Hit the ball as hard as u can, then learn to control it????

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by phoenicks, Oct 30, 2008.

  1. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    Yesterday, during my lesson, my pro suddenly gave us a drill. He just ask me to hit the crap out of the ball, don't need to care whether the ball is in or out. Then he even gave the example of how hard Agassi hit the ball when he was young. That we should hit the ball hard, and learn how to control the ball later. I was a bit skeptical at this drill, but why not, it's so much fun.

    so, my question is, is hitting-the-ball-hard-then-learn-to-control-it approach correct way of learning tennis ???

    p/s: I basically prefer percentage play approach though...
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2008
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  2. RestockingTues

    RestockingTues Banned

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    I haven't tried this drill but it might have its merits. I'm guessing your coach wants you to work on your rackethead speed; get ready to pick up balls often though.
     
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  3. TonLars

    TonLars Professional

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    This is a very incorrect way to learn to play tennis to your highest potential, for many reasons. I highly doubt Agassi did exactly just that throughout his development. He learned an attacking game after he had mastered correct fundamentals at a slower pace, building off of consistency gradually hitting harder through time until he could hit the ball as hard as youve seen him on TV with that same base consistency
     
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  4. JohnS

    JohnS Semi-Pro

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    not a bad concept in my opinion. If you are having fun, then that's all that matters really. But if you want to improve your game, this approach isnt that bad either. I think that it's okay to do this type of drill maybe once or twice a week, and then go revert back to the basic drills of hitting your spots. That way, when you improve, you'll know how to go for an aggressive shot when warrented. I never had a coach that allowed me to bash the ball and go for the big kill. It was always about hitting your targets and what not. Till this day, I have trouble ending points and really flattening out a ball at the right moment.

    Sense you seem to have the understanding of controlling the ball and percentage play like I do, I think this drill would benefit you. Some people will listen to your coach, not understand that control is actually more important (and that the power that you put on the ball should be natural) and always pull the trigger at every chance possible. That is bad.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2008
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  5. Headshotterer

    Headshotterer Professional

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    other way around
     
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  6. JohnS

    JohnS Semi-Pro

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    oh, but yes, in terms of just starting, it is better to learn how to control the ball first, and then go for the aggressive shot. lol, I was assuming that you already know how to play the ball and go into rallies.
     
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  7. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    Yeah, before the drill, he asked me to show him how fast i can swing the racquet ( the fastest ). and he showed me how to gain more racquet head speed by relaxing my hitting arm shoulder, instead of muslcing with the shoulder or create power with the shoulder, it really help my racquet head speed help a lot !!!
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2008
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  8. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    Actually, I was rethinking my approach, before this, I always restarin myself from overhitting the ball and just keep the ball in play, and my friend who introduced me to tennis and often play with me, goes the other way round, always hitting the ball hard, but now he seems to be controlling the ball pretty well both in slow and fast pace, while I am not quite ocnsistent when I need to pull the trigger/ go for the broke.

    The other day when I play with varsity player, I need to do a few approach shots to finish the point ( not once, but several time, as I was trying to not overhit )
     
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  9. 10ispro

    10ispro Rookie

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    this is a great drill, I do it with many students at all levels. The major flaw in the consistency first approach it more often than not, players will focus on a much stiffer stroke to control the ball, instead of relaxing and letting loose and swinging freely. They will also never emphasize swing speed and learn the benefits early.
    There is also substantial research that shows if players,especially from an initial learning standpoint, donot learn how to coordinate muscles, nerves, and the timing to hit hard, its extremely difficult to learn at a later time. and Yes, Bolletieri and many others have followed this model , teaching kids to hit hard and then focusing control at a later time. See Seles, Sharapova, Agassi, Kounikova, Krickstein as examples.


    Its significantly easier to learn how to train the body to relax and swing freely without the association of control and hit hard, than learn control later.
    Disclaimer to this is that it must be taught and presented in a manner which will prevent injury.

    at the end of the day, power comes from swing speed. learning how to generate swing speed, using the muscles in the kinetic chain to access power, is key. you have to have the neural process in place, which will activate the correct muscles in the correct order when you want to generate power. Thats why leaning the power motor program 2nd, its much more difficult than learning it 1st and learning the control program second.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2008
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  10. junbumkim

    junbumkim Professional

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    It's a pretty famous story about Agassi..
    But here is the question, are you going to practice as much as Agassi??
    He spend HOURS and HOURs on the court...

    But the approach isn't terrible.
    For most players, contorl is probably a priority, but at the same time, you need to increase your racket head speed and have to practice hitting harder and harder.

    I remember when I asked a coach at NBTA how I should practice my serve. He said that once he warmed up, he would focus on hitting harder and harder so that he could increase his serve-speed. But he probably did that when he had the basics down..
     
