Does Modern Tennis Exist?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by JohnYandell, Dec 26, 2012.

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  1. JohnYandell

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    Obviously modern tennis exists, at least in so far as you believe this is the modern age and that in it some of the best tennis imaginable is being played by great, great champions.

    But the reality is that there is no hard distinction between modern and classical tennis. Elements that are commonly labeled "modern" have always been a part of the game going back to the 19th century. This includes extreme grips, over the shoulder wraps, reverse and windshield wiper finishes, swinging volleys, as well as the whole spectrum of hitting stances.

    And many of the key elements of classical tennis are still critical in the modern game. Eastern grips among top 10 players to start. Then the immediate initiation of preparation through the unit turn, the full coiling of the torso through the left arm stretch, and the upward, outward and right to left components on the forward swing--all mixed in different degrees to create swing arcs that have different levels of extension, height of finish, hand and arm rotation, velocity and spin. And that's just on the forehand.

    The same false distinction is often made in teaching--classical versus so-called modern teaching. The claim is that the majority of coaches teach "traditionally" and that this doesn't result in the benefits of a "modern" approach--and further that the lack of American players at the top of the game is expalined by this single factor. This so called failed traditional approach includes the huge majority of American coaches including, paradoxically, the coaches who have produced our greatest champions. None of that is true.

    But the deepest irony here is that the so-called modern approach is not based on accurate descriptions of the strokes of the very players it purports to take as models to teach everyone in the world at all levels to "play like the pros." They are misunderstandings of the fundamentals running from the classical thru the modern age, as well as the myriad variations, and in the shifts in emphasis and prevelance of important elements over time, something that has been largely the by product of the changes in rackets and especially string.

    When these criticisms are detailed the response is often that that the lack of correspondence between actual pro modern technique and "modern" teaching is "irrelevant" because teaching technique is all about producing the right result.

    And that point at least is true. In my own work I have since the 1980's used what I call the concept of over compensation at times to exaggerate some physical component of the stroke in order to move the overall motion in the direction I felt correct.

    There is no argument about that. But you can't have it both ways at the same time: lay out supposed descriptions of what pros do and then say that those descriptions aren't in fact what they do, those descriptions are just teaching devices. If that were true how then would you even know those devices were working? You have now rejected your own reference points for what is "pro" technique.

    Let's face it, if tennis technique wasn't so dynamic and difficult to understand, there wouldn't be so much impassioned debate. And that debate will always go on and has the potential at least to be healthy.

    There are incredible resources available to any sincere student of the game--extensive high speed archives of the strokes of the top players, and now the further game changing emergence of 3D data bases and the potential to measure players in 3D in real time.

    My belief is that the first step is a clear understanding of how players actually hit the ball and the incredible diversity of elements and stroke variations. This is a vast and at times daunting task. It is something I have spent 15 years working towards, in conjunction with dozens of elite coaches worldwide, starting with our groundbreaking first live pro high speed filmings in 1997.

    This understanding provides the reference universe for creating and evaluating the potential range of teaching techniques and their application to players at all levels, to various appropriate extents.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
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  2. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    A most interesting thread starter. Thanks for posting JY. I'll be following this thread. Always great to hear what serious, talented, and articulate students/researchers of the game of tennis have to say about it.
     
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  3. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    Tom T,

    Thank you sir for your words.
     
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  4. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    JY,
    Are you actually a tennis coach or just study the mechanics of tennis?
     
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  5. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    What is your take on mastering technique vs. Winning at a young age for kids? Is it better to win with bad strokes or lose with proper technique as you compete as a junior. Say 10-14. Boys and girls.
     
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  6. Head Pegger

    Head Pegger New User

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    IMO I don't care what others label it
    Tennis is, and always will be, TENNIS
     
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  7. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    What have others labeled it?
     
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  8. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    Arche,

    I started as working teaching pro in the early 1980s. I coached multiple sectionally ranked juniors in norcal, coached high school tennis for 30 years--355 wins and 14 titles, thank you--as well, as teaching the whole gamut of adult players from total beginners to nationally ranked senior players.

    I started producing instructional videos and doing filming in the mid 1980's. I developed a reputation and an expertise in technical stroke analysis which has been the major focus of my work since.

    The higher level coaching I have done has been as a technical consultant, filming, analyzing and making suggestions on court as well as off court for probably at this point a few hundred elite juniors, college players, satelite players, and wta and atp tour players.

