Best order to learn fundamentals

PJYelton

New User
Been playing for a couple years, currently at a 3.0 level, but play very inconsistently due to bad habits I have picked up from learning the game without any coaching or instruction. I'm interested in taking a step back and really start drilling in the fundamentals so they become second nature but experience has told me that I'm horrible trying to remember too many things at once.

What I would like to do is spend 2-3 weeks on just one concept, really drill it in before I move on to the next. Of the ones listed below, what order would you recommend I prioritize as either most important or maybe as a natural progression? These are geared more towards a forehand as my backhand slice is consistent enough at the moment to get by at my level and again don't want to overwhelm my poor brain.
  • Footwork
  • Keeping eye on ball
  • Balance
  • Spacing
  • Reading incoming ball to get into best position
  • Unit turn or racket pull back (pat the dog, etc)
  • Racket lag
  • Contact point
  • Follow-through
  • Topspin
  • Kinetic chain
  • Recovery
  • Anything else fundamental I'm not thinking of?
 

jered

Rookie
  1. footwork
  2. footwork
  3. footwork
:D

seriously though, movement and understanding the ball trajectory/spin are top priority along with a simple, proper swing mechanic. The rest are details, additions, and refinements.

Don’t focus on racquet lag. That’s something that just happens as a result of a biomechanically correct swing and not something you can force successfully.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Humans don't really learn sports the way you imagine OP. So your plan is not going to work..

You cannot sequentially master an aspect and move on. You can only improve various aspects a tiny bit each session. This is why teaching pros have many different drills and work on many different aspects each month. This is also why multiple sessions are optimal. Fed didn't just spend a month on footwork and then master it. He constantly paid attention to his footwork over the years. Many juniors would have one session in the morning where they worked on various aspects and another in the afternoon where they worked on different things.

This need for constant refinement seems true in every sport. Tom Brady works on his throwing motion every year.. He didn't master it back in college and then move on.

I'd propose an entirely different approach for a 3.0. Simply go out and film yourself playing a 3.5 and losing. Analyze why you lost and then practice each of those points of failure. Repeat. Any notions about what might be wrong could be incorrect. This is essentially what a coach does - this is why trying to learn yourself is 'self-coaching".

Your style of learning is very academic - you are imagining tennis is like learning math where you can spend x amount of time on each part. Things like sports, dance, music etc don't work like that.
 
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Your style of learning is very academic - you are imagining tennis is like learning math where you can spend x amount of time on each part. Things like sports, dance, music etc don't work like that.
@PJYelton

I'd call it "reductionist", where you separate things into component pieces. That model of thinking works great for mechanistic systems. But for something where many things are inter-connected, you'll find that you can't affect just one component.

For example, you may focus exclusively on footwork, think you've "mastered" it, move on to hitting FHs, and find out that your balance is completely off because solely working on footwork didn't account for upper body rotation when swinging.

The other extreme, trying to learn everything at once, is even worse because there are so many things to work on that everyone but the most dedicated and fanatical will give up.

I'd start with the 3 Fs: footwork, fitness, focus [mental toughness], and spacing. I think those are foundational elements that everybody can improve at. You might find you can move up a level just by concentrating on these things, irrespective of technique [not that you should ignore technique but the payout I think is much higher with the 3Fs].
 
What I would like to do is spend 2-3 weeks on just one concept, really drill it in before I move on to the next.
Any one of these topics will take a lot longer than 2-3 weeks to make automatic. Even if you did try to tackle them in series [which I don't recommend; see my other post], each one could take months if not longer.

But I think you're on the right track [identify your weaknesses, go back to the basics, drill, etc].
 

Mountain Ghost

Professional
Without having a correct STROKE embedded FIRST ... a player will NEVER be able to find exactly what positioning ("footwork") is needed in order to use it.

And ... without having a correct RACQUET-BACK POSITION already embedded in surface mind and muscle memory ... a player will NEVER be able to develop that perfect STROKE.

Everything happens to accomplish ONE TASK ... and that is to get the racquet head from a perfect RACQUET-BACK POSITION ... to a perfect CONTACT ... with optimal speed and technical parameters.

Every player needs to KNOW this ... and to be to able to physically DO this ... even if just on a "Shadow-Swing" level in the beginning ... and THEN ... they can move on to the myriad of other details required to evolve their strokes ... and their game ... further.

~ MG
 

Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
Without having a correct STROKE embedded FIRST ... a player will NEVER be able to find exactly what positioning ("footwork") is needed in order to use it.