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  11. TonLars

    TonLars Professional

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    Being relaxed, loose and hitting a full stroke, is not the same thing as "lets hit the ball as hard as you can" and hope that eventually they will start to fall in. A player will ONLY get good at hitting balls out really hard, rather than learn proper technique and control first and build off of the consistent and correct technique foundation. Basically every top competitive player you see today started out as pushers and grinders who learned at a very young age that tennis is a game of errors and movement. Gradually they increased the pace of their shots, rather than trying to just blast everything as hard as they do now as top players or professionals. Learning control does not really mean pushing or dink tennis. Learn the proper fundamentals at a relaxed and controlable pace first if you want to succeed in tennis. You can basically get to a 5.0 level and play college tennis successfully simply by handling your opponents shots and keeping the ball in play deep, even if it is with very little pace. To move beyond this level is to develop attacking weapons and power. Its the definite model of progression.
     
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  12. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    Although I am not aware of any of such reserach, I do find that it's true to a certain extent, sometimes I find it not easy to suddenly generate the power and go for the broke.

    Care to show me the link or source for such research ??? :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2008
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  13. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    pusher!??? are you kidding me???
     
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  14. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    Been learning the fundamental for quite some time, now in the transition period of transforming my forehand ( upon my pros advice ), but once I got the consistency down, I am gonna start learning how to hit hard !!!
     
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  15. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    I took the approach of hitting hard and then controlling it later. I basically swing at about 80% of my max power on every shot that isn't a difficult one. As a result I have had more inconsistent performances. Also I have lost to some people that I should have beaten in my sleep. But my control is getting better. What I notice in my recreational league play is that the guys who hit the ball harder tend to improve and have what appears to be the most potential while the soft hitters stagnate because they don't learn to hit real penetrating shots and play too conservatively. I will note that these observerations do not involve well-trained players but just your average rec. adult player that takes minimal lessons.
     
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  16. 10ispro

    10ispro Rookie

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    working on finding the sources. Its been in several things I have read and been presented at a few Conferences I have attended. Ive heard it from Brett Hobden as well a Mike Kernodle who is a PHD in Kinesiolgy w/ emphasis Motor learning, Biomechanics and a few others

    Alot of this has to do with creating the correct neural pathways which can be easily accessed upon demand and basically at will. Like with most things, signals will travel the path of least resistance.
    If the primary motor program for a movement activates muscles in a manner in which they can be fluid and generate power , than it will be easier to access than if the primary program is a pathway which suggests slowing the swing speed down/tightening up.

    I'll post the info when I can get all the links.
     
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  17. drake

    drake Semi-Pro

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    Is your coach Brian Barker?
     
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  18. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    wow, these scientific reserach sounds cool, thanks a million for the help !!!:)
     
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  19. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    No, but I wish he's my coach lol:p
     
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  20. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    I notice the same trend aorund my area, and those frinds of me who hit hard, generally have btter control when they hit softer ( although they are sometimes inconsistent ), just my observation. and those pusher and soft hitter ( some of them with unsound fundamental ), really seems to stuck at the same level.
     
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  21. lethalfang

    lethalfang Professional

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    I know if I do that during rallies, my hitting partner would be mightily pissed when half of my shots hit the fence.
     
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  22. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    of course, wont do that during rally ( experiencing it 1sthand and on the receiving end of such thing myself ). But when I receive some short balls, I am gonna go for the kill to improve my approach shot.
     
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  23. TonLars

    TonLars Professional

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    No, I am not kidding you. Players who are the best at age 6-10 or so have better fundamentals and simply are more consistent. At that age with lack of size and strength they do not have the ability to hit with powerful weapons. The players who make the most mistakes at any level are the players who will lose. The difference between good players and great players is if they can do it better, and also have the added tools of being able to hit more aggressively and have capability of going for a forcing shot or winner on more balls. Simply hitting the ball as hard as possible is, again, a very poor learning technique. After fundamentals are reached close to proficient, then a player can begin to GRADUALLY play with more pace and more aggressive, as well as working more on situational approach and attack shots. Youll find that up until about the highest levels of tennis, players lose based alone on more errors of their technique and footwork.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2008
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  24. hellonewbie

    hellonewbie Rookie

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    I think end goal is to be able to swing freely and still control where the ball goes. You can start with free swing or controlled swing and work on the getting more control or higher efficiency gradually. In high school I used to have a very controlled and perhaps rigid swing, but not much pace or spin. Now I'm changing my game to swing more freely and still maintain control.
     
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  25. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    It might work if your goal is to become another Agassi. But in the meawhile, where are you going to find people to play? Who wants to play a guy who doesn't keep the ball in play? All you do is pick up tennis balls, and that's no fun.
     
