Steffi Graf's Forehand

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Roy125, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. Roy125

    Roy125 Professional

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    I've always been curious as to how Graf was able to hit such an unorthodox forehand. I'm surprised that there hasn't been much discussion on it much like fed's forehand. I do consider her forehands as the GOAT forehand that there was in the WTA.

    How is it that she was able to hit that forehand is what I'm wondering. I know that she used an eastern forehand grip for it and she hit it late. I also know that her follow-through isn't very standard. It's not very textbook looking. How does one recreate the Steffi Graf forehand?
     
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  2. GetBetterer

    GetBetterer Hall of Fame

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    I was always fascinated by that too.

    She hit this sort of semi-reverse forehand semi-regular forehand shot. That's the only way I can see it. :/
     
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  3. tricky

    tricky Hall of Fame

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    So, first, you start with a basic WTA-style swing.

    1) Move your weight onto the toes of your back foot.
    2) As you prepare your unit turn, point your racquet tip to the sky. Use a neutral stance.
    3) As you take the racquet back, keep your non-hitting arm low (about waist high) and point at the ball with your left fingers.
    4) Stride through and swing.
    5) Finish over your shoulder.

    Do this until you feel reasonably comfortable with it.

    There's a few ways to convert that into a Graf-style FH.

    A) Put your right foot on a book and execute the full FH. This forces you to stride forward during your unit turn and it'll give you a very compact swing.

    B) Or, you can visualize that there's two parallel, vertical slits on the ball, and that you have to strike the ball in between those two slits.

    C) Or, as you prepare your unit turn, shift your weight toward the smallest toe of your right foot, and push off that end of your right foot.

    You know it's working, if the contact point is essentially next to your right hip. Depending on the shot, your finishes will be over the shoulder, or it'll be a reverse finish.
     
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  4. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    I'd have to go back and watch some videos of her. How often did she really hit late? When she finished with a reverse (or semi-reverse?) follow-thru, she may have caught the ball a bit late. However, in a search of images showing her contact on the FH side, most of them do not look really late. Here is one where she might be a tad late:

    Steffi action photo
    (Sorry! You'll have to type in e b a y in place of the **** in the URL)

    Notice how she intently focuses on the contact rather than the ball at this point.
    .
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2010
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  5. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Most other photos show an open stance FH where she is not late (IMHO). The normal contact point for an Eastern FH is typically a bit later than that for a Western or SW forehand. With the Eastern grip, the grip is typically even with the front foot. For an open stance, the forward (left) foot is not all than far ahead of her right foot. We can she that she has rotated quite a bit into the shot at contact. For these two reasons, I'd say that she is not late (these photos show a normal contact for an open-stance FH using an E grip)

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Roy125

    Roy125 Professional

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    Hmm, I don't know why all of these articles and videos that are on her forehand have said that she always hit the ball late.

    This article says that she hits her forehand late, but does this look late to you?

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. Love50

    Love50 Rookie

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    My recollection is that she started her swing motion late (by the standards of her era). And it was a continuous motion, meaning that she didn't bring the racquet up, wait, and then swing. So it looks late to some people but it was just her way of timing the stroke.
     
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  8. tricky

    tricky Hall of Fame

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    To me, it always look late, but that may have been her natural contact point, which was as far "in" as a 2-handed FH.
     
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  9. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    The key to Graf was that she was clearly the best female mover in the women's game, at least until the Williams sisters. Her forehand evolved in the crossover era between the "classic" and "modern" forehands. Her father was as crazy and obsessed of her becoming a tennis great as was Andre Agassi's Dad.
    I am sure that today, with better coaching, her forehand would look more like Fed's. But her on court speed would still be her greatest weapon.
     
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  10. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Some great insights from the last 3 posters above.

    It does appear ironic that the article states the Steffi was constantly late on her FHs and yet they include a picture that shows a contact point that does not look late at all (as does most of the pix that I posted above).

    The article does not go into enough detail about her "lateness". It could be that some aspects of her preparation or her forward swing might have been considered late. However, her contact point does not appear to suffer (by being late) on many/most of her shots. When she employed a reverse finish, she could have very well had a late contact point -- but that was not most of her shots.