And ... without having a correct RACQUET-BACK POSITION already embedded in surface mind and muscle memory ... a player will NEVER be able to develop that perfect STROKE.

Everything happens to accomplish ONE TASK ... and that is to get the racquet head from a perfect RACQUET-BACK POSITION ... to a perfect CONTACT ... with optimal speed and technical parameters.

Every player needs to KNOW this ... and to be to able to physically DO this ... even if just on a "Shadow-Swing" level in the beginning ... and THEN ... they can move on to the myriad of other details required to evolve their strokes ... and their game ... further.

~ MG
This is correct.
1. The first step in tennis is to learn the basic strokes- you want to hit them, as much as possible, the same way every time.
2. In order to get set up to hit the ball correctly each time (as in step 1) you need to be able to get to it and get set up correctly- this is step 2- movement.
3.The third step would be strategy and court sense. You know how to hit the ball, and how to get tho the ball- then you need to learn what to do with it
once you get there.
 

TennisDawg

Professional
In general do all those things and even more but do them over and over again and again. It’s not a checklist it’s something you have to do 1000s of times or more for years and fine tune rather than checking it off a list. Shadow swings on the serve, strokes, overhead, practice your serve, drop hits all done correctly. I’m basing my opinion as a self taught recreational player. My approach and also mistake early on was focusing on a short term gain like just winning matches with little focus on a high level game. The problem with that approach is you will plateau and will have to unlearn muscle memory from years of bad technique if you want to play high level tennis. Kudos for you that you want to unlearn bad habits
 
In my experience as an observer, many players are decent at getting the ball over the net but are significantly less decent at getting to the ball [standing straight up, no split step, minimal recovery, etc]. Therefore, it seems like the low hanging fruit would revolve around better movement over better stroke technique.

Again, not that stroke technique is not important; I'm prioritizing movement because I see more to gain.
 

TennisDawg

Professional
In my experience as an observer, many players are decent at getting the ball over the net but are significantly less decent at getting to the ball [standing straight up, no split step, minimal recovery, etc]. Therefore, it seems like the low hanging fruit would revolve around better movement over better stroke technique.

Again, not that stroke technique is not important; I'm prioritizing movement because I see more to gain.
.....
 

cortado

Rookie
I think the little things are really important and make a huge difference.
Eg. 2 hands on racquet whenever you're not hitting the ball. Racquet returns to ready-position after every shot.
I think so many people don't do little things like this, and it makes every shot worse, more tiring etc.
Rather than try to work on any individual skill, I would try to find somebody much better than you to do a lot of practice rallies with.
 

Jake Speeed

Rookie
You've been playing only a few years and you're attempting ATP stuff. That's advanced tennis.

"pat the dog." If you keep dealing with the junk that's on the Net, no pun intended, OK yes, it was intended, you'll never have a steady all court game. Never!

Read the above. Let me know if you want help.

J
 

mnttlrg

Professional
Proper wrist support, shoulder turn / footwork, adjusting your shot for the incoming ball, placing your shot and knowing where to recover to

imo
 

PJYelton

New User
Thanks everyone for the advice. Just to clarify, I completely agree that spending 2-3 weeks on one thing would come nowhere near to being great at it. Not looking at the moment to become an expert any of these skills, my problem is I am just not doing a lot of things these things consistently at all so want to work on getting the muscle memory in to at least do them from a fundamental level. For example, I don't follow through a ton, I keep taking my eye off the ball, off balance a lot, pull the racket back way too late, etc. But I don't seem to get better at any of these things because it seems when I try to improve one the others suffer. If I focus on watching the ball very carefully I stop following through, start focusing on follow through and then my spacing and positioning gets off, focus on footwork then I'm back to forgetting to watch the ball. And 2-3 weeks could easily be way too optimistic, but the idea is that if I spent time doing say nothing but focusing on watching the ball, then maybe when I move on to something else it will be somewhat of a subconscious habit.

And I see the point on how a lot of these cannot be broken down on its own since many are inseparable from other fundamentals. But when I feel like so many of my fundamentals are either at best inconsistent or at worse nonexistent but at the same time I can't focus on becoming better at all of them without overwhelming myself, I need to break it down somehow because right now I feel like I'm trying to do too much. Once I can at least do them consistently without having to think about all of them each and every shot then I can worry about fine tuning and improving. So just looking for what might be highest priority and based on some of these responses it sounds like maybe that's footwork and positioning?
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
get a coach.
This is the best piece of advice on this entire thread. If you are serious about getting to a high 4.0 or 4.5+ in a few years, take weekly private lessons with a coach and do drills and/or play matches additionally. If you are at a 3.0 level after two years of tennis, you don’t have a particularly high aptitude for tennis and it is unlikely you will improve a lot on your own. You need a coach to look at you and constantly give feedback on what you are doing wrong and then design feed drills to help you improve gradually.

