Ask a Coach - Round 2

Ash_Smith

Legend
I did one of these a while back and it proved quite popular, so I have brought it back for another round - this time with reinforcements!

Myself and @tennis_balla will do our best to answer any coaching related questions you may have, be they technical, tactical, physical or psychological. Between us we have over 40 years of coaching experience, all the way from mini-tennis to full time players.

Please start any questions by tagging either @Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla if it is directed at a specific person and as last time - play nice! Rude comments and slagging off other posters will not be tolerated.

Have at it!
 

Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
During rallies, I am not consistently and clearly seeing the moment the opponent makes contact. Hence, my split step is lacking.

Somehow, my focus drifts after I hit the ball. I keep my head down a moment longer after contact, like Federer, and sort of see my ball around the time it bounces on the other side but then I totally lose focus and do not see the opponent's contact. I am not picking up the ball again until it is on the way back... I do not even remember what I am focusing on during those missing seconds. Everything is a blur...The focus drift is so bad that after a long rally I can't even remember if the opponent has a one handed or 2hbackand.

I want to clearly see the opponent's contact so that I can time the split step.

Any way to improve this?
 
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tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
@Raul_SJ

The fact that you know you are doing this is already a large step in the right direction. The simple way to solve this is to just say "Stop doing it!"
Now I know that might seem too simple but really it is.

You mentioned you try to hold the contact longer like Federer does. My concern here is, maybe you hold it for too long and by the time you look up and re-focus on the ball/court/opponent it takes your eyes too long to focus again on whats happening, losing valuable time in the process. This could be for a number of reasons such as age, failing eyesight, experience, etc.

Now I'm all for being balanced during contact but sometimes people take what Fed does a bit too seriously and apply it without understand why or if it'll even work for their game, but they believe it has to, because Federer does it, and he's the GOAT so it has to work right? Right?

If you go on Google images and type in forehand or backhand and look at professional players during their contact point on their stroke you will get a variety of "techniques" so to speak. Some like Federer will watch the ball at contact, others you will see will have their eyes more forward and not even be looking at their contact point. The latter is actually more common.
What I'm suggesting here is to maybe hold off on holding your head down so much and/or so long. Now it might be just the term you used, but your head should not be down during contact, it should be still however. In golf your head is more down, which is where I believe this term originated from because the ball is well more or less below you. In tennis the ball is in front.

Without seeing you play in a video or live its difficult to judge, however this would be my suggestion. I read a really good article a few years back by an ex-ATP professional who said that a player really cannot take their eyes off the ball at any time, meaning watching it both ways there and back, because it moves so fast and to re-focus your eyes again after doing so makes you be late for the next shot. Of course professional tennis is played a bit faster but I feel this holds true for amateurs as well.

So my suggestion is, keep your head still and balanced during your shot however try to watch the ball equally there and back. An improvement would be instead of watching it once it bounces on your opponents side, as thats way too late, and if you hit a shot close to your opponents baseline and they hit a ball on the rise then I'm not surprised everything is a blur for you. Instead focus on picking up the ball as it crosses the net at the latest, and to help train this better you could play a little game with yourself and notice the height of each ball you hit over the net. If you couldn't make it out, you started watching it too late.

Hope that helps.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
@Raul_SJ - I agree with Balla here, the great thing is that you have recognised it as an issue.

All I might add is to give yourself an incentive to watch the opponents contact - maybe call out to yourself what shot they are hitting at the point of contact or do the old "bounce-hit" but in reverse, that is call out bounce-hit when the ball is at their end rather than yours.

There are some fascinating gaze studies which look at the use of peripheral vision and focal vision in ball tracking, if I can find them on my laptop I'll post a link to it here.
 

Postpre

Rookie
Would the driving slice backhand or the Federer type slice (bit more sidespin) be more important to master in the modern game?
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
@Postpre That largely depends on a players particular game style and general tactical intention. The two are not mutually exclusive, but are variations of a theme - therefore one should learn the variations and how and when they might best be applied. You may see the in-to-out slice played tactically more down the line to take the ball away from the other player and you may see the out-to-in slice played more across court or on a higher ball to the backhand side - but again, these are variations on a theme.
 

Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
@Raul_SJ

Hope that helps.
@tennis_balla @Ash_Smith Thanks for the responses. I will try this out...

To clarify, I just try to keep my gaze a split second longer on my contact point, as I previously had the habit of pulling my head up early and hitting into the net. So I do not think I am overdoing it or dropping my head down. Depending on how hard my outgoing shot is, I typically pick up the outgoing ball as it is dropping into the bounce, or around the time of the bounce (which is probably too late).