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  26. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    I think we got a misundertand here. ( or I didn't aticulate well ) I am not saying that I will hit the ****e out of the ball all day long, I will still hit with reasonable pace during rally ( around 3 quarter max pace ). But I will gradually up my pace, and learn to let go during my swing, swinging freely instead of inhibiting myself from overhitting, which leads to rigid and stiff strokes. And during the training session, I gonna hit the ball hard, real hard !!!! And finally, to get used to the powr hitting style.
     
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  27. matchmaker

    matchmaker Hall of Fame

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    Well, one of the guys I used to play with had a terrible pace on the FH and he said he had started by trying to hit as hard as he could until one day the balls finally began to land inside the court. His FH side was a nightmare, so I guess it worked out well for him.
     
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  28. futuratennis

    futuratennis Rookie

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    exactly, the best way to get better at tennis, is learn the hard way and youll gradually improve and be able to control harder shots
     
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  29. iamke55

    iamke55 Professional

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    This is not the right way to learn tennis. A developing player should not use more pace than he can reasonably control. This kind of drill will cause lower level players to muscle the ball and develop the wrong technique. Not only that, it will also cause these players to become incredibly arrogant and claim to be better than the "pusher" that just beat them 6-1 6-1.
     
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  30. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    Muscling the ball, I am not. My pro tell me to hit harder by using faster racquet head speed, relaxing my body, let go and using core body rotation, instead of muscling the ball !!!
     
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  31. Sublime

    Sublime Semi-Pro

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    I believe this drill has merits to beginners (as a beginner I speak from experience :) ) as tennis has a lot of counter intuitive elements to it.

    The first time you step onto the court you end up taking some huge cuts at the ball. But your technique is horrible, so you end up swinging really hard at the ball with an open face and not much high to low motion. In short you hit it like a baseball and it goes like a baseball.

    Then you get worried about hitting long and you start short stroking it. Pushing the ball over.

    Once you learn the basics of a tennis swing (racket face, high to low, follow through) I think it's very worthwhile to work on increasing your head speed and seeing the results. In my opinion the results are very counter intuitive to a beginner and will get them to trust swinging loose rather than muscling the racket.
     
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  32. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

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    Well, there you go. That is the ONLY way this drill can achieve any desired goals. Hitting it hard, and hitting it hard correctly are very different animals.

    I would be willing to guess, based on personal experiece, that lower level rec players when trying to hit the ball very hard - actually tighten up their muscles more than normal. This is completely counter productive to a powerful shot. The problem here is the extra energy dissipates into the body via protagonistic and antagonistic muscle groups (bicept/tricept, etc...one pulls, one pushes).

    So the only way to swing hard and hit hard correctly as as your pro described. Relaxed muscles, loaded legs, smooth stroke, and strong core rotation, timed with the unloading of the legs. If the kinetic sequencing isn't correct, then they will only practice muscling the ball.

    So why then does this seem to work at times for SOME players? I suspect, they feel and understand that to get the increased speed and whip, they begin to relax their muscles to allow a free flow of energy into the ball. Others....sadly don't feel this and get tighter.
     
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  33. Dreamer

    Dreamer Professional

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    This is actually funny because when me and my friend took up tennis we approached it with differing philosophies. He went with power first control later, and I focused on proper technique and control first.
    Long story short, a couple of years later I'm blowing him off the court.
    This drill might have merits when you have proper foundation and technique down, and looking to increase your racquet head speed and gain explosive power. But I definitely believe in the foundations first, I think you may develop too many bad habits without them.
     
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  34. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    this is the most vital part of swinging hard correctly !!!

    before the drill, my coach asked me to show him how fast I can swing, then I swing as hard as I can, he then said, no, not fast enough. he tell me to relax my hitting shoulder and try again, amazingly, my racquet head speed got so much faster !!!! I could immediately get what he says since I read a lot of tennis articles, and know that having a relax muscle is the fastest way of letting my energy flow, so that's why.
     
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  35. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    yeah, same situation with me, I am like you, and my friend is like your friend, but the result is different, he's smoking me with his power stroke now.
     
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  36. Dreamer

    Dreamer Professional

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    Haha that's funny. You can do it man, catch that *******! And if you have proper technique it sounds like your coach knows what he's talking about.
     
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  37. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    It is a good drill to use once a month to be reminded about how fast a racket can be swung, but my observations have supported that control hitters (even what some call pushers) in Jrs tend to build power over time and add this to their excellent control games, and become the better players over the long haul.

    Guys who think they will hit big all the time and get control along the way, never seem to get enough control and rarely learn to construct a point. A top notch control hitter will come up in their draw, not overly concerned about his power and make him hit 7 balls per point. Then he's done!
     
