Cure or a Tip for Tight Forehand under Pressure

#1
I played 4 sets of money round doubles tonight.
For the first 3 sets, my serves, volleys and forehand were flowing and I played very well.
Won 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

Then my partner and I played a team we would beat handily 80 - 90% of the time.
However they played us close and we were a service break down 4-5.

We lost the point at no-ad, so we lost the set 4-6.
I received 4 points on my side and lost all 4.
My forehand returns were weak and my forehand groundstrokes were weaker than usual and were cut off my the opposing net player.

Usually my FH is free-flowing and reliable, but against this team that we should have beaten my arm was stiff. So my forehands did not have much pace or spin.

What is the cure or at least a tip to keep the forehand relaxed and free-flowing under pressure?
It appears the culprit is the tight grip/arm.
So I'm thinking about just keeping the racket held with the left hand almost exclusively on the throat of the racket during the unit turn and the right hand barely hanging on.
Then just as I start the forward swing, I let the right hand grip the racket.

Any good/great tips or cures others have found during pressure situations?
When I watch other doubles players, it appears that many others suffer from the same stiff, weak forehand under match pressure.
 
#6
You are toast ... $ Pickleball for you.

IMO ... "no hand" threads should be combined with "no arm" threads. I have been working on a "no feet" technique (POMOFEET) ... but my love of burgers and fries has stalled the research. My working theory is that the "ground up" thing is backwards ... it should be "air down".
 
#8
You can always hit a soft / safe forehand that clears the net for about 3-5 feet. Hit it deep in the baseline. It'll give you time get compose yourself and possibly get a weaker response you can attack.
 
#9
You can always hit a soft / safe forehand that clears the net for about 3-5 feet. Hit it deep in the baseline. It'll give you time get compose yourself and possibly get a weaker response you can attack.
In singles that is a good strategy.

In doubles however, soft/safe FH's with good net clearance will get eaten up by good doubles net players.
It's not easy to hit FH groundstrokes and returns away from the opposing net player and still keep it in the court under intense match pressure.
 
#10
I like the similar tip of finishing your forehand by catching your racket and holding it only by the throat. Another idea is to only focus on your feet / positioning and watching the ball.
 
#11
When the return pressure is on the ad side I often FH slice with side. If the net guy X's the balls spinning away from him.

This is assuming a manageable serve. If it's a big serve you just have to hit and hope
 
#12
I used to have a 3.5 level forehand return, but a 5.0 level forehand volley (grew up serve-and-volleying because I never learned a proper forehand).

This led to an obvious solution. My return game, especially in singles, improved a lot just by fully committing to the forehand slice return.

Before that change, I survived in doubles in high school without a forehand return to speak of (went 4 years undefeated in team matches and placed 3rd in state tournament) simply because high school players serve every ad-court ball either to the backhand or to the center of the box, never down the T. Playing deuce was not a viable option.
 
#13
What is the cure or at least a tip to keep the forehand relaxed and free-flowing under pressure?
It appears the culprit is the tight grip/arm.
So I'm thinking about just keeping the racket held with the left hand almost exclusively on the throat of the racket during the unit turn and the right hand barely hanging on.
Then just as I start the forward swing, I let the right hand grip the racket.

Any good/great tips or cures others have found during pressure situations?
When I watch other doubles players, it appears that many others suffer from the same stiff, weak forehand under match pressure.
You should catch yourself next time this happens and see why. It could be many things like becoming mentally tired, skimping on footwork, or getting fatigued. You could use your imagination and think of your arm as something that induces a relaxed feeling. However I think it may be because you relied on your arm too much and not allowing your body to take the pressure off your arm. Turning sideways with feet, utilizing that unit turn properly and you should be able to relax your arm.

A trick you could use is try to think only of your strings contacting with the ball, forget you have a racquet in your hand. You could try different things mentally but I think its actually has to do with how you set-up and if that gets lazy then you will probably revert to using your arm more.
 
#15
I used to have a 3.5 level forehand return, but a 5.0 level forehand volley (grew up serve-and-volleying because I never learned a proper forehand).

This led to an obvious solution. My return game, especially in singles, improved a lot just by fully committing to the forehand slice return.
I'm disappointed that the obvious solution isn't SABT - Sneak Attack By Travlerajm
 
#16
If you are feeling tight on FH returns try this:

  1. split step
  2. as soon as you see the serve coming to your FH, unit turn as a complete UNIT (e.g. left hand on throat of racquet) moving your right arm as little as possible. Just a legs & torso move/twist. Keep your arms as relaxed as possible during the unit turn.
  3. Then when you swing, focus on "swinging" at the ball with your right shoulder, keeping arms relaxed.
 