    I have been fortunate to work with some of the top players in the world as well as their coaches in this capacity, including players who won multiple slams and many others who played in the top 100.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012
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  9. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    Arche,

    As for the other question, it's a great one. Confidence is founded on winning and unless you win you don't stay too long in the brutal world of junior sanctioned tournament play.

    At the same time, technical, tactical and mental limitations are often obvious in young successful players.

    I am not a developmental coach. That's not my interest or expertise, although I provide technical info and feedback to many high level ones.

    So the rest is just my opinion, which is: you can lead a horse to water, but, etc.

    A good friend who had coached one of the greatest women's players to multiple slams had me film a new player he was working with. Her serve, we saw in high speed video, was actually worse than either of us thought--and it looked bad to the naked eye!

    Still she was in the top 20. My friend actually predicted what would happen but felt it was his duty to bring her the analysis of what it would take to go higher--a better serve motion among other things. She and her dad took him out to Denny's for breakfast and fired him.

    My opinion is many players, especially kids, can only handle so much change. You push them as far as you can without making them go negative on themselves. The most successful players will of course have the ability to recognize and implement what they need to go to the next level.

    Since virtually zero percent will ever earn money, I think at some point the sport for life mentality has to drive.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
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  10. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    John,

    first, let me take this opportunity to thank you for giving me access to your site for a week. i used it extensively and enjoyed it a lot.
    i can recommend it highly and will subscribe to it

    as to the decline of u.s. tennis. we europeans probably have the advantage of playing on slower surfaces, mainly red clay, in clubs and academies.
    with the atp tour slowing down the courts, the fact that europeans are used to playing longer rallies and maybe working on shot selection more, probably pays off.
     
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  11. Head Pegger

    Head Pegger New User

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    Some call it modern tennis
    Slower courts and better equipment(rackets, strings)
    leads to different approach to the game
    More spin, more rallies, less volleys etc.
    but to ME I just call it tennis.
     
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  12. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    treb,

    Thanks for the good review! There is a coach's discount so email me before you subscribe.

    And yes the court surfaces especially combined with the poly string are a huge factor. I've hit on some of the show courts in Cincinnati and Indian Wells and man they are gritty and slow--don't fall down if you don't want to bleed.

    If the hard courts were fast and slick like in the old days and the indoor courts bounced like the old supreme court that might shift the balance of style for at least some players.
     
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  13. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    Good point, and I think that for most of us, this is the driving force. And of course we all want to get better. So, it seems that there will always be a demand for instructors of various orientations. Your stuff seems to be primarily based on detailed observational analyses of movements/techniques. Since I'm a former working scientist, this approach appeals to me. But I also like the 'intuitive' or 'feeling' or 'broadstrokes' approach.

    Am I just getting progressively less able to deal with detailed technical nuances or is there something to be said for the, er, 'inner tennis' approach?

    What do you think ... keeping in mind that I highly value the detailed technical analysis approach?

    Or am I mischaracterizing?
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012
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  14. JohnYandell

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    Tom,

    No you hit one of problems on the head. If for example you came to my private court in SF and wanted to work on your forehand, we would film you and look at you side by side with some pro models but focus on a limited number of key positions--as few as one or two.

    You could have as much or as little of the detailed technical info I am posting as suited you.

    Another paradox is that despite it's tremendous complexity all the clear verbal understanding in the world won't get you a better forehand.

    We would use the video to create actual, precise physical positions with checkpoints which you would master and you would then create internal mental images of them--this creation of kinesthetic feel and mental image is the real key to creating change. Most people need some of the explanation but for others it is simply interesting and fun--or of no interest.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012
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  15. Greg G

    Greg G Professional

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    I also took John up on his free one week trial, and was thoroughly impressed by the quantity, and more importantly, the quality of the content on the site. I didn't even wait for the week to finish before signing up!

    I particularly enjoyed the articles in the biomechanics section, and the 'your strokes' section. I am the type who likes to have a deep understanding of all things, so it really hits the spot.

    A question about the checkpoints though- are they static positions you have the players hold for a certain amount of time, for them to get the feel of it? Then I suppose you progress to shadow swings?
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
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  16. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    I don't think this is a paradox. In fact, to me it makes a lot of sense. Stroke technique is unique and complex. Communicating, in ordinary language, what needs to be done to improve is a challenge that I can appreciate.

    This makes sense to me, and, though technically based, it seems to be in accord with the 'inner tennis' orientation of 'quiet the mind', 'visualize', 'imitate'.

    Well, it's certainly interesting. And when it's associated with actual improvements in one's game, then also fun.
     