    "Steffi Graf had one of the greatest forehands in the women’s game yet she was constantly late on the shot... "


    The article's use of the word contantly (above) might also be a bit misleading. Some people use this word to mean "sometimes"(but not infrequently). Others use this word to mean "often". Yet others will use this word to mean "most of the time". Hard to say what the intent was here.
     
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  11. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Steffi did not contact the ball late.
    She could hit her forehand because she never needed to concentrate on hitting a topspin BACKHAND, so her focus was based around her big forehand.
    In practice sessions and hit and giggles (doubles), she hit the meanest one handed TOPSPIN backhand of anyone on the women's tour, including Sabatini. But her forehand wasn't used as the weapon she used in singles tournament play.
    Her whole singles play strategy was to set up her forehand to force a weak return, then blast if for a winner. Kinda like Haas?
     
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  12. Fugazi

    Fugazi Professional

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    I think she hits it "late" because of her grip (eastern, or maybe even a little on the continental side?). Players with western grips have to hit more in front. That's just biomechanics. Just hold a racquet and try it. Usually players with eastern or continental grips lift their elbow and it a bit later. Kafelnikov lifted his elbow, and so did Sampras.
     
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  13. Mr_Shiver

    Mr_Shiver Semi-Pro

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    Like others have said the whole late thing applies to her reverse finish.
     
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  14. Dedans Penthouse

    Dedans Penthouse Hall of Fame

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    ^ ^ ^ ^

    one thing I noticed in all those photos: nice legs on that frauline filly
     
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  15. Roy125

    Roy125 Professional

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    I was always confused by why Graf didn't use her great topspin backhand more during her singles play. Even during the later years of her career.
     
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  16. floydcouncil

    floydcouncil Semi-Pro

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    One word.... confidence (or the lack thereof). She was much more confident of her slice day in, day out.
     
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  17. ManuGinobili

    ManuGinobili Hall of Fame

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    She looks hotter now than back then, that's all I have to contribute to this thread.
     
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  18. BevelDevil

    BevelDevil Hall of Fame

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    Her slice was awesome, for a slice. Too bad she didn't have a more extreme grip on her TS bh, I think she would have been more more confident in it in that case.
     
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  19. aimr75

    aimr75 Hall of Fame

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    hmm wunderbar!
     
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  20. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I think it looked slightly late because of her grip combined with the open stance.
     
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  21. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    But she is getting a great body rotation into the ball so I deem it "not late"
     
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  22. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Oh, I agree,
    but must admit that thru the years, I tended to think it look slightly late, so I was relating to others who saw it that way as well.

    But in hindsight, I agree with you, and after studying it in slo mo,
    Not late.
     
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  23. dannykl

    dannykl Rookie

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    I think her contact point is not late but the timing she starts swinging is very late.
    She always waits till the last second to begin swinging her racket. She whips the racket so fast that she can quickly catch up at the contact point. The late but fast swing enables her to generate much more racquet head speed than other players. The late whipping also disguise the direction of her ball till the last second. She has more time to decide where to hit the ball.

    One key of her forehand is she hits across the outside of the ball and then hits through the upper side of the ball in her swing path. The motion thus combines tremedous spin with penetrating speed and deep of the shot. It's tough to learn this skill but once player masters it, one can hit a forehand with huge power and speed with high control and consistency.

    I think Graf's forehand is simply the best and worth talented players learning.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2011
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  24. nabrug

    nabrug Rookie

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    I am speechless. It is exactly how you describe it. But have you figured out how she does it? And how it connects to Nadal's and Federer's FH? Because it has the exact same basis.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2011
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  25. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    As somebody who uses an eastern FH grip, the one thing that strikes me in those photos is how high her contact point is. My contact point is probably a full 12 inches lower.

    With my swing plane, if I used Graf's contact point, I'd either shank the ball or pop it up severely.
     
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  26. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    To me, Graf had a classic double bend Eastern forehand drive. She didn't hit the ball late. But, she did begin her backswing at the last minute. That was just a part of her rhythm and tempo. She also finished a lot of forehands behind her head to create extra topspin.
     