I will try picking up the ball before it bounces on the opposite side and call out "bounce" and then "hit" at opponent's contact.

What I suspect is happening is that I get excited/nervous after I hit my shot and not able to relax and immediately refocus on the opponent. I think I often see the background fence, trees, etc. when opponent is hitting but somehow I am not honing in on the opponent's contact.
 

tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
@tennis_balla @Ash_Smith Thanks for the responses. I will try this out...

To clarify, I just try to keep my gaze a split second longer on my contact point, as I previously had the habit of pulling my head up early and hitting into the net. So I do not think I am overdoing it or dropping my head down. Depending on how hard my outgoing shot is, I typically pick up the outgoing ball as it is dropping into the bounce, or around the time of the bounce (which is probably too late).

I will try picking up the ball before it bounces on the opposite side and call out "bounce" and then "hit" at opponent's contact.

What I suspect is happening is that I get excited/nervous after I hit my shot and not able to relax and immediately refocus on the opponent. I think I often see the background fence, trees, etc. when opponent is hitting but somehow I am not honing in on the opponent's contact.
Alright, so to add to my previous post with what you just mentioned here you can also try focusing on your breathing to keep it steady when you're in a rally and see what happens or take a page out of Tim Gallwey's book Inner Game of Tennis and focus on trying to see the seams of the ball in flight to get a better concentration and focus on the ball.
 

Erlang

Rookie
What's the best way to tackle 3.0 doubles if you basically can only slice your backhands? In singles it's easier to get away with it but in doubles I have to either lob or hit the shot right at them and hope they miss the volley
 

86golf

Semi-Pro
Couple questions regarding middle school tennis. I coach a boys team that is pretty good, a few kids ranked in the state. In our doubles matches, often the boys want to play two back when serving. There are a few teams with nationally ranked kids, and almost always the case, these kids groundstrokes are much better than their serves.
Should that be our defacto strategy since they all can rip groundstrokes?

Regarding serving, and an attempt to fix this problem above, given their size is the typical serving fundamentals in play or something slightly modified given their height?

I've not seen much instruction specified to younger boys.

Sent from my Lenovo TAB S8-50F using Tapatalk
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
When do you stop remaining sideways on the serve? After impact or just before impact? At impact, where should the shoulder-to-shoulder line be pointing? Is it different for different types of serves and ad or deuce court?
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
@Ash_Smith and or @tennis_balla how do you learn to hit at a moderate pace?

I seem to be absolutistic in hitting speed hitting at 10 or 3. Everytime i try something in the middle it seems to just turn into guiding the ball. Topspin suffers and so do i. If i hit 100% i can hit just enough good shots to think i can actually hit that way!

How do i get to 70-80%? And manage to keep the ball in?

Ash when you posted feds setup picture and the 3 steps:

1. Set up like fed
2. Hit the **** out of the ball
3. Win

I took #2 at face value....
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
@Ash_Smith and or @tennis_balla how do you learn to hit at a moderate pace?

I seem to be absolutistic in hitting speed hitting at 10 or 3. Everytime i try something in the middle it seems to just turn into guiding the ball. Topspin suffers and so do i. If i hit 100% i can hit just enough good shots to think i can actually hit that way!

How do i get to 70-80%? And manage to keep the ball in?

Ash when you posted feds setup picture and the 3 steps:

1. Set up like fed
2. Hit the **** out of the ball
3. Win

I took #2 at face value....
If I may interject. Try focusing on maintain a loose, relaxed, tension free grip and arm, and at the same time, fully executing your shots. Problems arise when a player tries to take a little off and, as a result, doesn't properly and fully execute the shots.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
If I may interject. Try focusing on maintain a loose, relaxed, tension free grip and arm, and at the same time, fully executing your shots. Problems arise when a player tries to take a little off and, as a result, doesn't properly and fully execute the shots.
What does that mean? If i hold back i get too loose and my arm gets floppy, racquet spins, etc.
 

WisconsinPlayer

Professional
What does that mean? If i hold back i get too loose and my arm gets floppy, racquet spins, etc.
Could be any number of things, what hes saying is that when you hold back, something will most likely go wrong. Either you will rotate to slowly, arm the ball, raise your head, etc
 

Gyswandir

Semi-Pro
I am not against any type of instruction that improves your game, including using supposed old terms such as pronation and wrist snap on the serve.
@Gyswandir what did you get out of the video and what part helped to improve your game?
Some 3 years ago, I restarted tennis. The "modern FH" was different in its fundamentals to what I had been coached some 25 years ago. However, it wasn't radically different from what I had used/discovered in my own playing. So, I embraced it wholeheartedly. The one thing that took me a long time was the probation on the backswing (so called pat the dog). So, my question was related to what you and Ash think about the advantages/disadvantages of using one style or the other (Pronation vs supination) on the backswing?
 