The only 4.5s who learned tennis as adults without too many private lessons are usually guys who played a different sport at a high level (pro or college) previously and had exceptional hand-eye coordination and speedy movement. Everyone also either received a lot of coaching as adults or learned tennis as a junior in a structured manner - also they all practiced a lot and played thousands of hours of tennis within a few years to groove their skills.
 

cortado

Rookie
Thanks everyone for the advice. Just to clarify, I completely agree that spending 2-3 weeks on one thing would come nowhere near to being great at it. Not looking at the moment to become an expert any of these skills, my problem is I am just not doing a lot of things these things consistently at all so want to work on getting the muscle memory in to at least do them from a fundamental level. For example, I don't follow through a ton, I keep taking my eye off the ball, off balance a lot, pull the racket back way too late, etc. But I don't seem to get better at any of these things because it seems when I try to improve one the others suffer. If I focus on watching the ball very carefully I stop following through, start focusing on follow through and then my spacing and positioning gets off, focus on footwork then I'm back to forgetting to watch the ball. And 2-3 weeks could easily be way too optimistic, but the idea is that if I spent time doing say nothing but focusing on watching the ball, then maybe when I move on to something else it will be somewhat of a subconscious habit.

And I see the point on how a lot of these cannot be broken down on its own since many are inseparable from other fundamentals. But when I feel like so many of my fundamentals are either at best inconsistent or at worse nonexistent but at the same time I can't focus on becoming better at all of them without overwhelming myself, I need to break it down somehow because right now I feel like I'm trying to do too much. Once I can at least do them consistently without having to think about all of them each and every shot then I can worry about fine tuning and improving. So just looking for what might be highest priority and based on some of these responses it sounds like maybe that's footwork and positioning?
I don't think follow-through is something that consciously happens. Follow-through is a result of everything else leading up to it. There's no reason that watching the ball should stop you following-through.
Footwork/spacing/follow-through/watching ball. It sounds like you're viewing these as separate things that all happen separately. But really, they all happen together unconsciously to some extent.
If I had to consciously think about any of them, it would be footwork and watching the ball. I think those two together are 80% of the shot. How about stop thinking about unit-turns and follow-throughs, and just focus on watching the ball and perfect footwork?
 
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mcs1970

Hall of Fame
Get a coach who comes recommended by friends to work with beginners.

I took up tennis late and am a better player now but wasted a lot of time learning things by myself and also by constantly experimenting racquets/strokes/style of play. A good coach would have been worth the investment.

If you want the quickest way to play at a decent level with your friends, decide what you want to predominantly play (rec doubles or singles...yes the fundamentals for strokes are the same but doubles is a different game with emphasis on different strokes, strategies, and style unless you love S&V even in singles), discuss a roadmap and realistic goals with your coach, and put in the effort.
 

Jake Speeed

Rookie
Thanks everyone for the advice. Just to clarify, I completely agree that spending 2-3 weeks on one thing would come nowhere near to being great at it. Not looking at the moment to become an expert any of these skills, my problem is I am just not doing a lot of things these things consistently at all so want to work on getting the muscle memory in to at least do them from a fundamental level. For example, I don't follow through a ton, I keep taking my eye off the ball, off balance a lot, pull the racket back way too late, etc. But I don't seem to get better at any of these things because it seems when I try to improve one the others suffer. If I focus on watching the ball very carefully I stop following through, start focusing on follow through and then my spacing and positioning gets off, focus on footwork then I'm back to forgetting to watch the ball. And 2-3 weeks could easily be way too optimistic, but the idea is that if I spent time doing say nothing but focusing on watching the ball, then maybe when I move on to something else it will be somewhat of a subconscious habit.

And I see the point on how a lot of these cannot be broken down on its own since many are inseparable from other fundamentals. But when I feel like so many of my fundamentals are either at best inconsistent or at worse nonexistent but at the same time I can't focus on becoming better at all of them without overwhelming myself, I need to break it down somehow because right now I feel like I'm trying to do too much. Once I can at least do them consistently without having to think about all of them each and every shot then I can worry about fine tuning and improving. So just looking for what might be highest priority and based on some of these responses it sounds like maybe that's footwork and positioning?