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  38. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    sure he is, he can hit the ball so hard, that I sometimes barely even have time to react to it. By the time I realize he's hitting that fast pace shot, it has already fly past me !!! Sometimes, he can even hit this kinda ball 10 feet behind the baseline !!!! :shock:
     
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  39. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    actually that's part of my concern also, I am still learning the various way of constructing a point.
     
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  40. bhupaes

    bhupaes Professional

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    Get the technique right - then work on racquet head speed. Otherwise there will be a lot of relearning to do. But it sounds like the OP is on the right track, since he has a coach to ensure that the right techniques are employed.
     
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  41. tennisdad65

    tennisdad65 Hall of Fame

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    My 6 yr old son does this sometimes and I do not stop him. He can only hit his forehand flat. When he hits it too hard, about 20% comes in and the rest sail over my head into the fence :). I think it is OK when they are learning, especially since he has fun doing this.

    After ~8-9 years old, it is good to drive the ball really hard with topspin every now and then.
     
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  42. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    yesterday, I had a "profound" discovery When I watch James Blake forehand slow motion vid, his forehand is very similiar to my coach forehand ( resembles 90% of it ) , rapid,flat and explosive execution, the preparation, straight arm swing from swing back and maintain it through the contact and follow through ( ok a little bent in the finishing part ), the finishes, a little bit closed during the contact and closing the racquet face fully after contact...etc.

    Wow, my coach is actually teaching me how to hit James Blake forehand now, For the first time of my life, I am actually getting a full insight into a pro's forehand and learning how to execute it, I am just so exciting !!!!!

    I have a question, who taught James Blake how to hit his forehand??? His coach Brian Barker ???
     
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  43. kensan

    kensan Rookie

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    1) I believe you can't swing super slow. Otherwise you cannot impart enough spin to guide and control the ball.

    2) Depends on if you want to play a game like Andre Agassi. Pick your role model. If your model is say Federer, I would lean more towards control and finesse than learning to hit the crap out of the ball without control.
     
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  44. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    This is a double-edged sword. I think that a beginning self-taught player is better off hitting the ball hard (but with proper technique learned from videos/books/TW), and allowing their control to develop through practice and experience. Basically they have to have the mindset that developing a solid stroke is more important than winning matches during this stage of their development. I think the most common trap for self-taught players is to soften their shot in order to be more consistent and win matches, which usually means doing away with the follow through and inadvertently becoming a pusher. And I think the temptation is very real because I have gone through it many times when I was afraid to lose certain matches.

    But someone who is going through training with a teaching pro doesn't have to worry about this because they will always have the pro to correct them when they change things for the worse. Maybe for these players its better to develop a softer shot with more control, but I think the risk of becoming a pusher is too great for the self-taught player.
     
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  45. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    great insight here, never think of this before, but have face the situation before, I sometimes will hold myself back and stiffen myself, or worse, resorting to pushing against pusher. I am very much agree with you, and I sometimes prefer rally more than match, because I can actually hit more balls in rally and develop a more dependable shot from it. Rally is a learning process while match is just an end result.
     
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  46. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    If you have a consistent rally shot, at some point you should practice hitting it harder than you normally do. However, I'd advise practicing the modern heavy topspin forehand of Federer, Nadal, Gonzo, etc.

    The goal isn't to become completely wild, but to push your limits. As Bruce Lee pointed out, no one becomes a world class sprinter by jogging. If you want to run fast, you have to practice running fast. If you want to hit hard, you need to practice hitting hard - but with the proper technique.

    When I coach, I see beginners ripping 90mph flat/underspin forehands. These are devastating shots. But they only go in about 1 out of 40 attempts. In other words, they are almost completely worthless shots for the tennis player unless facing a very high sitter.

    The modern topspin forehand is both fast and higher percentage.

    In short, you should open up with the power every so often during practice, but still, think about what you are doing.
     
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  47. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

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    yeah, you hit the nail on the head !!! btw, did you give them this fun drill of hitting their max power, don't care whether or not is going in or out???

    but since I am following following a pro who teach a forehand which highly resembles that of james blake, I have no choice but to follow. Yesterday, I continue to play with this style of forehand, and I find that I suddenly gain even more spin. And as my coach said, with the right timing, it can really clear the net to offset the risk of low margin for error forehand shot.
     
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  48. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    A bit of clarification goes a long way with such an open ended question. In practice everyone needs to know what the limit of their pace is. So hitting "as hard as you can" as an occasional drill is completely reasonable, not one of the most important drills, but again a reasonable one.

    In matchplay, hitting as hard as you can, therefore losing, then expecting the balls to suddenly start falling in one magical day, is a ridiculous plan.
     
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