What playing style is easiest on the knees?

Discussion in 'Health & Fitness' started by corners, Mar 9, 2010.

  1. corners

    corners Legend

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    I'm 37 and just starting to develop arthritis in my knees. As a kid I played serve and volley, but am now trying to develop more skill along the baseline.

    What playing style have you found to be easiest on the knees? S&V, allcourt, aggressive baseline, junkballer, etc.

    Are there any particular strokes associated with high knee stress?

    Any personal experiences/anecdotes and/or links to academic or instructional info most welcome.

    I'd like to enjoy tennis into old age if possible, and will adjust my style to that end if necessary.
     
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  2. Pavlos

    Pavlos Rookie

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    Play on softer surfaces :)
     
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  3. Pavlos

    Pavlos Rookie

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    Ah, can't edit my post to add to it.

    I'd say, the less you have to move, the less stress you put on your knees...
     
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  4. Ken Honecker

    Ken Honecker Rookie

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    S&V can make for some pretty fast points but you are running. It kind of depends on if you are bothered more by stress or actual playing time.
     
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  5. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    SV is the answer.

    Man was made to move forward, not sideways.
    Playing SV, allcourt agressive tennis will result in shorter points and keep you moving forward in a more natural movement for your joints.

    The modern game is based on baseline blasting and runing corner to corner blasting back topspinners. The modern game already has a history of knee and hip injuries. The classic old school SV AC game has a history of great champions with long careers. There are other factors including the harder surfaces but I feel this is the story.
     
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  6. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    play doubles on clay.dont poach when you are the net man and stay back at the baseline to play one up one back. you wont have to move much
     
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  7. nfor304

    nfor304 Banned

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    I would say serve and volley slightly better than playing from the baseline, but you do quite a bit of lunging and getting down low with deep knee bends.

    Easiest way to shorten points without impacting your knees too much would be to work on your serve to make it more of a weapon, so you get more free points no matter how you play and use it to set up quick points. I have a fairly chronic foot problem and haven't been able to practice much in the last 4-5 months, and pretty much the only practice i've been doing is hitting serves. I've been relying on it more and more when my foot problem flairs up and using it to keep me in matches.
     
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  8. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    I have had patella tendonitis for several years now and manage it effectively with cross training, tape, ice and ibuprofen. However, I don't rest enough and this is where things can become problematic. After 10-14 days of playing without taking a day off to rest, my mobility suffers (loss of explosive 1st step is symptom).

    As for game style, I'd have to say S&V. Reason is simple: shorter points. The more you are running around, the sooner you will feel it. It's simply a mileage issue.
     
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  9. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Whatever style you chose, avoid emulating Rafa Nadal. His knees are giving out already, at the tender age of 23. Be sure that you are using decent shoes that have adequate cushioning. My preference is Nike Ari Monarch (a x-trainer that is suitable for tennis). Orthotics may help your knees as well.

    I find that getting on the exercise bike for 15-20 minutes prior to heading out to the tennis courts help my aging (58 ) knee function considerably. It promotes the production/release of synovial fluids in the knees. The extended cardio warmup also has a side benefit of energizing me for tennis.

    .
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2010
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  10. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    I agree with SA here. I find that my knees are WAY better off due to the cross training stuff I do. In addition, prior to playing I'll do 15 minutes dynamic warm-up which includes 5 mins on the elliptical, squats with medicine ball, kicks, medicine ball rotations, push-ups, arm & leg lifts, leg raises, sit-ups, and lunges. If I don't do this, the first 30 minutes of play are sub par.
     
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  11. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    That's funny, unfortunately every kid in the world wants to be Nadal.
     
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  12. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    They'd probably be better of wanting to be Federer. At 28, except for a very minor back issue a while ago has been injury-free. Not something that most people that plays as much as he does can say.
     
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  13. mary fierce

    mary fierce Banned

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    Plenty of wear and tear on your knees in this game regardless of style. You probably should decrease the frequency of playing, or give it up entirely. Get into biking or some other non-trauma activity instead. Significant arthritis at your age is a roadsign.
     