See, you offer help and they don't want it.

10 years from now, he'll be playing his same inconsistent game but at a higher level. Plateau Tennis.

Welcome to a club that has millions of members.
 

Crocodile

Legend
Very important not to dwell on one facet of a tennis shot as tennis mechanics don’t work that way when the job is to have optimum timing and coordination.
Yes you can analyse things from beginning to end in the kinetic chain but the chain works effectively when each of the segments are performed at the appropriate degree in the right order and speed.
You can even go back and look at your visual and perceptual skills as the ball leaves your opponent’s racquets and study the typical patterns of rallying and play as well as individual proclivities of the players you hit with.
 

PJYelton

New User
As much as I would love to get a coach unfortunately covid has hit finances hard so just not in the budget anytime soon. Maybe next year though?

And to be honest I don't think I am explaining myself very well and made it more complicated then I initially intended. Basically I feel there are likely several key fundamentals that are essential to do consistently when first beginning tennis and that are used as a foundation to improve upon. I feel like I have bypassed learning these and do them poorly and/or inconsistently. I want to take a step back and unlearn bad habits and start my foundation over again so these basics become subconscious second nature. However I don't know what to focus on or what order I should focus on and I feel like if I try to do too much then I end up learning nothing, hence the idea that maybe tackling one at a time might work. Not trying to be an expert at any of them, just trying to get these basics to be second nature so that it starts to feel weird when I DONT do them. Once that's done I can then worry about incremental improvements in my game. And to be honest I'm not even 100% sure what all the building blocks skills would be, hence the long list of skills in my first post which I thought might narrow it down for discussion but instead made it look like I wanted to master every tennis skill one at a time in isolation!

Not to dismiss what a lot of you have written in this thread, there is a ton of great advice that very much applies to me and is helping how I look at tackling this problem so I appreciate it! :)
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
................................ These are geared more towards a forehand as my backhand slice is consistent enough at the moment to get by at my level and again don't want to overwhelm my poor brain.
  • Footwork
  • Keeping eye on ball
  • Balance
  • Spacing
  • Reading incoming ball to get into best position
  • Unit turn or racket pull back (pat the dog, etc)
  • Racket lag
  • Contact point
  • Follow-through
  • Topspin
  • Kinetic chain
  • Recovery
  • Anything else fundamental I'm not thinking of?
Pick your forehand technique, bent or straight arm, linear or circular forehand, grip and find a model player with a strong forehand and those characteristics. Probably the technique that most ATP players are using is one technique option.

Listen carefully to this.

Bent arm, separation on most forehands, hard to find any flaws....... Best model is heavier paced shot without pressure.

Forget the word "unit turn" and study "separation". "Unit turn" sounds cool, but what is the "unit"? A barn door turns as a unit. The forehand is performed with separation, a line between the two hips and a line between the two shoulders turns back and forward independently and with purposeful timing. Search: forehand separation Chas

I believe that "pat the dog" is one way that lag appears in the forward swing. The arm lags behind from inertia with the racket face facing down. This may depend on bent arm or straight arm forehand?

Also study the off arm as it is used with purpose and timing to speed up the uppermost body turn. Search threads and posts.

A tennis stroke lasts about a second. High speed videos show many angles to study to guide your stroke. Djokovic is very flexible but his full range of separation motion - spine & trunk twisting - may be too stressful for many backs.

Learn the earliest thing that appears in a stroke sequence first in order, follow the stroke sequence. See chapter on golf in Use of the Self by Alexander it has some good information on breaking old habits and includes this issue. If a new stroke sub-motion starts first it is less likely that an old habit will appear and take the train down the wrong track.

With high speed video, evaluate how far back a line between your two shoulders turns and then how far forward it turns to impact. Then study your separation. Don't study the people on your courts, study ATP pros. Make sure you see & understand the % of uppermost body turn vs the % of shoulder joint sub-motion in the forehand technique that you chose. Start with the estimate that the uppermost body turns back 90 degrees and then forward 90 degrees to impact, observe what is happening and the separation details. A stroke only lasts a second, observe all you can.

Use high speed video for stroke analysis and feedback. Compare strokes from the same camera angles. I've posted on how to use high speed video. Don't use short word descriptions of strokes that you recall as your main stroke description, use high speed videos. Pull them out and look. Use your smartphone on the courts.

I've posted on these subjects.
 
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GuyClinch

Legend
See, you offer help and they don't want it.

