Drop feeding vs. The wall

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by TTMR, Sep 22, 2011.

  1. TTMR

    TTMR Hall of Fame

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    I am too cheap/poor to afford lessons or ball machine rental, and live in an area where tennis is more or less unheard of, so practice partners are out of the question.

    Which is the best method to practice your non-serve strokes? The wall has the advantage of giving you a ball moving towards you, which is a better simulation of real tennis. The disadvantage, of course, is you have not much of an idea whether your shots are in or out, let alone their depth within the court.

    With drop feeding, the obvious advantage is you can practice your placement since you can see where your ball lands, and you'll immediately know when you've overhit the ball. Naturally, the drawback is the fact that real tennis does not involve balls that just sit there and bounce straight up, and it may ill prepare you for a ball coming toward you.

    Which form of practice is better for improving your game, or at the very least, not damaging it irrevocably?
     
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  2. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I'm not a teaching pro or anything. But I am a huge, huge fan of drop feeding. And I am not a big fan of the wall for people who are developing their game.

    First, the wall. When I see 4.0 and below players hitting on the wall, they rarely are hitting the ball well. They are hitting it hard. The ball comes too quickly, so they don't finish, don't turn their shoulders. What does this do other than make sure bad technique is ingrained in muscle memory?

    Drop feeding is so much more useful. You can freeze and check your preparation before you hit. You can experiment with different contact points and heights and grips. You have to generate your own pace. You can actually see what your ball is doing. You can practice footwork and punishing sitters and hitting extreme angles. If you feel yourself about to hit a shot incorrectly, you can stop to avoid grooving the error.

    What's not to like?

    Over the last two years, I changed my FH grip and BH grip. This created a lot of grip confusion as I tried to get comfortable. Drop feeding helped me get the reps I needed for it all to feel natural.

    Finally, there is one important shot that can be learned well from drop feeding but cannot be learned on the wall: The topspin lob. Who wouldn't want to own a good topspin lob off of both wings?
     
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  3. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    I think drop-hitting is great for certain shots. Practicing short floater putaways. Overheads. Basic forehand and backhand fundamentals.

    The wall is great for getting a feel for hitting a ball that is coming at you. It is great for anticipation. Wall work with a Dunlop foam speedball is great to practice heavy topspin shots and work on technique.

    I think both tools have their place.
     
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  4. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I use both because you need to be able to create pace on your own...drop feed and your first shot, and you need the wall to give you something moving towards you.
    Like in hitting with a partner, you have to hit the wall with "moderate" controlled swings, not full out power, to hit more than just a few.
     
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  5. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    The wall let's you hit a ball moving toward you, true. But it doesn't mimic an opponent's spin or angles, etc.

    For me, the combination of drop feeding when I am alone and using a practice partner the rest of the time works well.
     
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  6. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Personally I love hitting against the wall. You can really work on a stroke and get it grooved with hundreds of repititions. It's important that you're practicing good technique though.

    The wall has limitations. I look at it as a step towards improving a stroke. Taking it to the court again a real opponent is the next step.

    Drop feeding is not something I do a lot. I'll drop feed my forehand to start a rally so that I can practice the form, but I rarely stand on a court and drop feed balls to practice a stroke.
     
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  7. TennisCoachFLA

    TennisCoachFLA Banned

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    Not even close, the wall is better. With a little imagination you can practice lots of movement and footwork and strokes. You can really get those feet hopping vs the wall.

    I know that one former top pro whose name escapes me now, said he pretty much hit vs a wall exclusively until his mid teens. And I have had several students who would wall hit and save up for a few lessons, wall hit between them, and several went on to tennis scholarships.

    Pat McEnroe and Sampras both said they spent a good deal of wall time as kids. So did Sharapova. Another female pro used to hit in an empty pool as a kid using the side as a wall.

    This player spent 3 hours a day vs the wall as a kid and rose to be quite a player.

    http://www.mytennistory.com/?page_id=90

    Every kid at Rick Macci's academy spends a good deal of time with the wall. Mardy Fish, lots of wall time. Cliff Drysdale swears by it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2011
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  8. Bacterio

    Bacterio Rookie

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    I'd say a combination of both would be ideal if you're trying to groove a stroke or just work on your mechanics.

    There's been a lot of talk about Djokovic doing drop feeding before this year started because he wanted to improve the rackethead speed on his forehand which his coach felt that he would slow down midswing sometimes.

    The drop feeding could help rec players immensely because the main reason you always hear them complaining about losing to pushers is because they hit so many errors off of paceless balls because they don't get into position and don't generate the rackethead speed necessary to hit a clean ball with good pace and depth.
     
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  9. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Both are good up to a certain point.

    If you have a wall, make sure you have a line representing the net. You can use tape (masking or duck tape will work), chalk or paint. The big thing is DON'T use a live/good ball - you really need to use a ball that's a little dead. If your cloose to the wall, try and keep the ball in the air. Back up and you can practice ground strokes and even serves.

    Drop feeding is ok if you move around a lot and remember you don't have to hit the ball on the first bounce - actually, I prefer to see players throw the ball high enough so they can practice their stroke mechanics - if you toss to low, you'll end up rushing through the stroke. You can practice angles, baselines, overheads, serves and just about anything.

