Thoughts on height over the net

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Buddy, Mar 12, 2012.

  1. Buddy

    Buddy New User

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    I'm a 4.0 USTA dubs player. When I stroke forehands or serves for example, I try to hit hard without reference to the ball's flight clearance over the net. I think it is too much focus on hitting hard and being satisfied that the ball is in (depth and direction aside).
    I think it was Vic Braden that would have people hit through actual windows above the net.
    Does anyone focus on height over the net and if so, how does one train/practice both mentally and physically without aids.
     
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  2. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Everyone uses different reference points. Some use height, some distance. And for which shot?
    Serves..first low, second high net clearance.
    Forehands..groundies high, passing shots and forcing attempts low.
    Heavy topspin hitters high, flat hitters low.
     
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  3. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I focus on generous net clearance thru a window above a section
    of net as priority 1, with 1a being strong spin to bring it down as
    quick as I can. Because I am coming thru or hitting with good power,
    I don't have to concern myself with it being short. Just focus on a
    nice line of shot thru the window and excellent Ts to bring it down
    quickly. Depth will take care of itself if I'm hitting it well.
     
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  4. Buddy

    Buddy New User

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    5263

    Any thoughts on how you can visualize a window. I think I can imagine if it is directly above the net, but I have problems thinking about one suspended in the air above the net -- does it run the length of the net, half court, quadrants, etc?
     
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  5. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Now you're overthinking.....
    Keep it 3' above the net, higher if you loop your groundies.
    When netmen are stationed, go lower.
    Sharp angles, go lower
    Now if you hit weak, imagine the line suspended 6' above the ground.
     
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  6. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Maybe due to using windows formed with pipes or hanging squares in spots, I really
    tend to visualize them easily.

    I use 5 main windows that are about 3x3ft square and hanging about 2ft above the net.
    One is right over the center strap for cross ct shot, and then one on each side of that
    one. These 2 are for when I rec a ball near center, but target out to targets on the wings.
    The last 2 windows are near the lines for hitting down the lines shots.

    You can practice by making a 3x3 target on sticks and moving it around. We made one with netting that would catch the balls.
    We used to have an indoor half court where the net was near the wall with square ads that made excellent targets. Ball would hit the hanging tarp and feed back into the ball machine.
     
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  7. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Lee's suggestion of a rope or cord above the net is good too.
    and it's better for 2 people hitting and keeping a rally.
     
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  8. Kevo

    Kevo Hall of Fame

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    For a dubs player, a ton of height over the net is not good unless it's lob height. I say aim for shoelaces unless you are in a cross court rally as the server or returner. Then you're mainly concerned with angles and looking for a way in.

    My net clearance in singles play is several feet over the net or more unless I'm looking to force something or win the point. In dubs it's probably 1 to 2 feet or less.
     
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  9. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Personally, in higher level doubles, I don't concern myself with aiming for a player's feet. Instead, I go for the best shot I can make, low over the net, and allow it's exact landing position to play itself out. To me, a low net clearing ball that would have landed at short NML is just as good, or better, than a net skimmer that lands just inside the service line. A half volley is not easier or harder than a low volley.
     
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  10. BU-Tennis

    BU-Tennis Semi-Pro

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    For me, my shots tend to go about 1 foot over the net...maybe. I play very flat, especially when I can step into the court. I do possess more rally type balls with the ball going about 2-3 feet over the net.

    I really do not think visualizing height over the net is very important. We can of course use this as a determining factor to see how much spin we're getting, and stringing a cord a few feet above the net during practice will give us instant feedback on whether or not our strokes are getting good clearance.
     
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  11. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I was thinking of this thread when playing yesterday, and I realized that I don't think about height at all! It just happens by instinct. I only hit into the net when I am out of position and scrambling, and the shot becomes weak and dies. Or when I am nearly blinded when moving forward and don't know what I am doing. For regular groundies, I try to keep it deep and that dictates a height automatically.
     
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  12. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    Yes, I've seen variations on this used in lessons before, including by my own coach. String a rope across the court. Rally shots from behind the baseline were supposed to be over the rope and when attacking from inside the baseline hit under the rope. Otherwise I've seen coaches bring portable volleyball nets onto the court and have students rally baseline to baseline over it.
     
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  13. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    According to Braden, the pros hit much higher over the net than most observers realize. To my recollection, Braden said that Connors (who hit very hard, flat, penetrating groundies), hit 4-5 feet over the net, and Borg who hit heavy, looping, topspin groundies), hit 8-10 over the net.