10 years from now, he'll be playing his same inconsistent game but at a higher level. Plateau Tennis.

Welcome to a club that has millions of members.
Many people post for confirmation bias. OP had a plan - and didn't want to hear how his plan wasn't great.. Personally I don't even think these kind of lofty goals are useful for self coached players. What is wrong with trying to just playing better then last time? What's wrong with trying to become a 3.5 before worrying about some complicated plan to get to 4.5 or 5.0? These lofty plans seems to lead to burn out and depression.

OP been 3.0 for a few years now - I'd aim for winning in your 3.0 league so you can move up to 3.5. That's a real achievement that people on your team will enjoy...:p
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
@PJYelton Hopefully you can get a coach next year. Meanwhile, I thought I would post some of the most common issues that beginners have when hitting forehands and ground strokes in general.

- Don’t have extreme grips like Continental or Western for your FH - a strong Eastern or preferably Semiwestern is better to learn with.
- Learn what the Ideal Recovery Position (IRP) is after hitting crosscourt and DTL shots. IRP is two steps from the middle line towards your side of the court for CC shots and two steps to the other side of the middle line for DTL shots due to the court geometry. So, you have to run more to recover if you hit DTL.
- Try to reach the IRP before the opponent hits the ball and split-step just when they hit the ball while watching their swing carefully to gauge what kind of shot they are hitting.
- Google and learn ‘Wardlaw directionals’ to learn the risks of hitting different shots based on court geometry and the difficulty of changing the direction of the ball.
- Try to have an early unit turn and racquet take back as early as possible - you will find that if you take back early, you will feel like you have a lot more time to hit good shots. You should try to take back when the opponent’s shot is crossing the net and definitely by the time the ball bounces - anything after that is too late. Most beginners take back too late and don’t do an unit turn with off-hand coiled in front.
- When you run and get to the ball, make sure you stop far from the ball so that you have space to swing out freely with as extended an arm as possible - you don’t want to have alligator arms where you hit the ball close to your body. Most beginners stop too close to the ball and have space only to bunt the ball with cramped arms - more spacing will be a big improvement to get pace.
- You need to run to a depth where you can hit the ball at an optimal hitting height - above your knee and below your upper chest. If you contact the ball when it is too high or too low, you won’t be able to take full swings at the ball. So, your footwork has to be good to go forward and back quickly so that you always contact the ball at an optimal height. Many beginners hit the ball when it is too high and bunt it over - if you wait for the ball to drop a bit more, you can take a full swing at it and hit harder.
- Hit the ball as early as possible in front of you so that it doesn’t jam you. The earlier you hit the ball, the easier it is to again swing out freely and generate topspin. Most people who hit too slow wait for the ball too long before hitting it and can’t take a full swing.
- Watch some online coaching videos to learn a proper FH swing. If you can learn to lag your wrist fully, start your swing from much lower than the ball contact point and hit the ball with full extension in front of you, you will develop a good FH. I like the ATP-style swing, but a more traditional swing is fine too.
- If you bend your knee and transfer your weight forward, you can get more power and it will be easier to start your swing from below the ball to generate topspin even on low and slow balls. A common error that beginners make is to over-hit slow, low balls and not hit with enough spin to keep the ball in the court - bending your knee and transferring your weight forward before contact will help to correct this.
- Try to hit the ball deep and crosscourt as much as possible by taking full swings - if the balls keeps going out, check if you are starting your swing from lower, if you are bending your knee and transferring weight, if you have enough spacing from the ball and if you are hitting it well in front of you. If you are doing all those things well, you will start generating enough spin to keep the ball in.
- Try to keep your head/body down and don’t raise your body up too soon while you follow-through naturally as this can cause you to hit balls too long. Watch the ball while keeping your head still for as long as possible as you are hitting the ball.

If you can learn to do these things properly with ball machine drills or while drilling with friends, you will slowly start developing a good FH. Most of these concepts apply to hitting BHs properly also except for the grip and swing type. Enjoy your learning experience and don’t get frustrated if the improvement progresses slowly.
 
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Learn to serve-it's the most important shot in tennis--if you get the ball in the box they have to play you--no style points in tennis. You can practice serving on your own as much as you want--get a ball hopper--all the rest of the strokes won't do you any good if you can't serve. Look for a coach who knows how to teach proper stroke technique--the loop--about a dozen lessons on stroke technique should give you a foundation for your serve, FH & BH. The serve is the most complex stroke, if you can master the serve the other strokes will be easier. The feet will do what they need to do to get to the ball--remember not to run directly at the ball--leave space for the racket, or you'll be hitting the ball with your belly-button.
 

