should I change my forehand?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by johndagolfer, Nov 18, 2013.

  1. johndagolfer

    johndagolfer Semi-Pro

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    I think of myself as a solid 4.0 player. I play an aggressive game where I try to force my opponents into mistakes by moving them around or denying them time to hit a good shot. I generally stand at the baseline and rarely move back.

    The problem I am facing, as I start to play better players, is that my pace no longer affects them as much it did against average 4.0's. I find that all I am doing is feeding them pace and ball that generally doesn't bounce higher than chest high. This is of course unless I am given a ball chest high then I hit more of a loop. If I hit a short ball, even on a cleanly hit ball, it ends up being a waist high ball with a lot of pace, which I would love, if I were facing that.

    I use an extreme eastern grip and have somewhat of a hybrid between a classic swing and a windshield wiper type swing.

    What I am trying to figure out, without changing grips, is whether or not I should trying to add a little more loop and less pace or should I try and change my swing path to add more spin to my pace?

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2013
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  2. bad_call

    bad_call Legend

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    not sure what is "extreme eastern" forehand grip but this player uses eastern fh grip. think my fh swing is also hybrid. suggest just vary the swing depending on the situation since it works for this player at 4.5 level and beyond.
     
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  3. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

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    This is impossible to answer without seeing you play, but your analysis seems pretty insightful. Let me pose a question to you: what makes you think looping the ball more will give your new opponents any more trouble than your current ball? If they can handle your pace, wouldn't they also be able to handle a somewhat higher yet slower ball?

    I think the trend in higher level tennis, ie >5.0 is more to spin and less to pace. The key is to hit with enough pace that they can't redirect your ball too easily.

    It's possible you just need to be more patient and accept that the shots that produced errors against lower level players are rally balls now. You will have to grind out points more. You will have to be more careful with placement. If you want to hit through better players, you might have to rework your stroke.
     
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  4. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    To beat better players you have to be a better player. Changing from a medium spin ball to a heavier-spin rally ball isn't going to make much difference against a 4.5 player, just lengthen the points since they will have more time and you will have more margin of error.
    What would be good would be to add variety and be able to mix up slice, flat, medium topspin, and heavy topspin balls. The change in spin and speed can make the opponent uncomfortable and elicit errors. Improving your ability to place the ball to move the opponent around and create openings will help you win points. Improve your attacking game of approach shots and volleys to take advantage of any short ball you may get from your opponent. Of course, the most important is to improve your serve and serve return.
    These will all give you more benefit for your time than starting with a new grip.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2013
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  5. johndagolfer

    johndagolfer Semi-Pro

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  6. johndagolfer

    johndagolfer Semi-Pro

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    I agree what you're saying here, mixing up is great. But for my normal rally ball it seems the default is this hard hit ball with decent top spin that stays in their hitting zone far too long. I think trying to create a normal rally ball that has maybe not quite as much pace, but a lot more loop my create more opportunities to open up the court for my flat ball.
     
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  7. Ballinbob

    Ballinbob Hall of Fame

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    That's a really good idea I think and you're thinking along the right lines. Just moon ball it to the backhand and wait for a short/attackable ball. When I think of a good rally ball I think of good net clearance, depth, and spin.
     
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  8. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Three years ago I was kind of where you are. Same forehand grip, same deal as I started playing better players. For me, to hit hard enough to give those players problems I had to start hitting pretty low over the net to keep the ball in. Worked great when I made the shot, but way too many UFEs to really be useful. I also found that the balls from these better players had all of this action on them. They kicked up, and to side, and it was generally very hard to get a ball that I could cleanly hit.

    I went totally modern on the swing. PTD set-up, drag the racquet into contact, pull up and across. It took me a while to figure out how to do that, but I eventually figured it out. I hit harder than I used to, from more positions because I have the increased topspin to pull my ball back down, I have more margin over the net. My ball can kick up and curve now like it never would before.

    Note, I did not change my grip to learn this. You can hit totally modern with any grip from an E. to a W. Strong E. to weak W are the best choices. I have migrated on my grip so that I'm almost SW but not quite, so a small grip change that happened naturally.
     
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  9. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Hi OP,

    I'll give you a couple different schools of thoughts here. Are you looking to become much better, like to advanced levels? IMO, in advanced levels, the strokes come quite "one dimensional". Everything is geared toward taking away time from opponents, which always means faster pace and good placement. Players don't screw themselves up by introducing variety for the sake of variety. So, you just need to develop faster pace and decent placement (even if that means using only two corners) and you only need to be more a little consistent than your opponent. No need to be ultra consistent.

    Now, not everyone aspires to be advanced. If you're content to stay in 4.0 with your own group like many others, a different strategy from above may be more successful. I notice those who are successful at 4.0-4.5 tend to only focus on being able to put the ball back with OK placement. Almost any kind of pace or spin is OK. Smart playing, ie decent ball placement, energy efficient movement, seems to be higher priority.
     
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  10. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    This weekend I watched a 4.0 woman take out a 4.0 guy simply by getting balls back and hitting them with no topspin to wherever he wasn't. The guy's fancy topspin came apart with UEs when he was actually forced to cover the court, while she just got the balls back slow and deep from anywhere in the court.
     
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  11. johndagolfer

    johndagolfer Semi-Pro

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    I used to be a 4.5 when I was in college. I took almost 15 years off. I know that I am older and heavier and won't be able to do the things I used to do then. But the game has changed to a game of spin and power. Back then I could get by with being able to just hit hard and accurate, but the game has evolved to where people are hitting heavier spins against my hard shots. I think that creating a little more spin will help defend against those who love pace and love the fact that my ball doesn't ever leave their hitting zone.