#17
Have you thought a change of tactic could be the answer? if you feel as though your fh was continually being picked off by the net player, rather than putting yourself under more and more pressure to produce better shots (possibly better than you are usually capable of? or if not , certainly under that amount of pressure?) a lob over the net players head , a shot straight down the line at the net player , or a short slice down low at the feet if they were to cross.
These are all good tactics, and it could have been more a case of you being predictable than the quality of shot? if you have played the pair before maybe they got to know your habits.

I always tend to show I can go both down the line off a return and also a lob, it tends to keep the net player a bit more honest. If after this your forehands still need work then fair play , but better to come away from the situation and do so, than try to do it in a pressure situation.
 
#18
I'm disappointed that the obvious solution isn't SABT - Sneak Attack By Travlerajm
I used to do that almost every opportunity in my 20’s to avoid getting into forehand rallies. Now that my forehand is more solid, I prefer to be more patient. My bh volley is not at same level as my forehand volley.
 
#19
You should catch yourself next time this happens and see why. It could be many things like becoming mentally tired, skimping on footwork, or getting fatigued. You could use your imagination and think of your arm as something that induces a relaxed feeling. However I think it may be because you relied on your arm too much and not allowing your body to take the pressure off your arm. Turning sideways with feet, utilizing that unit turn properly and you should be able to relax your arm.

A trick you could use is try to think only of your strings contacting with the ball, forget you have a racquet in your hand. You could try different things mentally but I think its actually has to do with how you set-up and if that gets lazy then you will probably revert to using your arm more.
I think fatigue contributed some to my arm stiffness as it was my 4th set of the day.

However it is more than fatigue in a big tournament.
I see many players who are have stiff arms and cannot swing freely even from the 1st set.
 
#20
If you are feeling tight on FH returns try this:

  1. split step
  2. as soon as you see the serve coming to your FH, unit turn as a complete UNIT (e.g. left hand on throat of racquet) moving your right arm as little as possible. Just a legs & torso move/twist. Keep your arms as relaxed as possible during the unit turn.
  3. Then when you swing, focus on "swinging" at the ball with your right shoulder, keeping arms relaxed.
I think I lacked all 3 of these steps.
Instead I was just focused on getting my racket in place, and getting the ball in play and not making an error.

Under match game/match point pressure, it is a fine line between going for too much and giving away free points, and not going for enough and giving the opponent an easy putaway volley.
 
#21
Have you thought a change of tactic could be the answer? if you feel as though your fh was continually being picked off by the net player, rather than putting yourself under more and more pressure to produce better shots (possibly better than you are usually capable of? or if not , certainly under that amount of pressure?) a lob over the net players head , a shot straight down the line at the net player , or a short slice down low at the feet if they were to cross.
These are all good tactics, and it could have been more a case of you being predictable than the quality of shot? if you have played the pair before maybe they got to know your habits.

I always tend to show I can go both down the line off a return and also a lob, it tends to keep the net player a bit more honest. If after this your forehands still need work then fair play , but better to come away from the situation and do so, than try to do it in a pressure situation.
Now that I recall, the server hit a monster serve winner on the 1st point in the final game. Nothing I could do about that service winner.
That set the tone and on the next point I tried to block the FH return.
But since my arm was stiff, it resulted in a weak return that went nowhere.

I agree that I need to vary my returns by hitting lobs, down the line, etc.
But none of those can be achieved successfully if I have a stiff arm.
 
#23
Decide to hit it DTL/straight at the net man beforehand. It takes all pressure off of the decision-making process. And it seems to allow one to swing freely, even if one loses the point.
That doubles cc drill is so boring we should all fake "fh stiffness" and go for a peg. :p I think I need to add to my cone targets ... thinking a manikin
 
#24
That doubles cc drill is so boring we should all fake "fh stiffness" and go for a peg. :p I think I need to add to my cone targets ... thinking a manikin
I think some of the stiffness is due to the desire of avoiding the net man. So resigning oneself to hitting at the net man removes some of this stiffness [hopefully].
 
#28
Now that I recall, the server hit a monster serve winner on the 1st point in the final game. Nothing I could do about that service winner.
That set the tone and on the next point I tried to block the FH return.
But since my arm was stiff, it resulted in a weak return that went nowhere.