18x20 ftw

Rookie
If I were in your shoes, as a coach and a player all wrapped into one trying to accelerate your improvement on a budget (do you play matches or hit against the wall or on a ball machine?), I would take video of a match. It seems you have a plan but you don’t, really.

Taking advantage of your detailed nature and obvious drive, after objectively and scientifically viewing the video you can more easily identify glaring areas in your game in which you can prioritize your time and develop a plan. If you the lack the know-how on identifying the components that are lacking on video you may need to seek help from a pro or a good friend that is hopefully 4.0 or 4.5, but I bet you will see many things that you are doing wrong. At that time you can ponder on drills, exercises, and mental approaches that will maximize your game, both short and long term. It’s possible you will see some yanky things that you doing (we all have weaknesses!) and you don’t know how best to fix them, but that is where I would at least start if it were me.
 

Jake Speeed

Rookie
Many people post for confirmation bias. OP had a plan - and didn't want to hear how his plan wasn't great.. Personally I don't even think these kind of lofty goals are useful for self coached players. What is wrong with trying to just playing better then last time? What's wrong with trying to become a 3.5 before worrying about some complicated plan to get to 4.5 or 5.0? These lofty plans seems to lead to burn out and depression.

OP been 3.0 for a few years now - I'd aim for winning in your 3.0 league so you can move up to 3.5. That's a real achievement that people on your team will enjoy...:p
Thank you for replying to my comments.

You cannot start playing matches until you learn the basics and learn to preform them extremely well. Better to play above this level if you really elect to play matches. Matches are the downfall of learning quality tennis.

Playing matches too soon is one of the single most reasons players never develop quality tennis. This cannot be disputed.

This is one of the reasons I'm poles apart from what the USTA is all about.

The OP, if that person wants to bring his game up, you can't bring it up by playing twice as many matches. To the contrary.

Stop playing matches and go "back in time" to learn what was "skipped over." Stuff is missing. You cannot learn the stuff that's never been learned by playing pointless matches.

J
 

RiverRat

Rookie
Most important of the items you listed is contact point. Without catching the ball out in front you CAN'T progress. If you are catching it out in front than you have a chance to improve and what others have said about not deconstructing these elements into discreet items makes sense.
 

Jake Speeed

Rookie
Most important of the items you listed is contact point. Without catching the ball out in front you CAN'T progress. If you are catching it out in front than you have a chance to improve and what others have said about not deconstructing these elements into discreet items makes sense.
Nice comment.

But only to some degree. Keep in mind a thing called ball direction. Contact point then becomes a variable.

Master hitting identical shots straight down the center of the court. This is so important.

J
 

RiverRat

Rookie
As much as I would love to get a coach unfortunately covid has hit finances hard so just not in the budget anytime soon. Maybe next year though?
Where do you play? I play on public courts. If I see a dedicated tennis player I go out of my way to be helpful. I can't recommend hitting on a backboard more strongly. But don't use it to blast away. It is a tool to work on technique and groove strokes. Here you may encounter some good players. Ask if they would be so kind to give one piece of advice to work on. Then work on it. Or take one piece of advice from a reputable youtube source and work on that. As mentioned, the order is probably not critical because it's the blending of elements that create the stroke. Just don't go to youtubers targeting advanced players. Good luck!
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Thank you for replying to my comments.

You cannot start playing matches until you learn the basics and learn to preform them extremely well. Better to play above this level if you really elect to play matches. Matches are the downfall of learning quality tennis.

Playing matches too soon is one of the single most reasons players never develop quality tennis. This cannot be disputed.

This is one of the reasons I'm poles apart from what the USTA is all about.

The OP, if that person wants to bring his game up, you can't bring it up by playing twice as many matches. To the contrary.

Stop playing matches and go "back in time" to learn what was "skipped over." Stuff is missing. You cannot learn the stuff that's never been learned by playing pointless matches.

J
Bro. Guy said he has been a 3.0 for years now. So he has been playing matches. Your approach is best for juniors but adults will end up playing matches. Even with matches holding people back an adult player can expect a 1 - 1.5 NTRP improvement with real dedication...over several years (depending on natural talent).

Assuming this guy came in at 2.5 - playing 3.5 would be an achievement. He is stuck at 3.0 - which as another poster indicated means he probably is not that talented. There is nothing wrong with playing 3.5 tennis. It's actually the most fun level of USTA, IMHO. It has the most players - you are good enough to play up sometimes or down..