WisconsinPlayer

Professional
I certainly prove that! Bit how does that not lead me back to 100%??
As in a stroke you hit at 100% power? I obviously dont know any science behind this or any exact percentages but I'd estimate that when youre confident and you arent mentally thinking about slowing your shot down to hit "safe" you will be hitting at 70%+ of your power consistently. When you start to get mental about your strokes and tell yourself to hit "softer and safer" you think more and actually make more errors
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
What's the best way to tackle 3.0 doubles if you basically can only slice your backhands? In singles it's easier to get away with it but in doubles I have to either lob or hit the shot right at them and hope they miss the volley
I'm not particularly au fait with your NTRP levels, so this response is making certain assumptions about relative skill levels. Slice backhands need not be a hindrance in dubs and in many situations can be advantageous. Having the ability to change the ball flight and shape the ball with the slice allows you quite a few good tactical options. The short angle slice cross court from the Ad side for example is a great return of serve or rally ball as it tends to split the opposition apart. Going deep with a bit more "air-time" from that side will give you time to approach. If the opposition volleyer is looking to poach then the "in-to-out" slice down the tramline can help keep them honest, or, weirdly hitting a slightly floaty cross court slice that will tempt them to poach is often very effective as the slice ball reacts differently off the strings - it tends to want to leave the strings downwards and frequently volleyers struggle to redirect this spin and often volley into the net because of it. If you can really drive the slice and keep it lower to the net in general rallies, there's no reason it can't be hugely effective in dubs.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
Couple questions regarding middle school tennis. I coach a boys team that is pretty good, a few kids ranked in the state. In our doubles matches, often the boys want to play two back when serving. There are a few teams with nationally ranked kids, and almost always the case, these kids groundstrokes are much better than their serves.
Should that be our defacto strategy since they all can rip groundstrokes?

Regarding serving, and an attempt to fix this problem above, given their size is the typical serving fundamentals in play or something slightly modified given their height?

I've not seen much instruction specified to younger boys.
First question - how old is middle school (it's not something we generally have over here)?

In respect of dubs, your hierarchy of "formations" goes as follows:
1) Both Up
2) Both Back
3) One-up, One-Back

Now, given that we are talking about junior tennis, both up carries inherent risk of getting lobbed (a lot!), so unless your kids are really mobile and good overhead it may not be your first preference. Given that I would say that both back probably plays to your teams strengths, many will say it is too defensive for good level dubs, but it does offer some advantages - mainly it allows both players to cover each other efficiently as they can generally both see who is going where. Key to remember is that these are "starting formations" - they don't have to stay in them and they can develop the point from there as the see fit, one or both could approach during the point.

Difficult to answer your serving question without knowing the age of the kids in question, but generally yes, the usual technical fundamentals apply, with a tactical focus on 1) Consistency 2) Placement 3) Spin 4) Speed (and yet speed is the one every kid wants more of!). In dubs, get your first serve in a lot to build pressure and put it in the spots that allow you to tactically take control early (target weakness, split the opposition or bring them together etc).

There has been some research recently into the effect of teaching kick serves to pre-pubescent kids, which (iirc) suggested that pre 12 years old it wasn't a great idea, but I think a kick serve taught correctly shouldn't have any issues (I seem to remember they study looking at compression force in the spine and some shoulder health issues, but when taught correctly there will be no compression force in the spine and shoulder health can be managed with a good band programme).

Hope that helps
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
When do you stop remaining sideways on the serve? After impact or just before impact? At impact, where should the shoulder-to-shoulder line be pointing? Is it different for different types of serves and ad or deuce court?
As a general guide, at the point at which the legs have reached full extension, the racquet will still be in the drop position behind the hitting shoulder and parallel to the side of the body with the tip pointing down and the hips and shoulders will still be pretty much side on. As the racquet extends up from the drop position the hips and shoulders start to open into contact and to continue to open through to the landing. Some players open a little earlier (Murray for example).

At impact the shoulder-over-shoulder position should see the racquet shoulder higher than the opposite shoulder and if viewed from behind you would see something around a 45deg angle (again, some players may be greater than this). Is this different for different types of serve - yes, players will often hold their sideways position a bit longer for kick serves and right handers from the Ad side may hold that position a little longer.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
@Ash_Smith and or @tennis_balla how do you learn to hit at a moderate pace?