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  17. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    well I would say there is a developement in tennis but we cannot say a certain year is the cutoff.

    even in the 1920s there were some FHs that looked like a WW FH
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IdvdxqSg8E

    however there were also some very odd looking ones.

    what is different now´is that the top100 strokes now all look virtually identical (apart from nadal maybe with his finish) because other strokes just cannot compete anymore.
     
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  18. crosscourt

    crosscourt Professional

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    Your site is excellent because it gives us all the chance to look in tremendous depth at the components of leading players' strokes, and because we benefit from the expert analyses you gather. But modern tennis isn't about the techniques involved. It's about how you play the game. Rackets, strings, the fitness of the players, their mentality, the evolution of ideas about how to win points, are all significant. Good/modern technique gives you the chance to play the game but having those things isn't playing the game one way or another.
     
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  19. tennis_balla

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    Hopefully this will not get deleted either.
     
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  20. luvforty

    luvforty Banned

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    I agree with many points from JY.. especially on the part about zero percent earning money...

    student should understand how the contact is made...

    'ques' leading to good contact are helpful, but should not be universal.

    I have watched some of Oscar's clips, pulling to left, backwards.... volley with the hand etc... can work for some, but also can screw up others.
     
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  21. luvforty

    luvforty Banned

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    I'd say, if graphite rackets were available 100 years ago, them classic players would be playing the same way in the top100 as today.

    there is really nothing technically 'modern'... it's not rocket science to figure out that swinging across the ball provides more control and therefore allow the player to take a bigger cut.

    however, I'd say there are still plenty of varieties in the top100 men... tomic, stepanek, and the retired santoro... they look more uniform now because of the condition - modern rackets, strings, and the fact that the surfaces are more uniform.

    if we had faster grass and indoor surfaces, flatter/ linear strokes will come back, because these naturally lead player to the net, not sideways/backwards.
     
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  22. luvforty

    luvforty Banned

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    on another thought... if rules say that only 65in wood is allowed, and they make the surface faster, and players have to wear long pants.... and we let this play out for a few years...

    then, what will be the definition of 'modern' tennis? what will the top 100 play like? :)
     
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  23. TCF

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    ===================
     
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  24. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    A tennis coach should know all the details, and not really the player. That's why when you ask a top players certain questions they give vague answers. Reference points, cues, feelings etc and hours upon hours of training, on court and off. The coach behind the scenes knows exactly whats going on, and breaks it down into simple terms for his player to understand, especially when things are going well. However, there are lots of times where you need deeper analysis, especially when changing technique or correcting flaws. In that case, pictures speak a thousand words and video analysis is priceless. High speed video is even more valuable because the human eye misses many important factors at normal speeds. We only see at what? 30fps? That's pretty dismal
     
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  25. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    The Forehand

    Most of the debate over technique centers on the fundamental stroke of the forehand.

    Let's start with some basic facts. In the pro game in a typical groundstroke exchange, there is about 1 second between the rackets. The ball leaves Fed's racket and 1 second later it leaves Nadal's, plus or minus.

    As our research was the first to show, the ball loses about 50 percent or more of it's speed in this interval. If that wasn't true the speed of tennis would exceed human reaction capacity.

    So on a forehand measured off the racket at 80mph, pros are actually hitting an incoming ball that is, say, traveling around 40mph, and they have at most a few tenths of second after the bounce in which to make contact.

    But speed and time are not the only factors to consider in the nature of pro excahnges. The balls are leaving the racket on the top forehands with 2500rpm of spin or more. And the spin actually increases after the bounce. The bottom half of the ball grabs the court and the friction causes the top half to accelerate. After the bounce the spin can double. We've measured balls spinning at over 5000rpm before the contact.

    So between the hits, the speed is halved and the spin is doubled. What does it all mean?
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
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  26. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    I propose another topic for this forum. "Ballin with the Balla" is various ideas or tips from the "tennis balla" from the trenches of high performances tennis coaching. Live from Europe. Any observations of the international tennis climate as it applies to high level player coaching. From specific training trends to technical stroke philosophies.
     
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  27. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    I think it means the ball is freakin moving fast... The focus of a player at that level is to be able to still the mind and be able to slow down the perceived speed of the game. Every tennis player has felt this, when your mind is calm and you see the fastest balls slow and huge. Your sense of time is slowed. Its the zone. Every athlete has felt this.
     
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  28. TCF

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    ==========================
     
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  29. tennis_balla

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    haha thanks for the kind words but not interested. Too many threads get deleted or go way off track. I had a mod delete one of my last threads for this reason. Effort is put in and then wasted. I'd rather spend my energy on court.
     