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  14. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Short points is the main answer.
    Another would be.... YOU CONTROL THE POINT, by hitting aggressive shots that solicit weak returns.
    Worse thing would be running around retrieving the ball, like your dog does.
     
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  15. jrod

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    Exactly....which makes me think that anyone who thinks Rafa has better movement than Fed does has a "forest and trees" problem.
     
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  16. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Well, to be fair, I think Federer's scheduling has a lot to do with it. He's on top of the rankings and his results in the big tournaments speak for themselves, so he doesn't play the ridiculous schedule of someone like Djokovic.
     
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  17. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Aren't we straying into the alternate universe here, DJ?
     
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  18. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    LOL, seeing as the topic is which playing style is the easiest on your body I'd say this is on topic. How are examples of pros and the variables involved off topic?
     
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  19. EKnee08

    EKnee08 Professional

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    I had microfracuture surgery on one knee two summers ago , which is doing great and the other knee is osteoarthritic as well. My ortho has given me the go ahead to continue to play tennis and believes that I can play for a lifetime without knee replacement if i am smart and follow some guidelines

    Play only on har-tru and clay. Don't go after balls that you have a little chance to get to or if you reach them, your opponent will probably put-away. Avoid jarring, twisting motions.
    Play mostly doubles (I play singles as well but probably shouldn't).
    Before my microfracture, I played mostly agressive baseline game but have adopted to more of an all-courter and look to end points quicker.
    Stretch and ice after playing.
    Start a maintenance program, light weight training following physical therapist and orthopedists recommendations only. Be wary of following personal trainers advice as it may be contrary to what your health care professionals would suggest.
    Stretch religiously, it will provide relief.
    Do cardio on stationery bike (best for knees) and alternate with elliptical. Avoid stair masters, etc.
    If your knees are arthritic, avoid walking up and down stairs unnecessarily because that places wear and tear on the knees.
    Look at glucosamine chrondrotin supplement.

    Wear non- movement restricting knee braces when playing tennis such as marshall type knee braces from juco. Mine are covered by my health insurance plan and can purchase several a year with no out of pocket cost.
     
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  20. soyizgood

    soyizgood G.O.A.T.

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    Mindless ball-bashing possibly? One-shot kill tennis. Kill or die by your racquet within 10 strokes or less.
     
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  21. dman72

    dman72 Hall of Fame

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    Serve and volley, chip and charge, try to hit winners every shot.


    I'm not saying you'll win, but the points will be short and the wear and tear on the body minimal.
     
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  22. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    I disagree with those who advise serve-and-volley. Such a player must squat down low for the dippers, jump up to smash the lobs, and cut this way and that. Billie Jean King was a S&V player, and it killed her knees.

    Pushing and retrieving is also not good.

    Think Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Don Budge and Andre Agasse. You have to make the opponent do the running.

    I think the best style would be to have super ground strokes on both sides. You need killer flat shots so you can end points early -- especially against high balls (so you don't have to run back for them to drop). You need heavily topped loops to give you time to amble slowly back into position when you cannot kill the ball. You should be able to take the ball on the rise and play in close to minimize the running.

    So that you never have to squat down really far, you should be able to hit low ground strokes off either side using a one-handed continental grip.

    You should practice killing the short balls -- whether low or high -- so your opponent won't be able to jerk you around at the net. This means mixing well-disguised drop-shots, sharp angles, and deep approaches. (Yeah, you can't always avoid having to hit a volley, but if your approach shots are like Connors you mainly just have to knock away the sitters.)

    You should be able to hit hard, inside-out shots off either side. That way, no matter which corner your opponent hits to, as soon as you hit it you'll already be almost in position for the next shot (like a big-forehand player standing near his backhand corner).

    A big serve also helps. More free points you don't have to run for.
     
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  23. El Diablo

    El Diablo Hall of Fame

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    Law of Unintended Results probably applies here. Try to end points very quickly and you will probably wind up playing a greater NUMBER of points due to errors you make pressing too much. It's a zero-sum game aside from hitting as many big serves as possible. You need to play less tennis overall and more doubles. Don't play on consecutive days. I know a guy in his 40s who's already had a knee replacement done, and this is not something you want to deal with if you can help it.
     