I seem to be absolutistic in hitting speed hitting at 10 or 3. Everytime i try something in the middle it seems to just turn into guiding the ball. Topspin suffers and so do i. If i hit 100% i can hit just enough good shots to think i can actually hit that way!

How do i get to 70-80%? And manage to keep the ball in?

Ash when you posted feds setup picture and the 3 steps:

1. Set up like fed
2. Hit the **** out of the ball
3. Win

I took #2 at face value....
When I first started coaching this was one of the things I found most tricky - how could I moderate the pace I was hitting at to suit the player I was working with.

I would suggest thinking about this like the gearbox in your car (hope you drive a manual, or this will make less sense maybe!).

You could drive everywhere in first gear, but you'll either have to go so slowly you'll never get where you want to go or you'll be highly inefficient and knacker the engine. You could drive everywhere in fifth gear, but it'll take ages to get up to speed and to make it efficient you need to drive at 60mph everywhere and probably crash a lot. So, you need to find the appropriate gear for the situation (if you take an average you'll probably spend most time driving in third or fourth gear).

Back to tennis then, it kind of sounds like you already know what your first gear and fifth gears feel like, but I suggest the following practice.

Next time you hit, really focus on establishing what your first gear and fifth gear feel like. Your goal is to maintain your "usual" technique, but hit the ball pretty much as softly as you can whilst having it go over and in as a rally ball. Once you have that, go to the other extreme and find your fifth gear - again maintain your technique and really, really rip on the ball (you will probably spray a few, no worries!).

Now you know where your outside limits lie - you can start to dial back towards 3rd or 4th gear. Spend some time going through your gears from first to second to third and so on (like working your scales on a piano)- you'll soon start to get a feel for where things sit and what you need to moderate to achieve a certain tempo.
 
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tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
Some 3 years ago, I restarted tennis. The "modern FH" was different in its fundamentals to what I had been coached some 25 years ago. However, it wasn't radically different from what I had used/discovered in my own playing. So, I embraced it wholeheartedly. The one thing that took me a long time was the probation on the backswing (so called pat the dog). So, my question was related to what you and Ash think about the advantages/disadvantages of using one style or the other (Pronation vs supination) on the backswing?
Well the advantage of having a backswing such as Federer is it allows you to generate racket head speed in a more compact way.

Now I might be wrong here but I do not think that anyone taught Federer and other pros doing this to specifically hit their forehand in such a way. This is why so many coaches have analyzed it so much and it was kinda new to them. It wasn't because of some secret certain people kept from the masses.
It was a natural evolution of the modern game. A result of the speed and spin the players are facing now.

So is this type of technique necessary at the club level considering players do not face the type of balls professionals do? That's subjective. For me however and the way I coach I like to keep things simple and compact so yes I do prefer the "Federer" prep but in the same sentence it will not suit everyone and as a coach my approach needs to be individual. Some women and girls, even at the high performance level, it will not suit them. You also have to look at the economics of it all. How much time and money will it cost me to change my forehand, and will it be worth it in the end? Will the result of months spent relearning and losing matches initially give me a more superior stroke or will it be just aesthetics?

So in the end use what works best for you. Del Potro and Federer have different forehands, like you talked about. However the difference in their Grand Slam count isn't because one pronates and the other supinates.
 

86golf

Semi-Pro
First question - how old is middle school (it's not something we generally have over here)?

In respect of dubs, your hierarchy of "formations" goes as follows:
1) Both Up
2) Both Back
3) One-up, One-Back

Now, given that we are talking about junior tennis, both up carries inherent risk of getting lobbed (a lot!), so unless your kids are really mobile and good overhead it may not be your first preference. Given that I would say that both back probably plays to your teams strengths, many will say it is too defensive for good level dubs, but it does offer some advantages - mainly it allows both players to cover each other efficiently as they can generally both see who is going where. Key to remember is that these are "starting formations" - they don't have to stay in them and they can develop the point from there as the see fit, one or both could approach during the point.

Difficult to answer your serving question without knowing the age of the kids in question, but generally yes, the usual technical fundamentals apply, with a tactical focus on 1) Consistency 2) Placement 3) Spin 4) Speed (and yet speed is the one every kid wants more of!). In dubs, get your first serve in a lot to build pressure and put it in the spots that allow you to tactically take control early (target weakness, split the opposition or bring them together etc).

There has been some research recently into the effect of teaching kick serves to pre-pubescent kids, which (iirc) suggested that pre 12 years old it wasn't a great idea, but I think a kick serve taught correctly shouldn't have any issues (I seem to remember they study looking at compression force in the spine and some shoulder health issues, but when taught correctly there will be no compression force in the spine and shoulder health can be managed with a good band programme).