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  30. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    Yeah. I can see how its frustrating to post some insight you feel is useful then having some guy on ttw that can barely hit 3 balls in a row start spewing that your obviously mistaken due to the influence of Jupiter on the rotation of the ball but only on slices.
     
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  31. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    TCF,

    I don't believe--correct me if I am wrong--Oscar acknowledges that this conclusion came from his attendance at a talk I did at the Open in 1998.

    He approached me after the conference to discuss this. This is an example of the kind of appropriation I don't appreciate--especially when combined with his rejection or denial of so much of my other research that doesn't fit his theories.

    And this one doesn't either. My point is that you have fractions of a second to make critical complex motions in the preparation and that the bulk of this must occur before the bounce.

    More on this later. Going to see my cousin in Connecticut for a couple of days!
     
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  32. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    Greg,

    And thanks to you for the great words about Tennisplayer. The part about the quality means a lot.
     
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  33. TCF

    TCF Hall of Fame

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    ============================
     
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  34. Ash_Smith

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    ^^^This. End Thread :D

    Coaching is equal parts Science and Art - the Science off court informs the Art on court.
     
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  35. ATP100

    ATP100 Professional

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    Easy Answer: NO
     
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  36. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    oh, and to answer John's original question - yes "Modern Tennis" does exist, but only in the same sense that "Modern Art" exists.
     
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  37. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    BTW: is it possible to hit a slice that still has backspin after the bounce? Mr yandell said the ball gains spin as it bounces because the bottom stops on the ground, so it should not be possible to hit a slice that keeps backspinning after ground contact, right?
     
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  38. luvforty

    luvforty Banned

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    it's certainly possible if the surface doesn't grab much... I can tell some of the hardest knifed slices do this because if you simply try to block back, ball goes into the net.

    the bottom does NOT stop. it is slowed down.

    if it stopped, it would not leave the skid ball marks on clay.... balls bounce higher on clay because the skid pushes the loose dirt into a little hump, and the ball then climbs up the hump when it leaves the ground.
     
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  39. Avles

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    At risk of going way off topic-- is this really true? I've never heard this explanation before, and it sounds kind of implausible...
     
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  40. max

    max Hall of Fame

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    I think communication is the secret: being able to get a message across to different kinds of people using different ways; for some, visual, for others, metaphorical, and yet others, very plain language technical.
     
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  41. luvforty

    luvforty Banned

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    well, going off topic is just a matter of time.... so what the heck.

    the reason that a slow hard court makes the ball bounce higher, is because the surface has more these tiny 'hills' (if you look under microscope), that provides the ball with a angle to climb up on.

    the same applies to the clay surface, the clay particles provide these tiny hills for the ball to climb up on..... plus the little pile that the skidding ball pushes the loose dirt into.... just look at the ball marks.
     
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  42. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    Of course - the best coaches use combinations of visual, audial and kinaesthetic teaching. Audial can be further split (depending on the intention of the coach) into Control (Direction), Common Understanding (shared goal) or Emancipator Reflections (guided discovery to liberate from unconscious or conscious behaviours).
     
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  43. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    If the ball did not lose speed, a forehand hit at 80mph (~120 feet per second), would take 0.67 seconds to travel 80 feet to the opposite baseline.

    But players know that they have much more than 0.67 seconds (>1.0 second) to react.

    Players 100 years ago would have intuitively known the ball significantly slows down during its flight..
     
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  44. treblings

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    probably means that a teaching pro working with potential future elite players should direct his students towards more spin, or does it?
    can we predict the direction tennis will take in the next 20 years?
    will they make the courts faster again, develop different balls that favor pace and not spin?
     
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  45. Akubra

    Akubra New User

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    John,

    As someone who has the means, why don't you do a study on the actual effect of court speed? Measure the difference in time-to-contact, rpms and speed at contact for the same shot on 2 different hard courts - one fast, one at typical pro-tournament speed? There is so much talk about the effect of the court speed on the game, but no real data that I've ever been able to find. Some real information could frame the discussion moving forward rather than the pure speculation we're dealing with now.
     
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  46. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    So a clear wrong answer then, since it is the name of teaching method and has been
    for years. It exist, therefore it is! :)
     
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  47. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    AK,

    Yeah it's an interesting idea.
     
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  48. JohnYandell

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    Preparation

    So when we left Roger Federer the ball had left Rafa's racket traveling 80 mph with 3000rpm leaving him around a second to reach the contact point on his forehand.