This forum is so discouraging to people because they get lofty expectations that almost no one achieves. And when these adults fail to achieve them - they drop out. Off hand i can't think of a single player that came in with a paddy cake serve and is now hitting like a pro. We have some good players here - but almost all of them have considerable junior experience. How many started at 3.0 and are now 4.5 (league or tournament rated)?

Keep your goals modest - and you can actually achieve them. Maybe learn how to hit a technically correct serve.. Or maybe get a good split step down on every point. Coming in wanting to "master" each element of tennis sequentially as an adult is just setting yourself up for failure. Watch some high level tennis in person. It's like a different sport from what rec player play..
 

Jake Speeed

Rookie
Bro. Guy said he has been a 3.0 for years now. So he has been playing matches. Your approach is best for juniors but adults will end up playing matches. Even with matches holding people back an adult player can expect a 1 - 1.5 NTRP improvement with real dedication...over several years (depending on natural talent).

Assuming this guy came in at 2.5 - playing 3.5 would be an achievement. He is stuck at 3.0 - which as another poster indicated means he probably is not that talented. There is nothing wrong with playing 3.5 tennis. It's actually the most fun level of USTA, IMHO. It has the most players - you are good enough to play up sometimes or down..

This forum is so discouraging to people because they get lofty expectations that almost no one achieves. And when these adults fail to achieve them - they drop out. Off hand i can't think of a single player that came in with a paddy cake serve and is now hitting like a pro. We have some good players here - but almost all of them have considerable junior experience. How many started at 3.0 and are now 4.5 (league or tournament rated)?

Keep your goals modest - and you can actually achieve them. Maybe learn how to hit a technically correct serve.. Or maybe get a good split step down on every point. Coming in wanting to "master" each element of tennis sequentially as an adult is just setting yourself up for failure. Watch some high level tennis in person. It's like a different sport from what rec player play..

What's with this "Bro?"
 

WestboroChe

Hall of Fame
My coach had me work on serve first. Without being able to effectively start a point you will never have hope of winning it.
My thoughts exactly. People spend so much time or acting geoundstrokes but most points are won on the serve or return. Practice those and you’re halfway to winning tennis.
 
Reinterating some good points :

Playing matches too soon is one of the single most reasons players never develop quality tennis. This cannot be disputed.
Playing matches will ingrain bad habits--"play like you practice."
Master hitting identical shots straight down the center of the court. This is so important.
Maybe learn how to hit a technically correct serve..
If you can master the kinetic chain of the serve the other strokes are much easier to learn.

Or maybe get a good split step down on every point.
My coach had me work on serve first. Without being able to effectively start a point you will never have hope of winning it.
People spend so much time or acting geoundstrokes but most points are won on the serve or return. Practice those and you’re halfway to winning tennis.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
Most important of the items you listed is contact point. Without catching the ball out in front you CAN'T progress. If you are catching it out in front than you have a chance to improve and what others have said about not deconstructing these elements into discreet items makes sense.
I agree - early contact point to hit it well in front and enough lateral spacing to swing out freely with more extended arms. If a beginner tries to hit the ball with a full swing like this, they can learn to make adjustments over time to eventually have a controllable swing with good spin. But, if they don’t have enough spacing and hit the ball too late and too close to them, they will always have a bunty swing that will never be consistent if they try to generate power.
 

nyta2

Rookie
Been playing for a couple years, currently at a 3.0 level, but play very inconsistently due to bad habits I have picked up from learning the game without any coaching or instruction. I'm interested in taking a step back and really start drilling in the fundamentals so they become second nature but experience has told me that I'm horrible trying to remember too many things at once.

What I would like to do is spend 2-3 weeks on just one concept, really drill it in before I move on to the next. Of the ones listed below, what order would you recommend I prioritize as either most important or maybe as a natural progression? These are geared more towards a forehand as my backhand slice is consistent enough at the moment to get by at my level and again don't want to overwhelm my poor brain.
  • Footwork
  • Keeping eye on ball
  • Balance
  • Spacing
  • Reading incoming ball to get into best position
  • Unit turn or racket pull back (pat the dog, etc)
  • Racket lag
  • Contact point
  • Follow-through
  • Topspin
  • Kinetic chain
  • Recovery
  • Anything else fundamental I'm not thinking of?
my $.02... as a 3.0, i'd follow this progression:
* just before contact & follow through (closed face, contact point relative to body, finish over shoulder, etc...) ... lots of "mini tennis"
* "full swing" no loop - from baseline... abbreviated swing
* easy movement with "no loop full swing"... focusing on basic footwork patterns (eg. split, "inside" foot leads, recovery, etc...), and lots of "ball recognition" (varying easy bounces, easy topspin, etc...)
* add a loop - once you can get to say a 20 ball rally with "easy" coop hitting... rinse & repeat until you can get to 20 ball rally with a loop (or on a ball machine)
as a 3.0, i probably wouldn't compete at all, unless i was strict about stroking it the "right way" (eg avoid incorrect swing patterns)
or maybe i'd compete with orange/green dot balls, to slow things down, and encourage me to swing the "right way"