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  27. bhupaes

    bhupaes Professional

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    Here's what I see. They all contact the ball at their sides (but in front of the body). I am guessing that they all have their mental focus on the wrist - which is where all the feel resides, and which is responsible for a controlled release - but the power comes from really heavy use of the biceps and upper arm rotation. The motion of the wrist is trained, no doubt about that.

    But how does Steffi do it? I don't know - maybe it has something to do with the fact that she is an elite athlete, with vastly more fast twitch muscle fibers and much faster reflexes than the garden variety tennis pro...
     
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  28. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    I think sampras FH was a little bit similar to grafs.

    I wouldn't copy grafs FH though but use a more standard FH. Of course technique is overrated and hitting hard has not really much to do with it but it can make it more difficult.
     
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  29. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    The most devastating shot of the women´s history
     
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  30. bhupaes

    bhupaes Professional

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    I was experimenting this morning with different contact points, and I think I see what nabrug is alluding to as the commonality between some of the great forehands. The somewhat later contact point at the side seems to be the optimal position for imparting maximum power and spin, with control. The main reason I think is because the wrist can be allowed to release more and the racquet face will still be aligned correctly with respect to the ball. The further the contact point is in the front, the more the wrist will need to stay extended (perpendicular to the forearm) for the racquet face to be aligned correctly. Further, the pulling up of the racquet using the biceps and ulnar to radial deviation seems to be more effective and controlled with later contact at the side.

    Probably nabrug will tell me that I am going loony and should take a break from tennis :) but seriously, this seems to work really well. Alas, this will still not get me a pro quality forehand unless I can replace some of my muscles and tendons with bionic components... :(
     
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  31. anchorage

    anchorage Rookie

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    Steffi's racket handle is in line with her forearm which, in my opinion, is one of the keys to a solid forehand drive.
     
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  32. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    I think the big difference in Stef's forehand was she hit it off the back (right) foot. She didn't transfer to the front-foot and then strike the ball. Rather, she started swing on back foot and front foot was frequently off the ground or higher than back foot at contact. This gives the appearance that she was late but her contact point is actually good in comparison to her hips and shoulders.

    I think the key if you want to hit like Graf is to take racket head back above wrist. Plant back foot into the ground and push off back foot to contact rather than stepping on to front foot.

    This is used by lots of pros today and in Graf's era, but she did it the vast majority of the time.
     
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  33. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    IMO this is incorrect on both counts.
    I don't think the pics show her that way, and
    I would consider it a flaw to have the racket in line with the forearm.
    Interesting how different views can be.
     
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  34. Black Knight

    Black Knight New User

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    Hey, I am surprised you even notice her forehand! I never made it past her legs!!
     
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  35. dannykl

    dannykl Rookie

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    Steffi's forehand is a complicated shot. To be able to hit such a powerful but accurate shot, I find at least the following points as essential.

    First, always keep hopping on and down between points. This helps her striking in last second at the right timing. Because she tends to begin whipping late, the margin of error for timing is very narrow. Keeping small bouncing helps her find the tempos for late striking.

    Then she whips the racquet very fast to generate huge racquet head speed.
    She normaly targets the outside of the ball first and then hit forwards and upwards. Combing hitting across and hitting through makes the forehand with huge topspin and penetrating speed.

    As other people mentioned, she rotates her hip and upper body during the process, she also leaps into the air by her backfoot. She transfers her body weight from back to front during this process. Her shoulder turns and her arm pronates as well. All these are done in a balanced way in a second.

    It is difficult to master but worth learning. Once players master this skill, his/her forehand will stand out.
     
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  36. nabrug

    nabrug Rookie

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    But where can you learn it?