    However, neither duplicates a live feed or rally.
     
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  10. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Roger Federer said that he spent 1,000's of hours hitting against a wall as a teenager. I agree that a wall is the next best thing to a good drilling partner. It helps if you have a deep backcourt so that you can take a full swing and not have the ball bounce at your feet or behind you.
     
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  11. Caesar

    Caesar Banned

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    This. People worry too much about whether the ball will go in when they're hitting against the wall. It doesn't matter. If you develop good grooved shots with topspin etc. and can accurately get relatively low net clearance, that ball is going to go in more often than not. The last 10% of actual spatial placement can be done on court when you have a partner and you already have grooved shots to work with.

    Unless you're an absolute beginner I can't see the point in drop-feeding at all. It doesn't make you work on any of the things people typically struggle with... handling pace and movement, footwork, etc.

    The one thing the wall is not great for is helping you deal with high bounces. I spent an awful lot of time hitting against walls as a kid and to this day I am much more comfortable with a ball on my shoelaces than I am with something up around head height. As a result I love playing on grass.
     
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  12. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    It depends on what you mean be "drop feed."

    I don't just take a ball and drop it. I toss the ball and then do the footwork needed to get it in the strike zone. I usually let the ball bounce twice to make sure I am taking my time.

    I am sure a lot of this depends on level. But for the typical club player, drop feeding can help. If you think it is easy, try going out and tossing a ball up at the T and see how often you can set up and rip it to the corners.

    It is also useful for self diagnosis. Why did I miss so many BHs in my match? Drop feed and figure it out.

    Maybe we shouldn't call it drop feeding. Maybe we should call it "self feeding."

    Cindy -- wondering what happened to all the drop feeding fans
     
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  13. rkelley

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    Personally I don't agree here. I hate using dead balls on a wall. You hit everything off your shoe tops. I don't like to use brand new balls either because I've found that they pop easily. A somewhat used ball with good pressure is my preference.
     
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  14. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    I'm actually a huge fan of both! This year alone, I've spent probably 100+ hours on the wall as I've been grooving my strokes with better mechanics!

    The wall is great for...

    1) Learning a new stroke, and getting comfortable with it! You can learn a lot by what feels good, and what doesn't! It's also great for working on just hitting the sweetspot of your racket!

    2) Foot work and speed. You can get really used to running down and chasing shots that otherwise you couldn't before. Especially the odd bounced ones! Also split step which is incredibly important in tennis!

    And the benefits of drop feeding...

    1) Placement in the court! It's great for learning how your body works in relation to the court and how you can cover it. I know from lots of drop feeding, that I can get from the baseline to the net in just over 4 steps and still rip a ball!

    2) Serving, serving, serving! Practice serving into the box, and you've won half the battle! :)

    -Fuji
     
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  15. LuckyR

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    I agree with Cindy if by "wall" you mean endlessly and mindlessly slapping a ball against a wall. However, some use the wall to generate a particular shot that they are trying to practice, say a BH moving away from them. Of course to do that it takes a few set up shots to get the ball where you want it.
     
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  16. NLBwell

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    Both are important. Most great players spent hours and hours on the wall. Shots like approach shots off short balls and putaways near the net are easier to practice off drop feeds.
     
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  17. MNPlayer

    MNPlayer Semi-Pro

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    I saw a thing on the Tennis Channel about Melanie Oudin where she said she spent lots of time hitting against the wall as a kid.

    I do kind of wonder if the kids get good because of the wall practice or do the tennis-obsessed kids do it because they are tennis-obsessed (correlation/causation)?
     
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  18. Netspirit

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    The wall is excellent for practicing overheads, good for volleys, mediocre for groundstrokes (you lose your spin and the feel of depth).

    Silent Partner ball machine costs about $600 (new). A used one is like 2-3 tennis rackets.
     
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  19. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, good question.

    I also wonder if none of these kids did any drop feeding, or maybe they feel like it would be lame to admit it? Or perhaps the issue is the wall is all you can do if you can't drive. If I had to schlep my hopper to the courts on a bike, I wouldn't be drop feeding either.

    I have to day, I have never, ever seen anyone else drop feeding at any court at which I practice. I see lots of people slapping against the wall. I've never understood why that is . . . .
     
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  20. jswinf

    jswinf Professional

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    You must hit pretty hard. :shock:

    I like to hit on a wall sometimes. I can't really claim it's the best practice for strokes, but I think it's good exercise, good for footwork, good for wrist and forearm strength, and kind of good for strokes. I try to practice overheads but find it difficult to do well. And I think it's fun now and then, reminds me of when I was a kid. I'll admit that if I do some drop-feeding I'll kind of look around and hope nobody sees me...
     
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  21. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    Because drop-hitting doesn't look cool. I've never seen anyone at the public courts down on their knees practicing kick serves either. Probably for the same reason.

    I will do drop-hitting on public courts if they are relatively empty. But if a bunch of people start showing up... I just can't keep doing it. At some point the feeling of looking like a dork overtakes me.
     
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  22. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Ha! That must be it!