Hope that helps
Thanks for the reply. These are 12 and 13 yo boys And a couple that will turn 14 this year.

Do you think I formation would help them limit the court coverage? Oddly, many kids don't lob much, they would rather try to hit winners.

Sent from my Lenovo TAB S8-50F using Tapatalk
 
D

Deleted member 742196

Guest
Okay, here's one nasty, nasty habit I need to really nip.

I end up imparting topspin on my forehand by opening up the racket, obviously this is extremely unstable and glitchy. I'm appending slow motion footage - I'm the player in the left side of the frame - so please, HELP. Yeah, I know, close the racket face, but where along my swing path have I got to make the change? Lately I've been thinking I need to take the ball more to my outside and a little less in front - is this a potential direction to explore?

SLOW MOTION CAPTURE:

STILLS:
At contact - no issues:


Follow through - topspin imparted through opening racket face:


*irrespective of grip I'm doing the above. How to resolve this without a generic "close racket face". Do I need to take the ball more toward my side?
 
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Ash_Smith

Legend
@Hydrocella - Watching your video I would say your approach to the ball looks pretty good, your prep is neat and pretty compact, you get the racquet head below the ball and approach it with the top edge and make a contact in a decent position for the grip and stance you are hitting from.

Although it is hard to see properly from the side view, there is something that makes me thing you may be approaching the ball from slightly on the inside and are therefore "holding off your wrist" through impact and into the follow through (similar to how a golfer with a fade/mild slice might approach the ball from the inside, but hold the club face open with their wrists instead of releasing the club face). Hope that makes sense (i'm guessing you golf a little - you look like someone who might golf!!!)

Perhaps you could try and hit a few forehands with the intention of coming around the outside of the ball (as if you were trying to hit a draw in golf) - see if this causes you to/permits you to "release the wrist more" as you pull up and across the ball.

I have some other ideas too, but this approach may "solve" the issue before we need to look other technical changes - that is, it might sort itself out - self organisation is a wonderful thing!
 
On the FH, we're taught to meet the ball and then do the "turn the knob" at the end to produce topspin. Is this the same on the 2HBH? Specifically, I sometimes find I'm rolling over with my wrist and I don't think this is sound technique because it introduces too much variability. I'm trying to figure out how to reduce that variability without losing the ability to hit good TS.

Thanks!
 
@Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla I have a western forehand, which means my weakness is attacking mid court balls because I can't flatten it out well. I'm in my last college season, so I'm not changing anything mechanically right now, but do you have any tactics tips? I've been mixing in some forehand slice approaches, which work pretty well, but is there anything else I can do? Thanks!
 

Coolio

Professional
@Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla .What are your thoughts on teaching pinpoint or platform stance to juniors? Say under 12 kids and why? I put a girl on pinpoint just because (that's what girls do right!) just thought she was small and added leg drive would help her.

Do you just show them both ways and when? I personally just teach platform with nice balance, if they want to do pinpoint later down the line so be it.
 

tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
On the FH, we're taught to meet the ball and then do the "turn the knob" at the end to produce topspin. Is this the same on the 2HBH? Specifically, I sometimes find I'm rolling over with my wrist and I don't think this is sound technique because it introduces too much variability. I'm trying to figure out how to reduce that variability without losing the ability to hit good TS.

Thanks!
For me, topspin, power and control begins from the ground up. Meaning it starts from your legs or a super simpler way to put it is the old bend your knees.
The wrist is the last piece of the kinetic chain and actives so to speak when all other elements have fallen into place. What I mean by this is topspin is not generated in the wrist just like throwing a ball isn't either even though technically in both instances the wrist is used. I hope this makes sense.

In terms of your backhand, if you want to hit topspin make sure all the other elements of the stroke are in place. Bending your knees is a key component as it allows you to better drop your racket head to get under the ball and drive up into it.

The reason why I explained it like this is because from your post it seems like you believe the wrist is where your source for topspin comes from which isn't entirely true.
 

tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
@Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla .What are your thoughts on teaching pinpoint or platform stance to juniors? Say under 12 kids and why? I put a girl on pinpoint just because (that's what girls do right!) just thought she was small and added leg drive would help her.