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  24. corners

    corners Legend

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    I think it's stress, but also playing time - hmm, must be both.
     
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  25. corners

    corners Legend

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    This is a very compelling point. Having a background in evolutionary biology I think you're probably right. (I always thought that sprints through fairly dense forest is the best workout/footwork training)

    The old S&V guys did have long careers - excellent point. Check Johnny Mac going strong. Then again, Mac is one of those dancers - very light on his feet - they always last long. Fed plays an awful lot of baseline but it doesn't seem to hurt his shanks because he's so damn graceful.

    Question: can movement like that be taught/developed or do heavy feet come with a lifetime sentence?
     
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  26. corners

    corners Legend

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    Serve is my best weapon, so I'm lucky in this regard. Thanks.
     
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  27. corners

    corners Legend

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    Good point re: mileage. I've been doing a lot of baseline drills to develop my groundies lately. Perhaps I'd better play more matches.
     
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  28. corners

    corners Legend

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    Thanks. I'm no Rafa, that's for sure:)

    Thanks for mentioning shoes. This may be a significant contributor for me as I've been playing in some bargain Wilson's with little cushioning for the past year (super sale and they were wide width - got two). Will look into Monarchs.

    I've been taking a (short) walk recently before hitting the courts. But I'd recently begun slacking off on the dynamic warmup. Thanks to you and jrod (below) for reminding me of this.

    Regarding synovial fluid - how much extra protection do we get when we make sure to warm up thoroughly? Is the production of fluid with light exercise significant?
     
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  29. corners

    corners Legend

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    Truth written above. Will put in the back of my mind for now. Going back and forth right now - can't give it up yet. Thanks for the straight talk.
     
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  30. corners

    corners Legend

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    Thanks Lee. Ironic this, as I was a bit of a wild blaster as a kid. Points were so short it usually led to my untimely defeat. Looking to play a more patient and conservative game as I moved into middle age I receive the advice to chuck caution to the wind once again.
     
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  31. corners

    corners Legend

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    What was the state of your knee when you had the microfracture? How advanced is your arthritis?

    Play only on har-tru and clay. Don't go after balls that you have a little chance to get to or if you reach them, your opponent will probably put-away

    This is tough to do, mentally, but smart.

    Avoid jarring, twisting motions.

    How is this done in tennis? Seriously.

    Play mostly doubles (I play singles as well but probably shouldn't).

    This is tough. I don't really care for doubles.
    Before my microfracture, I played mostly agressive baseline game but have adopted to more of an all-courter and look to end points quicker.

    Has it helped?

    Stretch and ice after playing.
    Start a maintenance program, light weight training following physical therapist and orthopedists recommendations only. Be wary of following personal trainers advice as it may be contrary to what your health care professionals would suggest.


    So, generally, be really conservative with rehab/prehab?

    Stretch religiously, it will provide relief.

    Thanks. Time to get out my yoga mat again.

    Do cardio on stationery bike (best for knees) and alternate with elliptical. Avoid stair masters, etc.

    Are these considered the least stressful for knees? How about swimming?

    If your knees are arthritic, avoid walking up and down stairs unnecessarily because that places wear and tear on the knees.

    In an effort to strengthen my legs in the manner most useful to stabilizing the knee while playing, I actually seek out stairs. My feeling is that all the lunging done in tennis is best prepared for by more controlled lunging elsewhere. Do you think my logic is inverted?

    Wear non- movement restricting knee braces when playing tennis such as marshall type knee braces from juco. Mine are covered by my health insurance plan and can purchase several a year with no out of pocket cost.

    I did a search for these but couldn't find them. Could you point me in the direction?
     
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  32. corners

    corners Legend

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    Frank, many thanks for the very specific and considered strategic suggestions. I'm going to give these a good think. In some ways this sounds ideally suited to my temperment on the court - thoughtfully aggressive.
     
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  33. corners

    corners Legend

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    Very sober response. Thanks. I think in some ways you are exactly correct, but Frank's suggestions for allcourt aggression might bend the rules of zero-sum just a bit; we'll see.