when going through the progressions, i'd do what guyclinch said,... video self, and figure out where you're making mistakes... (or have a coach point them out to you)... the basic ones i see in beginners:
* not knowing where their contact point is relative to their body
* getting the right spacing (usually related to footwork, can lead to balance issues, etc...)
* not recognizing where a ball will bounce

lastly, swing at a speed that is smooth and correct, and slowly build up speed from there.
 

mdickson11

New User
First and foremost learn or make sure you know the 3 grips (eastern forehand, eastern backhand or correct two handed and continental)to use and how to hold a racket properly. Then learn the ready position or athletic stance.

After that;

1. Learn correct contact point for all strokes
2. Learn correct swing path for all strokes
3. Learn correct set up for all strokes
4. Learn how to recover properly.

Once you can consistently execute the above then move onto next stage (ball controls, and movement footwork)
 

mcs1970

Hall of Fame
Thank you for replying to my comments.

You cannot start playing matches until you learn the basics and learn to preform them extremely well. Better to play above this level if you really elect to play matches. Matches are the downfall of learning quality tennis.

Playing matches too soon is one of the single most reasons players never develop quality tennis. This cannot be disputed.

This is one of the reasons I'm poles apart from what the USTA is all about.

The OP, if that person wants to bring his game up, you can't bring it up by playing twice as many matches. To the contrary.

Stop playing matches and go "back in time" to learn what was "skipped over." Stuff is missing. You cannot learn the stuff that's never been learned by playing pointless matches.

J
McEnroe and Connors hated practice and always wanted to play matches from a young age. There is a video on yt where they show how US coaches are spending hours on techniques and drills to youn kids while kids in other countries were hitting and plying points albeit with unrefined technique.

As that video said there is a lot of benefit to the latter too. Technique can be refined as you go along.

OTOH Richard Williams took your approach and it worked out very well for Serena and Venus. But there are other videos out there with a parent lamenting that one of the biggest mistakes he made was not integrating match play with practice much earlier on than he eventually did.

No one way to approach things. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
 

mcs1970

Hall of Fame
Just look at one of the top players Medvedev. Very unorthodox strokes. No coach would have taught him to hit that way. Greatness cannot be packaged and sold.
 

RiverRat

Rookie
My thoughts exactly. People spend so much time or acting geoundstrokes but most points are won on the serve or return. Practice those and you’re halfway to winning tennis.
Where's the fun though, winning without rallies? Also, unlike groundstrokes, players are often limited by their athleticism and other physical limitations, especially as they age. Also, the serve only serves you when you are playing competitively. Who wants to practice with a guy who has a huge serve and not much else?
 

EllieK

Hall of Fame
Most important of the items you listed is contact point. Without catching the ball out in front you CAN'T progress. If you are catching it out in front than you have a chance to improve and what others have said about not deconstructing these elements into discreet items makes sense.
Yes. This. I hit the best forehand I ever hit because my legs were toast from a marathon. Coach said it was because I put my weight forward into the ball rather than backpedaling as the ball came towards me and taking a huge swing at it. Because my legs were tired I didn't feel like I could get back for it so I moved just a step forward. Improved my technique ten fold.
 

WestboroChe

Hall of Fame
Where's the fun though, winning without rallies? Also, unlike groundstrokes, players are often limited by their athleticism and other physical limitations, especially as they age. Also, the serve only serves you when you are playing competitively. Who wants to practice with a guy who has a huge serve and not much else?
That’s true. But the question is about training methods. If you’re looking to accelerate the curve to match play start by practicing the two shots that are present in every point. And I don’t see how physical limitations matter. If I am a weak 70 year old grandma I’m going to be playing other 70 year old grandmas. I can still learn how to serve and return with accuracy and precision and whatever power I can generate.
 
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