Do you just show them both ways and when? I personally just teach platform with nice balance, if they want to do pinpoint later down the line so be it.
I teach platform to begin with and then possibly try pinpoint if I see a potential in it. I use a platform serve but don't consider one better than the other. As a junior I used pinpoint, switched to platform in my 20's and found it gave me better stability.
 

tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
@Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla I have a western forehand, which means my weakness is attacking mid court balls because I can't flatten it out well. I'm in my last college season, so I'm not changing anything mechanically right now, but do you have any tactics tips? I've been mixing in some forehand slice approaches, which work pretty well, but is there anything else I can do? Thanks!
I taught a guy last summer who had like a Hawaiian grip on his forehand. Really extreme and also had trouble on mid court balls but didn't want to change it.

What I suggested to him was to make sure he hits all mid court balls, especially if he'll follow them up to the net, above his waist or higher. Anything down low and he's at a severe disadvantage.

Your grip is very limiting and so will your contact point. Get to that ball sooner, try and get it just below shoulder height if you can and you'll have a much better chance to hit better shots. Anything down low play defensively/neutral.
 

Marmaduke

New User
@Ash_Smith and @tennis_balla. Firstly thanks so much to you and the others for doing this! You guys are amazing!! My question is regarding my 8 year old son's serve. He has a lovely continuous motion (think ball in a long sock fluidity) and has racket drop, conti grip and pronation down to a tee. However his leg drive seems to occur late, knees start to straighten just as racket gets to bottom of drop. Is this normal for a young player due to body dimensions/strength and something which will naturally resolve when he gets older or is it something we can work on changing the timing on now? If latter can you recommend any drills to better join up kinetic chain from bottom half of body to top? I can't help thinking he's learnt this mistiming from practising with a homemade serve master when he was v little - letting it drop down his back before flinging it forwards with his body rather than driving up to make it drop. Thanks!
 
For me, topspin, power and control begins from the ground up. Meaning it starts from your legs or a super simpler way to put it is the old bend your knees.
The wrist is the last piece of the kinetic chain and actives so to speak when all other elements have fallen into place. What I mean by this is topspin is not generated in the wrist just like throwing a ball isn't either even though technically in both instances the wrist is used. I hope this makes sense.

In terms of your backhand, if you want to hit topspin make sure all the other elements of the stroke are in place. Bending your knees is a key component as it allows you to better drop your racket head to get under the ball and drive up into it.

The reason why I explained it like this is because from your post it seems like you believe the wrist is where your source for topspin comes from which isn't entirely true.
I am working on making sure my legs are more engaged and that I turn more [not just 90 degrees but beyond]. I believe the wrist is not where TS should be coming from but I recognize that I sometimes hit that way. It doesn't seem to be a problem on my FH [different problems there!].

Thanks!
 

tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
I am working on making sure my legs are more engaged and that I turn more [not just 90 degrees but beyond]. I believe the wrist is not where TS should be coming from but I recognize that I sometimes hit that way. It doesn't seem to be a problem on my FH [different problems there!].

Thanks!
The problem, or sometimes blessing, is you can be a bit lazier on the forehand and still hit a decent shot. The backhand requires a bit more precision in terms of technique.

Focus more on your legs and see what comes out of it and let me know and we'll work from there.
 
I taught a guy last summer who had like a Hawaiian grip on his forehand. Really extreme and also had trouble on mid court balls but didn't want to change it.

What I suggested to him was to make sure he hits all mid court balls, especially if he'll follow them up to the net, above his waist or higher. Anything down low and he's at a severe disadvantage.

Your grip is very limiting and so will your contact point. Get to that ball sooner, try and get it just below shoulder height if you can and you'll have a much better chance to hit better shots. Anything down low play defensively/neutral.
I'm not Hawaiian, just Western like Sock or Kyrgios. They don't seem to have a problem putting balls away, is it just that they're fast enough to take the ball before it drops?
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
What does that mean? If i hold back i get too loose and my arm gets floppy, racquet spins, etc.
All I'm saying is that, even when you hold back a little (in order to improve consistency), you should make sure you are still fully executing your shots. When trying to hold back a bit, many players fail to fully execute their shots and, as a result, loose consistency.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
@Ash_Smith and @tennis_balla. Firstly thanks so much to you and the others for doing this! You guys are amazing!! My question is regarding my 8 year old son's serve. He has a lovely continuous motion (think ball in a long sock fluidity) and has racket drop, conti grip and pronation down to a tee. However his leg drive seems to occur late, knees start to straighten just as racket gets to bottom of drop. Is this normal for a young player due to body dimensions/strength and something which will naturally resolve when he gets older or is it something we can work on changing the timing on now? If latter can you recommend any drills to better join up kinetic chain from bottom half of body to top? I can't help thinking he's learnt this mistiming from practising with a homemade serve master when he was v little - letting it drop down his back before flinging it forwards with his body rather than driving up to make it drop. Thanks!
Hi @Marmaduke

Firstly, for an 8 year old it sounds like your son has a great swing, good stuff!