    Having said that, IMO, targeting height over the net is the only way to effectively hit the depth you are trying to achieve.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2012
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  14. Orion3

    Orion3 Semi-Pro

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    I saw Borg play close up, once - he did hit it quite high during rallies, but not 8-10 feet higher than the net. It was at Wimbledon so maybe the grass made him hit lower, but what I saw was probably up to 4-5 feet over the net max.
     
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  15. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    There's a youtube clip posted by aimr with Warinka and another 1hbh dude. They don't hit over 5 feet above the net. Occasionally they do loop the ball high though.
     
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  16. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think "10' " over the net is a little bit of a stretch. Yes, pros do hit that high once in a blue moon, but only on defense wanting the point to end.
    Think of the ballspeed of balls hit that high, even with heavy topspin. A baseliner can move forwards, take the volley in middle of NML, aim for a corner with a low skidder slice, and make it 4' inside the service line before a passing shot is attempted.
    Net is 3'. 10' higher makes a ball hit THIRTEEN FEET above the ground!
     
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  17. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I've seen Borg play a few times. I would have guessed 5-6 feet over the net. I also would have thought Connors was hitting 2-3 feet over the net. But, Braden claims that his measurements are based on high speed film and exacting calculations. So, argue with him.
     
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  18. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    That's a great clip. Modern racquets allow pros to hit with more spin, but also more pace. So, that would seem to cancel each other out in terms of height needed to generate depth.
     
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  19. jayoub95

    jayoub95 Semi-Pro

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    Height = Depth. You should be hitting the ball about the height of 1 racquet above the net. Should give you reasonable depth and will create a high percentage rally ball.
     
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  20. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Here's Borg and Lendl in a 921 shot rally at the 1981 Masters. Judge the height of the ball over the net for yourself. Remember that 6 feet over the net means that one the players could stand on the net cord and the ball would graze the top of their heads.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jZmFMUGTTU

    FWIW, I'd estimate most of their shots are around 3 feet over the net, or about 6 feet off the ground.

    Here's Jimbo and John from the 1984 USO semi. Again, I'm seeing a couple of feet max. net clearance on balls that they're hitting offensively. Neither guy is Mr. topspin. There are defensive shots that are higher. Overall seems lower than Borg and Lendl.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiDZQIE0uLE

    Fast forward three decades to Fed and Djokovic at the USO semi. With the pace those two were hitting with there's no way the ball is more a foot or so over the net on most shots. I am still in awe of the pace and consistency that they generated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXNc_iMkSIY
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2012
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  21. salsainglesa

    salsainglesa Semi-Pro

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    The closer your reference point is, the easier it is to manage. Mine is at stringbed. How high i hit the ball... of course I know exactly at what height is the net when I am at the baseline.

    Project the net to the baseline. Get to know the net.
    Whenever you are hitting at your rally depth, you use always the same height to stay in rally pace. the same to attack and the same to defend. 3 different heights.. depending on the situation.

    Its an association process, takes time, but its actually quite simple if you give time for this idea to settle.

    There are no easy quick fixes in tennis, sorry.
     
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  22. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

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    The height of the ball, the spin on the ball and the speed of the ball all affect the placement of the ball in the opposite court.

    After a lot of playing and practicing, most people generally find a "groove" where they feel comfortable and are able to hit with consistancy, good depth and pace. After a time we no longer have to consciously observe the various "cues" that we needed as we were learning.

    As we grow into our strokes, the whole process of creating them becomes more "unconscious"- automatically we add more spin for a sharp angle- hit flatter for a sharp drive to the opposite corner and so on.

    Until we get to that point, yes, I believe, it is good to have some sort of reference to assure yourself that your form is intact, your depth is good and your spin is under comtrol.
     
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  23. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Borg and Lendl's balls are ranging from 3-6 feet over the net. Fed and Djokovic's balls are about the same. You can't tell what the clearance is from that perspective, but, I've seen them live, and they get a lot of clearance over the net.
     
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  24. gindyo

    gindyo Semi-Pro

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    Wow who said open stance forehand was a modern shot these guys were using it in 99% of the time, 30 years ago, when I was 2 y.o. :)
     
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  25. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    I haven't seen Fed or Djokovic play a real match from court level, but I have watched both play practice sets from court level on the hard courts at Indian Wells. Neither was hitting an average rally ball between 3 to 6 feet over the net. The shots 6 feet over the net or close to that were almost always defensive shots designed to get the player back in the point. I'd say the usually rally ball has less than 3 feet of net clearance.