    If you want to look cool, set out a target. Set out a water bottle -- or my favorite target, my spare racket. Love the way the ball jumps way in the air when you hit it. Or hit drop shots into the hopper to show off your sweet touch.

    The ladies will be throwing elbows for the chance to meet The Drop Feed King. :)
     
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  23. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    If you are worried about looking cool, honestly tennis is probably not the best sport for you. Lol. It's not really a cool game to most people.
     
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  24. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I've been doing drop-feeding recently, largely due to the suggestions of Cindy and others in another thread, and I've found it very useful for approach shots, half-volleys and volleys. I toss the ball away from me, often with backspin, and imagine someone has drop-shotted me or hit a slow but well-placed angle shot, then go chase down the ball and try and hit it appropriately.

    Interestingly, I was drop-feeding the other day next to an older pro who was giving a lesson, and I heard the pro tell his student in an approving tone of voice, "I used to do what he is doing." That really made me feel like I was using my time productively.
     
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  25. mightyrick

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    Lol. I'm not worried about looking cool. I already know I don't look cool.

    I'm worried about looking like a complete idiot. :D
     
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  26. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    LOL! One time I was practicing 2nd serves, and sure enough a guy came chasing for his ball when my slice serve tagged him in the chest when he went to bend over! I felt so bad, but then he looked up and said, "did you just throw a ball at me?" Indicating that it was barely noticeable when it hit him.....

    Not really an idiot move on my part, but it did for sure make me feel really lame! This was a few years ago however and I haven't seen the guy since! :lol:

    -Fuji
     
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  27. HunterST

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    I think, at best, the wall is minimally helpful. At worse, it is harmful. People just end up developing technique that is effective for hitting against a wall and not playing tennis.

    However, I've heard about walls that are built with a 15 degree angle that create an arching, realistic ball. I could see those being helpful.
     
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  28. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think if you hit with enough topspin, you don't need the 15 degree lift from the wall.
    Our RoseGarden wall has regulation sized lines, but wider sidelines, and standing 4' behind the baseline, it's easy to hit 25 groundies in a row, one bounce, even with my erratic forehand.
    I'll admit my lefty slice does need 2 bounces.
     
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  29. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Actually I've found, that the more topspin I hit the faster the ball climbs down the wall. Slices are the ones that actually pop up and come back nicely to hit. Topspin is a bit sketchier off the wall!

    -Fuji
     
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  30. Mahboob Khan

    Mahboob Khan Hall of Fame

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    It appears that you live at the distant corner of the world!

    Wall practices and drop-feeding have their benefits. When you hit against the wall make sure that the ball hits about 2-3 feet above the line this way you will know that your shots are inside the boundary of a tennis court.

    Bounce feeding, or someone feeding from the basket, are also great.

    But at the end of the day you need to find someone who can play, or spend money, come to Pakistan, and we will arrange coaching and practice partners for you (LOL).

    Pakistan is a safe country, and we are a close ally of the United States in its war against terrorism (never mind it has created more violence), both Pakistan and the U.S. are so sweet, loyal, sincere, to each other, and they both work and fight side by side against the terrorists without any fuss or conflicts. Just recently, the U.S. Defense Minister, the CIA Chief, and the White House, praised the role of Pakistan ISI, and its Armed Forces, in this war. I see a lasting relationship based on trust between Pakistan and the United States of America. Long live the Friendship!
     
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  31. jswinf

    jswinf Professional

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    He probably had a delayed reaction to the severe impact and died. :(
     
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  32. rkelley

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    I'm with Lee on this. Topspin makes the ball come off the wall at a higher angle. Slice makes the ball dive down.
     
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  33. Caesar

    Caesar Banned

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    [​IMG]
     
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  34. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    LOL! I really enjoyed that!!!

    I believe the reason is, is because I'm using a "textured" wall, not a pure flat wall. The wall is covered in tiny little bumps all over it, which I think is causing a reverse action to what happens on a flat, smooth wall!

    -Fuji
     
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  35. Devilito

    Devilito Hall of Fame

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    he's right though just based on the spin, think about it. The top spin shot will "crawl" up the wall and shoot up while the slice will grab and shoot down. It’s just physics, can’t really argue with it.
     
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  36. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Oh of course! I am for sure not denying it based on physics! :)

    What I think is happening with my shots, is that when the top spin his the wall, it hits under the bumps, and slice hits on top of the bumps, thus causing a complete opposite reaction!

    -Fuji
     
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  37. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Well, its ok to disagree with me. If your a good player, and I suspect you probably are, new balls against a wall are fine. If however, your new to the game, I would suggest a ball that doesn't bounce as well because it gives the player a better chance to practice the mechanics of the stroke.
     
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  38. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Definitely agree about using a ball that gives you more time if you're a newer player, or even if you're an experienced player but want to slow everything down and focus on some aspect of your stroke. I like those big, yellow foamy balls. They really do move like a tennis ball in slow motion.
     
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  39. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    I just got back from another session with a middle school program I head up - about 40 kids. Its not an easy process & somewhat frustrating getting kids to focus on the mechanics of strokes. Those that don't just don't advance to higher levels.
     
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