As a general rule kids don't develop overhead coordination effectively until they get somewhere between 6 and 8 years old. It is likely that because he is coordinating well overhead, something has to give and it will likely be a matter of time before he can connect the dots so to speak - so I wouldn't be unduly worried.

Regarding the timing of the leg drive - if you watch the pro's you'll see that in the best servers the leg extension completes whilst the racquet is still in the drop position, so it's not just normal for a young player, it's getting towards optimal!

It sounds like a really good job has been done and with a youngster of that kind of age there is plenty of time - be patient and trust the process, from what you have written there are no red flags for me.
 

tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
I'm not Hawaiian, just Western like Sock or Kyrgios. They don't seem to have a problem putting balls away, is it just that they're fast enough to take the ball before it drops?
Ok sorry seems that I maybe misread that and your grip isn't as extreme as I thought.

Where you make contact is a large part of it, so yea definitely be more aware of your contact point and notice where you're making contact with the majority of your mid-court shots. Another thing you could try, considering you hit with a western grip, is hit those mid-court shots semi-open or open stance only if you don't already. That grip doesn't really like neutral stances and hates closed stance. Its doable but not every effective or efficient.
A semi-open or open stance on the shorter balls will allow you to open up your body more and hit those shorter balls in a more natural way and something pros with more extreme grips do as well on those shots.
Come up to the ball, load in an open stance and rip it.
 
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Ash_Smith

Legend
@Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla .What are your thoughts on teaching pinpoint or platform stance to juniors? Say under 12 kids and why? I put a girl on pinpoint just because (that's what girls do right!) just thought she was small and added leg drive would help her.

Do you just show them both ways and when? I personally just teach platform with nice balance, if they want to do pinpoint later down the line so be it.
I tend to let self organisation lead the way. As a kid I "naturally" moved to hitting from a pinpoint stance, it just felt right for me, I was never actively encouraged to do it or taught to do it, that's just the way it went for me and my balance point.

For younger/smaller kids there may be an advantage to serving pinpoint as it tends to direct the GRF's 'up' to a greater degree and can therefore lead to greater reach/height, where as platform tends to direct the forces more 'forwards'. If you have a kid with a fast rhythm (say they the ball on the rise or at the peak), maybe a platform will be more suitable.

Ultimately the initial goals are balance and timing - if you help them create the timing, there is a good chance the feet will organise themselves for balance.
 

997turbo

Rookie
@Ash_Smith and or @tennis_balla how do you learn to hit at a moderate pace?

I seem to be absolutistic in hitting speed hitting at 10 or 3. Everytime i try something in the middle it seems to just turn into guiding the ball. Topspin suffers and so do i. If i hit 100% i can hit just enough good shots to think i can actually hit that way!

How do i get to 70-80%? And manage to keep the ball in?

Ash when you posted feds setup picture and the 3 steps:

1. Set up like fed
2. Hit the **** out of the ball
3. Win

I took #2 at face value....
Hold absorb and grip :D:D
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
On the FH, we're taught to meet the ball and then do the "turn the knob" at the end to produce topspin. Is this the same on the 2HBH? Specifically, I sometimes find I'm rolling over with my wrist and I don't think this is sound technique because it introduces too much variability. I'm trying to figure out how to reduce that variability without losing the ability to hit good TS.

Thanks!
I'm no coach, but to be pedantic, meeting the ball first before turning the knob implies belief in the view that you can put action on the ball during that split second the ball makes contact with the stringbed. It is inconsistent with the general view here that there is nothing we can do to a ball at actual contact, because that time frame is too narrow. This thread would devolve into yet another one of those 'hold / absorb the ball' fisticuffs.

The way I see it, any action that is put on the ball is a result of the swing-path of the racquet prior to contact, because there just isn't enough time to initiate a new action during the milliseconds the ball is actually on the strings. Any techniques applied to the follow-through is also inconsequential since the ball would have actually left the strings at that point and would by definition have zero involvement with whatever racquet wizardry you are conjuring post-contact.

Technique(s) that concern the follow-through that we all talk about, eg 'point the elbow forwards at the end of the follow-through' therefore are provided not because the follow-through itself will have any effect on the ball you've already hit, but because they are the correct 'symptoms' / signs that your overall swing-path is correct.

This is why we are told not to shoehorn a WW follow-through on a classical FH and expect anything more than tennis elbow. The 'turning the knob' advice should IMO therefore really be applied right around the same time your racquet accelerates towards the ball, not during or after it, otherwise it is all flash and no substance.

