Balance and Position
Most coaches emphasize body positioning and balance to execute a stroke.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, it is this emphasis that traps the attention of the individual and detracts from the stroke.
Furthermore, tennis is a game of emergencies, so you are forced to hit on the move, on the run, your opponent sometimes jams you, etc.
An accomplished player would focus on his hand executing the stroke, and let his instinct help to accommodate the rest.
Push vs. Hitting
In modern tennis groundstrokes, the idea of pushing is more adequate as you approach the ball than that of hitting through it.
In a hit you have fully accelerated by the time you make contact.
In a push, you feel as if you touch the object first and then exert your power.
To clarify this concept of pushing, restrain yourself by deliberately having your racquet approach the ball slowly, and then, as you are about to touch it, accelerate fully and forcefully to the finish, UP AND ACROSS.
Rather than a forward impact, work on brushing the ball as if ripping the cover off of it.
This gives you a longer contact and much more spin and control.
On the forehand and two handed backhands, most top pros pull across and backwards where the racquet head, at the finish, has described a full windshield-wiper and is pointing back, with the butt of the racquet as if taking a picture of where the ball is now going, and/or beyond that point.
Exaggeration? That may be the answer to improvement in your own game.
Have you noticed this finish in the best pros?
A Painful Time
In the early 1990s the Tennis Industry Association, together with the USTA, commissioned a survey on tennis participation.
One of the findings of this survey was that an easier way to start the game needed to be put in place.
That finding was not taken care of properly in the USA.
Making tennis easier includes open stance, hitting up and across the ball, stalking rather than preparing early, and other obvious developments which make tennis a much more natural (and much easier) sport to play.
I had done that earlier for Spain and Brazil, and in 1989 with the publication of my first book, Tennis in Two Hours.
Russians and Eastern Europeans, including coaches in Belgrade, in possession of that book, followed suit immediately.
I followed that with a 1992 book sequel, of similar content, and with work on ESPN International that affected tennis worldwide.
The quantity of quality players developed thereafter overseas from that methodology has been, as I predicted in the 1989 and 1992 books, phenomenal.
If people wonder which is the “why” the USA has fallen behind in many aspects in tennis, there is your main answer.
For those interested, here is the 1992 book for free:
One of the most accomplished abilities is to focus on the feel of the grip of the racquet on the hand.
On the forehand, the index finger is key, leading the action with an upward pull.
On the two-handed backhand, the index of the left hand.
On the one-handed backhand drive the base of the thumb.
These are generalities: you need to find what works best for you. Don’t press the grip tightly, where you feel equal pressure on all of your hand. Relax the grip.
A Balancing Time
Balance is a thing you actually learned at the young stages of life. The goal early in life is not to fall. Balance is a natural thing to adopt.
If you teach balance and position at the conscious level as a must, balance and position may be perfect but the ball may hit the player on the head (a humorous idea) because his attention is on enforcing the wrong thing.
High level tennis, in my opinion, is played with the hand. As a beginner you can learn the basic stroke just standing there facing the net with someone feeding you an easy ball. Gradually the body will adjust by itself.
Eventually, learning to lose your balance develops speed around the court.
There is no need to consciously teach “footwork”.
Just do drills that will develop speed and naturality.
The tennis court is small, a few steps to the right, a few steps to the left, and a few more forward and you cover the whole court.
Focus on your hand and the ball and results will speak for themselves.
Focus On Your Hands
The ball stays on the racquet a few milliseconds if you hit flat, longer if you brush across.
To optimize your focus on feel it is better to maximize your sensations on a longer time span.
I recommend to focus on the feel of the hand at the ball contact and at the finish, when the racquet is already pointing behind you, getting the sensation of acceleration between one and the other.
This way you become aware of the connection between the feel of the ball, the finish, and the resulting placement of the ball.
Racquet head speed at the top level is greatest closer to the end than at the impact, which tells the intention of the player to go towards the stroke’s end.
Tracking the ball as if going to catch with your hand, not your racquet, is another simple way to facilitate your strike.
Rather than preparing early, track the ball with the racquet on both hands as long as possible, then go back and forth with your dominant hand alone for your swing.
You don’t need to swat at the ball.
Find it easily in front, while accelerating up and across. You’ll see it speed up with great control.