    I was really getting serious about drilling and improving my game. Spending more time on court doing baseline drills, etc. I may have to simply reign in my ambition, drill less, content myself with my current level and play more for fun. Sigh. Rekindled youth, once again extinguished.:(
     
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  34. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    Frank does make some excellent points, however, if you actually execute his suggested strategy you'll end up in a position where you finish points quickly, many at the net. Some might call it an aggressive all-court game, some might call it a conservative S&V game. Semantics. Just finish the point intelligently and quickly.

    By the way, if you could move like Federer you wouldn't be asking this question.
     
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  35. corners

    corners Legend

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    Well, I realized Frank was pretty much describing Fed's style as well. I can't move like Fed (thanks for that jrod!), and I sure as hell can't play like him. Cruel, cruel world.

    I do have an idea though, one that I've been thinking about for a while:

    Where I live the traffic noise can be quite irksome at night so sometimes I wear earplugs to bed. In the morning I've forgotten to take them out. What I've noticed is that with ear plugs in you can hear your footfalls quite clearly; in fact, it's the loudest thing you can hear. This really promotes a soft footfall and a graceful tread. I'm going to try this on the court during practice and see if it provides the type of biofeedback necessary to rid myself of some overly harsh footwork (read: ungraceful) patterns and reinforce the light, gliding steps that might save my knees.

    I should take up ballet too I guess.
     
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  36. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    You can also replace the insole of your "bargain" Wilsons with a good cushioning orthotic/insole such as one made by SuperFeet or SofSole.

    Don't know exactly how much extra protection from a good warmup exercise is derived but. from what I've read, it appears to be rather significant. A low-impact or non-impact warmup, such as a stationary bike, should be particularly kind to the knees will promoting the release of added synovial fluid. Exercise such as this will also improve (reduce) the viscosity of the synovial fluid -- this should better serve to lubricate the knee joints.

    Why Should Arthritis Patients Exercise & Not Just Stay At Home?

    How does exercise help the synovial fluid?

    http://www.MyOnlineWellness.com/topic/arthexercise

    http://www.HowardLuksMD.com/tkrAlternatives
    .
     
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  37. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    no one thinks this is good on the knees?
     
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  38. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think great, smooth, quiet movement can be taught, but it naturally favors the lean and light.
    Those Strongmen at the Strongman contests do not generally tread lightly, but they can carry a really big stick.
    But DO big strong guys want to tread lightly? Most just play line positions in football or enter muscle contests. And carry a really big stick.
     
    #38
  39. kiteboard

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    WEar form fitting, warm ups, which warm the knee at all times, hot or cold weather. Hot weather, it will keep the legs/knees from sun damage. Cold, and it will help keep them warm and loose. Wear a brace as well. Use cushion shoe inserts, and two pairs of thor lo socks, to cushion knee impacts.
     
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  40. EKnee08

    EKnee08 Professional

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    Keep in mind that as you develop osteoarthritis and you lose cartilage, you do not produce the fluid anymore or in more limited quantities This fluid provides cushioning and lubrication of the joints.

    See the thread on artificial synovial injections I started.
    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=316949
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2010
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  41. EKnee08

    EKnee08 Professional

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    Here is a link to the one I have used for both knees for years. After the microfracture, my ortho had me start playing tennis with the unloader brace that I wore to transition back to walking after crutches. After I became comfortable again with movement, after a few sessions, he enabled me to try my marshall knee braces. Since then I have been fine with the Marshall's. However, your orthopedist might recommend a different brace depending on your needs. Some guys who have had microfracture are required to only play with an unloader brace for example.
    http://www.juzo.com/ww/en/pub/produ...es_anklets/knee_braces/juzoflex__genu_404.cfm
     
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  42. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    follow-up

    By the way, one approach that may help you pursue this strategy is the ambidextrous style of play -- two one-handed forehands. Think about it:

    You can kill high balls off both sides.
    You can blast inside-out shots off both sides.
    You can hit overhead smashes off both sides.
    Using a second forehand instead of a backhand, you don't have to squat down as far to hit topspin off of low balls.
    You don't need quite as much trunk rotation as with a two-handed backhand (the knees are what rotate your trunk).

    Court coverage is a natural weakness if you have bad knees, but most people can cover more court with a forehand than with any kind of backhand.