    Last week I was out at Indian Wells watching again (didn't see either Fed or Djok on the practice courts). However, I watched a number of professional players at court level on the outer courts and in practice sets. Low net clearance was standard. The average rally ball in a match was hit between the net cord to 3' over the net, with probably as many in the lower half as in the upper half.

    The players do hit higher heavier topspin balls, but those are definitely not the standard balls in my experience watching hard court tennis.
     
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  26. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I can't dispute your perception of net clearance. I'm just saying that Vic Braden claims to have done studies on net clearance by pros and asserts that it is much higher than it appears to be by most observers. I agree that it looks like 3 feet is a typical high clearance. But, that's a perception. On the other hand, I've spent a lot of time hitting on a backboard and I like to put a strip of blue painter's tape on the wall as a target. I place the tape as high as I can reach, which is about 7 1/2 feet (4 1/2 feet over the net). But, when I step back and start hitting, that tape seems like it's 4-5 feet high (1-2 feet over the net). All this to say that perceptions from a distance can be deceiving, even at ground level.
     
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  27. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Here's another good video of Nadal and Robredo playing some practice points. The video is shot at about court level and pretty close to the players. The players appear to be hitting pretty seriously.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0FwoWEs_SY

    Limpin is correct that the perspective can be deceiving, but one way to deal with that is to draw an imaginary line between the two players heads. That's about six feet. If the ball at any point in it's flight goes above that line then it has to be more than six feet off the ground, regardless of angle, depth, etc. If is stays below then it never attains that height.

    There are definitely some defensive shots that clear the net by 6 or more feet. There are also some topspin backhands that Robredo hits from pretty far behind the baseline that appear to over 6 feet. But a lot of the shots, especially when they really hit out on the ball, don't go above that 6 foot line between the heads of the players (i.e. 3 feet over the net).

    I saw the same thing on the other videos that I posted.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2012
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  28. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    These were all just visually confirmed, but I was sitting almost on top of the net at a few matches. The only balls I can describe the net clearance with great precision were those that ticked the tape.:)

    The takeaway from watching the pros was that lower level players who don't blast the balls should usually hit topspin with net clearance between 3 to 6' over the net. For instance, I watched Cilic warming up during practice hitting balls down the middle. The slower warmup balls were crossing between 3 to 6' over the net. As the warmup progressed, they started hitting harder and harder and the net clearance diminished.
     
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  29. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Is this the video you meant to link? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0FwoWEs_SY

    If so, there is a mix on this video. I'd say a number of these rallies show higher than average net clearance, but that makes sense as Nadal is known for hitting a lot of topspin. There must have been at least one rally shown in that video in which the average net clearance was 3 to 6'.

    The first rally in that video is more representative of the sort of net clearance I was seeing.
     
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  30. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Doh! Yes, this is the video I meant.

    Thanks.
     
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  31. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Vic Braden stressed net clearance to reduce errors. I think he used 3' and 4'-6' as reference points.

    Many other coaches use this theory too.

    Robert Lansdorp talks about hitting very hard drives 1.5' to 2' feet over the net. He puts a court roller on the net with a tennis can stuck on top as a target and has pupils hit hard drives at the target. The target is about the right height 1.5-2'.

    Occasionally, televised tennis will show average net clearance for a pro match. I have seen Nadal's and Djoko's average be around the 3' marker.

    I have also seen Oscar Wegner and other coaches advocate a 3' line above the net as a target as a good baseline rally target.

    Clearance is not as important in doubles as you are striving to get the ball low much more frequently in doubles in my view.

    I think aiming aggressive hard shots 1.5' - 2' over the net is fine and aiming slower rally balls and defensive shots 3'-5' over the net in singles are reasonable guidelines. You can also think in terms of court postioning. If you are 6' or more inside the baseline, drive it in the 1.5' - 2' window, if you are near baseline or behind baseline, increase the margin.
     
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  32. toly

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  33. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Very interesting. That accords with my observation. However, I thought that it might be even higher on clay. So if we take this as accurate, Nole's net clearance on average was under 2 feet on clay. Nadal's average was between 3 and 4 feet over the net.

    Watching the pros in person, you see that the preferred shot is hard, fast, and low with a lot of topspin, especially on the forehand side. The backhands tend to be hit flatter.

    With the computerized shot tracking it should be possible to get extremely accurate readings. IBM used to have shot-tracker(?) at the US Open which would show the complete ball path for each shot.
     
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  34. mhj202

    mhj202 Rookie

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    921 shot rally?
     