So when it comes to the BH, 1HBH or 2HBH, it doesn't matter--the 'turning' that we reference will apply pretty much in sync with the start of the rapid RHA (or at the very least prior to actual contact), otherwise there's no point having it there. There's a reason why on the 2HBH we are told to let the head of the racquet drop at the start of the forward motion, and not 1 ms before contact. There's a reason why you're meant to bend your legs right from the setup of the stroke and not squat explosively during and after contact has been made like a complete spastic. Of course, if you start the turning too early, you'll end up hitting banana shots with practically no topspin, but that's pretty much impossible to do unless you're making contact halfway through your follow-through rather than at the conventional contact point.

At least, that's how I understand it... @Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla are the coaches here so if they say otherwise I would of course be happy to concede that my brain has been vacationing in my backside.
 
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tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
@Bender
I agree with you, everything is done beforehand so you've predetermined what will happen to the way that ball is hit at contact. The time the ball spends on the strings is way to short to make any changes while the ball is on the strings. However I do not think that is what @S&V-not_dead_yet was implying. Maybe his way of explaining it wasn't completely accurate but I did not get "make contact with the ball then turn the knob" from his statement. But I might be wrong :-D
 

anubis

Hall of Fame
Thanks guys! I have a question about general tennis strategy. As a 3.0 and 3.5, I relied on my my opponents making errors in order to get enough points to win a match. However, at the 4.0/4.5 level, I don't think that works. In my observations playing at this level, the thing that separates a winning 4.0 player from a losing one, is that a winning one usually doesn't fail to capitalize on an opportunity to turn up the level of aggression to push the point in their favor.

Example 1 (singles): You hit a good serve and you're rewarded with a short ball in mid court. A weak 4.0 would not seize that opportunity, and might hit a relatively soft shot either to the right or left, but not hard enough or at an extreme angle enough to give them any amount of advantage in that point. Therefore, that weak 4.0 would usually retreat back to the baseline and continue on with a relatively neutral point, completely missing an opportunity.

However, a stronger player would capitalize on that and hit a much more aggressive approach shot and follow it up with holding down the net.


Example 2 (singles): When you're on the baseline, that is considered "neutral", meaning it's a neutral rally, you're neither being pushed around nor have an advantage. If you're pushed behind the baseline, now you're on the defensive. AS soon as you can take a step or two into the court north of the baseline, now you've got a chance to be aggressive.

Weak 4.0 players will treat being +/-3 feet north or south of the baseline as being defensive. They won't consider themselves as having an opportunity to be aggressive until they are on the service line.

Strong 4.0 players, when given the opportunity to step into the court, they will increase the pace, hit a little harder and try to capitalize on that moment.


So, I guess my question is: are my observations correct? Is the difference between strong and weak 4.0s is their ability/confidence/willingness to turn up the aggression, try to hit harder, try to go for more sharper angles in order to create opportunities to end points on their terms?

If so, I definitely do not have that confidence. In certain situations, I can, but most of the time in matches, I don't have any confidence to hit harder, increase pace, go for better angles and try to force the issue to my favor.

Thoughts?

Thanks!
 

tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
@anubis
Are we talking about weak era or strong era 4.0's? :D

Anyways being serious now, the higher in level you get to the more aggressive players will play. As a junior I remember a number of players dropped off the ranking going from U14 to U16 age category. They won in the 14's by waiting more for their opponents errors but that tactic no longer worked against the bigger, stronger and older players because power and aggression along with control blended together.
So yes it definitely plays a large part. Even if you watch junior girls and how hard they hit the ball especially the top ones, playing only the percentages doesn't work.

A good body of work to look into is Craig O'Shannessy and Brain Game Tennis about what he says regarding first strike tennis. Even though he only analyzes professional matches, his findings hold true for lower levels as well, with of course slightly different statistical outcomes.
 

anubis

Hall of Fame
@anubis
Are we talking about weak era or strong era 4.0's? :D

Anyways being serious now, the higher in level you get to the more aggressive players will play. As a junior I remember a number of players dropped off the ranking going from U14 to U16 age category. They won in the 14's by waiting more for their opponents errors but that tactic no longer worked against the bigger, stronger and older players because power and aggression along with control blended together.
So yes it definitely plays a large part. Even if you watch junior girls and how hard they hit the ball especially the top ones, playing only the percentages doesn't work.

A good body of work to look into is Craig O'Shannessy and Brain Game Tennis about what he says regarding first strike tennis. Even though he only analyzes professional matches, his findings hold true for lower levels as well, with of course slightly different statistical outcomes.
Thanks!
 
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