    It will be easier to hit while running through the ball -- which is less hard on your knees than running full-speed and then stopping to hit.

    Because you can hit with any stance -- open, square or closed -- you can get by taking fewer steps.

    If the ambidextrous style tempts opponents to hit the ball straight at you, well, that's exactly what you _want_ them to do if running a lot hurts!

    I would add that you would do best with an extreme-eastern grip for most shots; semi-western at the most extreme. This is so that you can combine hard-hitting with decent reach on balls which are low or wide. But when you're just rallying, that semi-continental slice will let a person with weak or lazy legs easily scoop up those low ones.

    I don't have bad knees (except for six months with a meniscus tear a couple of years ago, which seems to have healed up nicely). But this is the approach I've been pursuing -- because I've always been slow and easily tired, and on top of that now I'm old!
     
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  43. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I'd generally agree with your inseted post, but that idea of using both hands.......
    There's a gang, the ORANGE shirt gang, at the local SanPablo courts who are trying your idea of changing hands.
    Two of them are reputed to be solid 4.5 players. Problem is, when pressed even in doubles, they adopt a fully single handed playing mode, their stronger hand.
    Just can't switch accurately fast enough, not just the grip, but also the location of the hand on the handle.
    I have a better right handed forehand than my left, but I don't choose to play right handed on serious points. I can get by quite well with a SLICE backhand, a lob, a short angle, and hard flat shot right at my opponent, all with a backhand.
    And hitting harder doesn't always shorten the points. It can if I miss my hard shots, but everyone I play can handle pace. I like to alter my spin with altering my pace, to shorten the points.
    I don't see the need to hit with BOTH hands, none at all.
    At least not during the same point.
     
    #43
  44. jazzyfunkybluesy

    jazzyfunkybluesy Banned

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    I would advise you to play on clay. If you must play on hardcourt wear high quality shoes, keep the points short, don't play a defensive (Murray:twisted:) style game.

    Also do some lunges so you have some muscle mass in your legs to support your knees better
     
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  45. EKnee08

    EKnee08 Professional

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    regular lunges are not advisable if you have osteoarthritis of the knee. It is great if you have jumper's knee, though (patella tendonitis). I would double check with a physical therapist and sports orthopedist on this. Do not rely on a trainer as they do not often have the background to advise properly.
     
    #45
  46. LameTennisPlayer

    LameTennisPlayer Professional

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    wheelchair tennis......soft on knees, hard on arms
     
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  47. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Consider looking into Kinesio Tape (available from TW) or KT Tape for your knees. Just got some of the latter tape. Not yet tried it for my knees but I've used it for my shoulder (rotator cuff) and shin splints with decent results.
     
    #47
  48. jrod

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    I wish someone would offer up a coherent explanation of how this stuff works. I have had mild patella tendonitis in my knees for years now and often tape them in the manner of Nadal. This technique makes sense to me in the sense that the tape is providing relief to the point where the tendon attaches to the bone in the knee. With the KT, I don't understand how the same thing can be accomplished without with a partial strapping????
     
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  49. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    Well, I think "the shorter the points the better" makes a lot of sense. I'm 45 and have been working a lot with my teaching coach in order to get ready to do the local tournaments here. He convinced me the easiest way to win at the intermediate level is to have a good, hard first serve and a really consistent second serve that has either good sidespin or topslice. Then it is crucial to be a great returner of serve. Those two elements will most likely carry you much farther than trying to outlast baseliners. So, don't lose you serve, and use a good return of serve to keep people from getting you into long rallies.

    Most tennis players as they age force themselves to become much more efficient. Its a lot of fun to hit long rallies, but you eventually pay the price later on. With age comes wisdom, and wisdom says you don't have to win every point, just the important ones.

    Why not go see a few senior's tourneys or exhibitions? I wonder how Borg and Connors have adapted to middle age. Even players like Agassi and Sampras can give great insight.

    Oh, and seemingly stupid little pieces of advice like "never hit a groundstroke down the middle" start to make a lot of sense.
     
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  50. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    :) I always hit my groundstrokes up the middle when my opponent has fallen down, lost his racket, and is not looking my way...:)
     
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