Does Modern Tennis Exist?
Obviously modern tennis exists, at least in so far as you believe this is the modern age and that in it some of the best tennis imaginable is being played by great, great champions.
But the reality is that there is no hard distinction between modern and classical tennis. Elements that are commonly labeled "modern" have always been a part of the game going back to the 19th century. This includes extreme grips, over the shoulder wraps, reverse and windshield wiper finishes, swinging volleys, as well as the whole spectrum of hitting stances.
And many of the key elements of classical tennis are still critical in the modern game. Eastern grips among top 10 players to start. Then the immediate initiation of preparation through the unit turn, the full coiling of the torso through the left arm stretch, and the upward, outward and right to left components on the forward swing--all mixed in different degrees to create swing arcs that have different levels of extension, height of finish, hand and arm rotation, velocity and spin. And that's just on the forehand.
The same false distinction is often made in teaching--classical versus so-called modern teaching. The claim is that the majority of coaches teach "traditionally" and that this doesn't result in the benefits of a "modern" approach--and further that the lack of American players at the top of the game is expalined by this single factor. This so called failed traditional approach includes the huge majority of American coaches including, paradoxically, the coaches who have produced our greatest champions. None of that is true.
But the deepest irony here is that the so-called modern approach is not based on accurate descriptions of the strokes of the very players it purports to take as models to teach everyone in the world at all levels to "play like the pros." They are misunderstandings of the fundamentals running from the classical thru the modern age, as well as the myriad variations, and in the shifts in emphasis and prevelance of important elements over time, something that has been largely the by product of the changes in rackets and especially string.
When these criticisms are detailed the response is often that that the lack of correspondence between actual pro modern technique and "modern" teaching is "irrelevant" because teaching technique is all about producing the right result.
And that point at least is true. In my own work I have since the 1980's used what I call the concept of over compensation at times to exaggerate some physical component of the stroke in order to move the overall motion in the direction I felt correct.
There is no argument about that. But you can't have it both ways at the same time: lay out supposed descriptions of what pros do and then say that those descriptions aren't in fact what they do, those descriptions are just teaching devices. If that were true how then would you even know those devices were working? You have now rejected your own reference points for what is "pro" technique.
Let's face it, if tennis technique wasn't so dynamic and difficult to understand, there wouldn't be so much impassioned debate. And that debate will always go on and has the potential at least to be healthy.
There are incredible resources available to any sincere student of the game--extensive high speed archives of the strokes of the top players, and now the further game changing emergence of 3D data bases and the potential to measure players in 3D in real time.
My belief is that the first step is a clear understanding of how players actually hit the ball and the incredible diversity of elements and stroke variations. This is a vast and at times daunting task. It is something I have spent 15 years working towards, in conjunction with dozens of elite coaches worldwide, starting with our groundbreaking first live pro high speed filmings in 1997.
This understanding provides the reference universe for creating and evaluating the potential range of teaching techniques and their application to players at all levels, to various appropriate extents.
Last edited by JohnYandell : 12-31-2012 at 04:27 PM.