    I am not looking to get to 5.0 or even get back to 4.5. But I would like to get to the elite level of 4.0 to low 4.5 again.
     
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  12. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    What happened in the 15 years since you stopped playing competitively is that players learned to take advantage of the new equipment (the whole Babolat and poly string deal) and started using modern technique for their groundstrokes. Now of course, some people say that the pros have always hit from open stances, etc., but I believe the real change has come in the philosophy behind what makes effective groundstroking. Unfortunately, it's hard to communicate how to hit a modern forehand/backhand over the Internet, but I'll do my best to give you a little overview.

    The number one concept behind the modern stroke is to "Keep the plane the same." Basically, the way to direct the ball where you want it to go is not to swing in that direction but to have the racket face point to that direction during contact. So, to prevent mistiming errors, what you need to do is keep the plane of the racket vertical and facing the target throughout the hitting zone, that is, a foot before and a foot after contact. This video explains it all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ot2xQJRJ5Q

    Now, with this foundation under your belt, you can establish a three dimensional swing, brushing up steeply through the contact zone thanks to a power loop and a strong leg drive upward, all the while following through across your body in a windshield wiper fashion. The across the body finish is most natural for the arm, and you can accentuate it with a strong unit turn in which the left hand remains on the throat during the coiling phase. By allowing your arm to remain loose and your joints to remain mobile (including your wrist), you can generate a lot of forward pace as well even though you're not swinging on a forward line. So, in a nutshell, the modern groundstroke is up, across, and through. But the catch is to keep the plane the same. Always, always keep the plane the same, or you will spray the ball everywhere but where you want it to go.

    For a two handed backhand, do the same, just with your left arm as the driving force. For a one handed backhand, it's up, across, and through with your right arm.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2013
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  13. bad_call

    bad_call Legend

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    granted it was 15 yrs ago at 4.5 but would have thought 4.0 after a number of months back. how long you been back at the game?
     
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  14. johndagolfer

    johndagolfer Semi-Pro

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    well I am nearly 80 lbs heavier and have had bad arthritis in both ankles.
     
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  15. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

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  16. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    With this revelation I think you should keep your existing stroke and hone it to be much better in that direction. Think Roso's style against Nadal.

    I actually play with one guy who hits exceptionally good FH and BH. If you need to take 3 steps to reach his shots, you're too late. The thing is his net clearance is around 1 foot or lower above the net. It looks very attractive but I can't bring myself to like and develop that kind of shot and vice versa he won't use my light racket or hit 2-3 ft net clearance topspin like I do.
     
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  17. bad_call

    bad_call Legend

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    oh my that much extra weight is hard on the body/joints/etc. i still struggle a bit with my weight but only about 25 lbs or so extra now. it took a while (ice, aspirin, etc) for my legs/back to get used to playing hard courts but then being 60 doesn't help either.

    good luck and your joints will thank you if you drop some lbs.
     
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  18. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    Myself I'm about 40lbs heavier and that's my game plan usually: to hone the hard FH, BH, serves and returns.
     
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  19. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    I play singles with this man who's 25 years my senior. Unless I really want to move and beat him, he usually gives me a very hard time and beat me when he's on. He just doesn't "construct" point. Any ball that falls into his FH strike zone, he just rips it to one of the corners. Our points last around 2-3 shots the most. To beat him I have to play really tight from the first shot.
     
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  20. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Figure out what makes him miss or take pace off his forehand (loopy topspin, slice, extra pace, deep, short, pushing, etc.) and use that against him. It's called neutralizing his weapon.
     
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  21. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    Yeah or even down the middle lol That's also one way not to give your opponent any kind of rhythm. Lately I've been starting to do the same on the BH as well.
     
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  22. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    For me, older, heavier, really slow, and lost explosion, VARIETY is key, and more important than anything else.
    High with lots of spin, short with underspin, short wide angles, deep hard shots more or less over the lower/longer court, lots of net play, keeping the opponent guessing and thinking.
    We cannot hope to trade baseline groundies with anyone younger and fitter than us.
    And quite possibly, ADDING more spin might just put us in the sweetspot of a superior player.....because we cannot AD anything that troubles him.
     
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  23. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Men are much stronger then women even at the 3.5 level. The guy had to be 3.5 at best to lose to a 4.0 woman..
     
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  24. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Basically, the question becomes, can you hit harder than you currently hit, keep it IN, hit your spots, and keep doing it over the course of a match?
    I suspect not, or you'd be doing it already.
    And I also suspect, it's possible that if you hit with more spin, with higher net clearance, that now you will be forced to retrieve more balls, rely on better conditioning and speed, and fall into the same trap you are in now.....losing to stronger, better players.
    We're supposed to get smarter as we age. I know I don't, not in tennis anyways.
    But hopefully, YOU are getting smarter. And smarter might not be trying to hit and act like a younger person! Because if you hit like a younger person, you will also need the younger legs, the fitness, and the determination to run after MORE balls using the more spin, less ball speed approach.
    Oh, big brag here, but stay with me.
    Today, got to hit for 10 minutes with another Open level player, a lefty around 22 years of age. I'm 64. I'm a 4.0 singles player, at best.
    He noted, I had great variety, topspin, some loopers, a lot of heavy slices, some flat fast ones off the 1hbh.
    Rallying was fun, and beneficial to both of us.
    If we played, he'd beat me bagels every time.
     
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