    This is why immediately after the split step--and sometimes even before landing--all top players have started to turn the body and the feet sideways.

    This full body turn includes the feet and legs, the hips and the shoulders. No matter what anyone else including Wegner tries to tell you, it is universal.

    How do I know this? By careful study of thousands of high speed video clips of dozens of the top players. The naked eye records at about 20 frames a second. Anyone who tells you they have seen the truth with their own eyes is mistaken.

    This turning motion is continuous and includes, often, multiple steps to the ball when players are moving wide, or back, or around the ball to hit inside out.

    This instantaneous, smooth and continuous preparation reaches a characteristic point that coincides roughly with the bounce on the court. The shoulders turn 90 degrees plus to the net. The left arm stretches across the body, pointing square or perpindicular to the sideline. If the ball allows, the player will also load on the outside foot in a stationary position, but often the full turn is reached while the player is still on the move or on the run.

    The hands have separated and the racket hand has reached, roughly, the top of the backswing.

    There is no delaying, there is no keeping your hands in front as long as possible, there is no stalking, there is no counting to five after the bounce--unless you can count to five in about 3/10s of a second. Watch Wegner's preparation in his "modern" forehand tips--he is no where near the pro position and neither are the MIT coaches in the video he touts as examples of his system.

    This fully loaded position is what allows the players to deal with the incredible forces in the high velocity, heavy balls launched at them at one second intervals.

    And guess what? You can find the great players of the past like Bill Tilden and Jack Kramer in that exact same position.
    This is what I mean when I say the hard distinction between classical and modern tennis is artificial at best, and a marketing scam at worst. Early, strong preparation is an element than runs across a century of high level tennis.

    This position, fully turned with the racket at the top of the backswing is sometimes described by coaches like Rick Macci as the position from which the forehand swing starts. Rick calls it "dropping into the hit." Remember that at this point the contact is only a couple or at most a few 1/10ths of a second away.

    Imagine if the top players waited til the bounce to try to create this position, much less then complete the swing. Impossible.

    Ironically the rare times you see the turn and preparation delayed proves the truth of the above analysis. You see it sometimes on short, slow, or high bouncing moonlike balls. You see it on lets.

    So here is one of the funamental ironies of "modern" instruction and why it can be so detrimental to the games of so many players. Not only is it not modern, it is actually the antithesis of the way modern players really prepare. There are many others to come.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
    #48
  49. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2004
    Messages:
    1,677
    Preparation at Your Level

    But wait a minute some club level advocate of "modern" instruction may argue, I don't have to deal with 80 mph forehands so I can stalk and delay and start to prepare when the ball bounces. "Modern" instruction really works for me because I am a low level player.

    OK let's examine the assumption there. Wasn't the claim that modern instruction works because it allows anyone to "play like the pros" and make the game so very, very easy?

    Now you reach a fundamental contradiction. I am going to play like the pros by not playing like the pros.

    The reality is that the difference in the time interval between the pros and a high level 4.5 player is less than you think. When we did our first studies of ball speed we were surprised to find that those exchanges were around 1.2 to 1.4 seconds in duration and that club spin on the forehand could be well over 1000rpm and sometimes a lot higher.

    So there is no doubt that given the reaction times of the rest of the players in the tennis world the same principles apply. If anything they apply more.

    Just go to any club. I see it all the time. Watch the players standing around waiting for the ball to bounce on their side of the net. Then making the kind of ugly arm based swings that are also so common at that level.

    It's as if the basic tenets of "modern" instruction were designed to make this fundamental problem worse. Don't fall for it.

    Learn to make a gorgeous precise, powerful turn.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
    #49
  50. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2007
    Messages:
    5,894
    I'm not that interested in the fighting over schools of tennis teaching. But I'm totally convinced that using high speed video, in which Yandell has been a pioneer, is the big breakthrough in understanding high level tennis.

    For example, I think there is a "new" forehand as performed by Federer, Nadal, etc. I'm not knowledgeable enough to know that there weren't early antecedents, but the heavy "pat-the-dog" motion at the end of the back-swing along with the straighter arm stuff seems to be different than what I recall seeing of Lendl or even Agassi. However, this is not something that I think Wegner or anyone else can claim credit for (can they?).

    So, I think the game is still evolving, and that the way pros actually play is shaping what is taught because we can see things in ways that wasn't possible before. We don't need to rely on the pronouncement of gurus, and the younger generation probably doesn't care as much about who claims to have "invented" what the pros are doing.

    Hopefully, I haven't gone too off course.
     
    #50
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