    I consider tennis as an open skill sport and that there is not one model technique. I believe that every player has an unique technique in every stroke. (There is a very complex interplay of movements that creates that speed in that fraction of a second, movements that include the upper arm, the elbow, the forearm, the shoulder and the wrist. These body segments are all moving at the same time, and also changing shapes and positional relationships with each other.) And that one player even uses multiple techniques in different game situations for let's say a FH.
    On the outside we see the obvious characteristics of a stroke and that is the consequence of how the player makes the very complex interplay of movements happen on the inside of his body and mainly the arm.
    This is what I call the inner system. Years ago I started to make models of the inner systems of the various strokes. Models contain descriptions of lever principles, push and pull principles etc.. And the specific combinations of these principles. Ofcourse one goal was to do it myself but more important the model must make it possible to learn elite technique in let's say a week's time.
    I recently discovered a very important and I think the last principle which make the models complete. This last principle is only shared by the elite within the elite. The top 4 ATP and top women like Seles and Steffi Graf.
    For obvious reasons I don't explain the models to you but I can say that all you describe is a consequence of her unique arm and racket action. We describe her as being late because we compare it with other more common techniques. Well Steffi considers herself not being late. It is her technique. So I think her margin of error is the same as other persons. Imo the hopping is not a significant factor. It is imo just a personal preference.
     
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  37. halalula1234

    halalula1234 Professional

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    Steffi's forehand is so versatile, consitent, well placed and dangerous. i would kill to have a forehand like hers
     
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  38. Mahboob Khan

    Mahboob Khan Hall of Fame

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    Lets not forget that Steffi Graf was very athletic. She has beautiful legs which were put to the test whenever she played. It was because of her legwork that she could hit forehands from her BH side alley.

    I think slightly late contact with the ball forced her to hit through the ball and generate lots of racket-head speed. In her case a bag thing (late contact) was her virtue.
     
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  39. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    SA, I just realized that the word "great" in your original post is a double entendre. It can be interpreted to describe both her body and her rotation.

    I had to point it out. I swear I rarely catch double entendres these days.

    :D
     
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  40. toly

    toly Hall of Fame

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    How she was able to hit through the ball and generate lots of racket head speed? Hitting through the ball is slow straight linear motion. Thus, it cannot produce high racquet speed!?
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
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  41. Mahboob Khan

    Mahboob Khan Hall of Fame

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    Several factors contribute toward racket head speed:

    -- Using one's legs: pushing against the ground which she did.
    -- Upper body turn (coiling and then uncoiling) even King Cobra does take a backswing before striking.
    -- Arm speed.
    -- Racket head speed.
     
    #41
  42. toly

    toly Hall of Fame

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    You described rotational motions. I’m asking only about straight linear motion: - hitting through the ball.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2011
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  43. Mahboob Khan

    Mahboob Khan Hall of Fame

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    "How she was able to hit through the ball and generate lots of racket head speed? Hitting through the ball is slow straight linear motion. Thus, it cannot produce high racquet speed!?"

    When the contact is late, the racket has more path, more distance, to hit through on a linear path, and then follow-through.

    How she was able to generate lots of racket head speed? This was your question, and you got my answer for it.
     
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  44. Jason kelly

    Jason kelly New User

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    I watched graf almost religiously, from live to recording and ultimately imitating. I have had so many people say my fh and game is identical to grafs.

    That said, what i can say is that late prep and contact are the key to the effectiveness of this fh technique. I can also say the grips alternate from part/mostly semi western part easton to semi western on more topspin type forehands. NEVER is it full eastern fh or continental.

    Thats what a lot of people get wrong. Grafs fh is not eastern, it is mostly semi western edged slightly to a eastern.
     
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  45. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Rotational movement and hitting thru the ball are not contradictory. Body core rotates and racket head is moving up, across and through. So, the concept of hitting thru the ball or "getting some of the ball" is valid. Of course, it is not a straight linear movement of the racket head from behind the ball directly at the intended target. It is a glancing blow but some element of hitting thru the ball is there. Contrast this with FH that pull off the ball early or have excessive brushing resulting in weak shots. These weak shots don't get into the ball enough - in other words, they don't have enough of the "thru" element in the stroke path.
     
    #45
  46. toly

    toly Hall of Fame

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    My question is about straight linear motion in direction of the perpendicular to racquet string bed. One way of producing practically this motion I described in post #500 http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=441444&highlight=toly+mtm&page=25, but it’s not efficient. Maybe you know something better?
     
    #46
  47. julian

    julian Hall of Fame

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    Please my posts in a forehand thread

    Please my posts in a forehand thread
     
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