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  35. watungga

    watungga Semi-Pro

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    Coaches that use net clearance in their teaching are looking for more money than quality of lessons.

    FFS, do not think about that rule. Pace is the main ingredient to your shots if you want an effective rally strokes.
     
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  36. gindyo

    gindyo Semi-Pro

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    lol pace has to be the 5th most important ingredient in a rally shot after consistency, direction, depth and spin
     
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  37. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Agreed!

    10char
     
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  38. trenzterra

    trenzterra Semi-Pro

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    Well I was recently at an ATP Challenger tournament in my country, where Lu Yen-hsun was playing in the finals. I was actually pretty surprised that the balls they hit were pretty close to the net cord, perhaps only about 20cm net clearance? In fact, the balls I usually hit on a rally are moonballs in comparison :(

    One thing I noticed is that the ball is usually past its highest point by the time they reach the net.

    Well LYH is a top 40 player (I think?) so I don't know if it applies to the guys higher up as well? But since these guys play the likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic I would say they would play rather similarly too?
     
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  39. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Hyperbole for humorus effect. The very specific number, "921" as opposed to "about 900" is supposed to intensify the effect.

    Read a Dave Berry piece.
     
    #39
  40. blastforehand

    blastforehand Rookie

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    Didn't work for me. "A 20,000 shot rally," now that's marginally amusing.
     
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  41. mhj202

    mhj202 Rookie

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    I've read a little bit in my day and, frankly, just missed the humorous part of your post- sorry. I actually thought I was watching the wrong clip.

    It was a long rally but not "that" long-- if you had shown one of the Wilander French Open rallies from those years when he was making almost no unforced errors in matches, maybe I might have caught on.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2012
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  42. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    How about Chris Evert and Andrea Jaeger at the French. Lots of 30 shot rallies there.
     
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  43. mhj202

    mhj202 Rookie

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    Totally agree-- if we were to look at women's tennis, especially from a generation back, there would definitely be some long, long rallies to choose from. Almost like watching a competitive Girls' 12's match where it takes 3 hours to play a set or two.
     
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  44. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    This whole modern term thing can be confusing.
    "Modern" in this context comes from "modern instruction" which is modern due to
    how different it teaches than classic instruction in the books for decades.

    So when you hear modern Fh, you really need to understand that means modern instructed Fh,
    because as you note, the best players have always used them to one
    extent or another, but the instruction of them has only been by a few coaches over the
    last few decades, even though it is becoming more normal each day.
     
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  45. epiczeko

    epiczeko New User

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  46. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    There are some high loopy balls in that rally, but remember you are looking at Nadal, who is the guy most likely in the top 10 to hit high loopy forehands. I think that the court surface also plays a role. I'd expect to see many more loopy shots on clay than on a faster hard court.

    In my experience watching hardcourt tennis, I'd say the rallies shown on this video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp0cc-leZg8

    are more representative of hard court play than the one rally you show from the WTF.
     
    #46
  47. SeriousSummer

    SeriousSummer New User

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    I read an article on the math of the flight of the ball, and what I remember is that a ball hit at a height of one meter from the baseline at 67 miles per hour needs to clear the net by 1.8 meters if hit flat and 2.2 meters with topspin to land on the opposite baseline.

    Of course you want to hit somewhat inside the baseline, but that's a lot higher than I expected.
     
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  48. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Are you sure that calculation is correct? That's about 9 feet in the air if my rough estimation is right (I mean on the flat shot).

    I can easily hit a ball within 2 feet of the net top and have it land out, I know this because I unfortunately do it too often.
     
    #48
  49. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I'd have to reconsider this info based on what we have learned.
    I agree consistency is #1, but not sure it fits in as a shot quality here.
    I think it is very hard to pick any one of the qualities alone, but would
    consider them more in pairs. for ex.
    I would go with pace & direction as my main pair if I can do that consistently.
    If being more neutral to defensive, I would pick depth and direction.
    I'm thinking spin is often a 3rd element like having pace/direction/spin.
    Or getting depth/direction and spin.

    My point is picking the most important element I expect the first priority would
    be direction, combined with several others as a strong second.
    Depth is one that may not be as important as a pair, may be most important
    if you can only get one element. Maybe that is how it became popular as
    being most important.??
     
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  50. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

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    Federer hits like 2-3 times the spin of Lendl, Nadal 3-4 times. Some of these balls, maybe 1 foot over the net. But some of those winners, 2-3 feet. Most of these shots though, are 2-5 feet over the net.
     
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