I agree that I need to vary my returns by hitting lobs, down the line, etc.
But none of those can be achieved successfully if I have a stiff arm.
If you focus on trying to pick patterns of the server , unless they are v well cached you can normally gauge where the ball is going. What grip do you start out with? Like another poster said I generally have already determine where I want to return beforehand on either side.
Start maybe with trying to feel the ball on the strings and lengthen your stroke out (think increased hitting zone , or hitting through several balls) a stiff arm is hard to use the more you lengthen the swing. this does notmean on the takeback.
 
#29
If you focus on trying to pick patterns of the server , unless they are v well cached you can normally gauge where the ball is going. What grip do you start out with? Like another poster said I generally have already determine where I want to return beforehand on either side.
Start maybe with trying to feel the ball on the strings and lengthen your stroke out (think increased hitting zone , or hitting through several balls) a stiff arm is hard to use the more you lengthen the swing. this does notmean on the takeback.
I use SW FH and Conti/SW BH grip. I hit with 2HBH so I wait with both hands on the grip.

Last night I focused on split step, loose grip and stepping into the ball. Also I made sure not to abbreviate my forward swing too much. That improved my returns.
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
#30
My trick under pressure is to look to hit a particular spot on the tennis ball - for forehand I try to find 4 o'clock and try to brush the racket from 6 o'clock - it keeps the head down and eyes on the ball, and keeps the wrist stable.
 
#31
What is the cure or at least a tip to keep the forehand relaxed and free-flowing under pressure?
It appears the culprit is the tight grip/arm.
Perhaps it is not your arm or grip are being tight. May be it is your footwork , in particular backward - forward movement. If you freeze on a single spot, you dont have space to loosen your arm and get it under the ball.
Try intentionally stepping back a couple of steps after the shot, split and start moving forward towards the next incoming ball. When you restore the shuttle movement you should feel more relaxed.

By the way the video above is good, but this thing ( taking fingers off the grip briefly ) should be done after every shot, no matter what. If you don't you loose sense of the racquet angle.
 
#32
Perhaps it is not your arm or grip are being tight. May be it is your footwork , in particular backward - forward movement. If you freeze on a single spot, you dont have space to loosen your arm and get it under the ball.
Try intentionally stepping back a couple of steps after the shot, split and start moving forward towards the next incoming ball. When you restore the shuttle movement you should feel more relaxed.

By the way the video above is good, but this thing ( taking fingers off the grip briefly ) should be done after every shot, no matter what. If you don't you loose sense of the racquet angle.
It could be movement related as well.
When under intense pressure or fatigued, footwork seems to go.
 
#35
Fatigue -> Bad footwork -> bad strokes -> mental boom -> strokes get worse -> cycle of despair. Nadal's tip is if you feel a lack of confidence, find the shot you feel the most comfortable with and hit it as often as possible to gain some confidence back and spread that to the rest of your game. Harder to do in doubles for sure though. Whenever I flub a forehand it's usually footwork. Why the footwork is bad varies from being nervous (which usually goes away after a few games) or fatigue. Pretty sure you're at the level where the only thing that can cause your forehand from doing well to poorly is fatigue, injury, or a mental block. Maybe just spend a few more hours on the treadmill every week or something. Although it could be purely mental because you were struggling against a player you expected to beat easily in a situation where money is on the line. That causes a lot of mental pressure and can easily freeze you up a bit and cause you to play not to lose rather than to win. Identifying the mental pressure you're dealing with is the first step. After that, do your best to get rid of the pressure one way or the other. Easiest way is to say that you don't care about the result and that you simply care about doing the best you can. Win or lose, if you lose it just means they played better than you on that day (maybe they're playing way above their level on that day). Try to slow the pace down and buy yourself time to get back into the match mentally. Honestly, this is a LOT harder to do in no-ad doubles, simply because there won't be a lot of time to work yourself into the match.

At one point, you just gotta believe balls are going to start going in and doing what you want them to do. If Federer was scared against Has on break point, he never would've won the French Open title in 2009. Sometimes, you just have to believe in yourself and take the plunge. Just gotta weather the storm and focus on performing your best in the direction of winning rather than winning (or worse, not losing).

I guess it might just be good practice on changeovers to evaluate your physical and mental condition as well as your tactics to see what needs adjusting. If you're fatigued, you'll need to adjust to maintain a good margin for executing your strategy and tactics and so that you'll be mentally prepared to adapt for what can potentially come your way as a result.
 
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