action is not minutia. It IS a core fundamental. I agree.
     
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  35. pushing_wins

    pushing_wins Hall of Fame

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    ic...i thought you meant body rotation.

    so what you are saying is...........dont pronate too early.
     
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  36. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Well, it is important and I emphasis it right from the beginning. "Racquet face does not change its angle with the playing surface throughout the contact point" & the first phase of hitting is "pulling the racquet forward, butt first". One of the tricky things is that you don't want the racquet taken back too early in the process.
     
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  37. jb193

    jb193 Rookie

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    I hate to sound like LeeD, but as he usually replies in which he is almost always correct, it really is different for everyone. I had a lot of epiphanies when dealing with my forehand. And yes, i thought of the exact same thought as you when dealing with the butt of the handle being pointed at the ball. But, that didn't solve my overall problem of having fluid kinetics and hitting the ball perfectly square. I still haven't all the way! But, you are on track and if this is your breakthrough for hitting a modern forehand, then congratulations! If you find out a week from now that much more work is needed for the forehand you want, keep on working at it and keep on thinking out of the box. The answers are right in front of you, you just have to be clear headed enough to recognize it... Good luck!
     
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