Stroke improvement earned at wall not translating.

jayhawker

New User
Hi all. Been reading these forums for a while, and now feeling like a post or two would be useful. I'm a 3.5 player, trying to get to solid 4.0. I play quite often, but have trouble finding players to hit with sometimes. The situation is getting better, though, as I've joined a club and have met some people. Also, my wife is a really good player, and we hit together often. I do practice often, and practice constructively.

One thing I've noticed is that when I use a practice wall to work on my strokes, I'll often have a "breakthrough." I'll take something I've observed from watching player video, and try to incorporate it into my stroke. I'll go hit against the wall, and I'll succeed in picking it up. I'll work at the wall and groove the thing for an hour.

The next day, I'll head out to hit with my wife, or to groove the stroke further against the ball machine. But, I can't replicate what I learned at the wall. The speed, spin, ball-strike...the feel...none of it is there. My stroke will be back to square one. This has happened several different times. Then I'll go BACK to the wall, and I can do it again. Then I go again to play with a person/machine, and I still can' do it. Very discouraging.

Is this a timing issue? If so, I find that strange, since when playing with a person/machine, I'm able to see the ball's flight path across the entire court, as opposed to the short distance from a wall. Then again, with a wall, I am sort of "determining" where the ball will go, and reacting immediately to my own hits.

Footwork issue? Hand/eye issue?

Thanks for any insight!
 

dozu

Banned
wall does have limitations... it's a great tool to groove strokes, but the incoming ball will look different from the on-court balls.

you have to be creative in mimic'ing on-court situations:

- hit cross courts against way to train side to side moves
- hit higher to mimic heavy tops

etc.

you also don't really have a target to hit into, except maybe a painted line that represents the net.

nothing can replace on-court hours, against people who are at the same or better level.
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
I hit against the wall a lot to groove strokes and technique. Like dozu said there is a limit. Wall timing is different than playing with a person. The time between hits is about half of a real court because the ball is going half as far. You have to be careful of your footwork, especially if you're really nailing the ball. OTOH the ball comes off the wall more slowly and with less spin effect than when you play with a person, so it's a bit easier to hit in that respect.

If you've grooved a stroke against the wall then it's there. But you have to get out on court with a person translate that wall improvement to the court. It will come. Just start slow and don't expect it to just be there exactly like it was when you were at the wall.

Also make sure you're using a good wall. Solid concrete, preferably with a net line painted on it, and good surface in front of the wall. Also use balls with good pressure. The amount of fuzz doesn't matter so much since spin effects are minimized because of the short flight distance between your racquet and the wall.
 

SStrikerR

Hall of Fame
People aren't going to hit the ball at you the same way a ball bounces off a wall. Spin/pace, etc could be throwing your swing off.
 

ATP100

Professional
As with a ball machine, a wall usually creates bad habits.

Bad stroke production.
Bad foot work.

You decide.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
Hi all. Been reading these forums for a while, and now feeling like a post or two would be useful. I'm a 3.5 player, trying to get to solid 4.0. I play quite often, but have trouble finding players to hit with sometimes. The situation is getting better, though, as I've joined a club and have met some people. Also, my wife is a really good player, and we hit together often. I do practice often, and practice constructively.

One thing I've noticed is that when I use a practice wall to work on my strokes, I'll often have a "breakthrough." I'll take something I've observed from watching player video, and try to incorporate it into my stroke. I'll go hit against the wall, and I'll succeed in picking it up. I'll work at the wall and groove the thing for an hour.

The next day, I'll head out to hit with my wife, or to groove the stroke further against the ball machine. But, I can't replicate what I learned at the wall. The speed, spin, ball-strike...the feel...none of it is there. My stroke will be back to square one. This has happened several different times. Then I'll go BACK to the wall, and I can do it again. Then I go again to play with a person/machine, and I still can' do it. Very discouraging.

Is this a timing issue? If so, I find that strange, since when playing with a person/machine, I'm able to see the ball's flight path across the entire court, as opposed to the short distance from a wall. Then again, with a wall, I am sort of "determining" where the ball will go, and reacting immediately to my own hits.

Footwork issue? Hand/eye issue?

Thanks for any insight!
Speaking for myself, in some ways I find wall practice to be more beneficial than court practice. I'm better able to work out technique changes. I get many, many more repetitions in a shorter period of time. The demands on shot preparation and footwork is much greater. I put 1 or more pieces of painters tape on the wall for targets. The only things I can't do as well on a wall are cross-court drills and knowing how deep my shots would go on a court. But, I have enough experience to have a good idea of what depth of my wall shots would have on the court.

Virtually every great player in the World spent thousands of hours hitting against a wall growing up. My suggestion is to give it more time and keep at it.

Having said that, one important aspect of wall practice, in order to get the full benefit of wall practice, it's important that the wall have a backcourt deep enough to take full swings at the ball and not have the ball fly back all the way to you or behind you before it bounces.
 
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I think heres some psychological element to it also. I changed my forehand grip some years ago and it works fine, do not have to think about it. But I have have been struggling to "nail" my new backhand grip, was sort of searching for it on court. So I practiced the grip change at home in sort of shadowtennis untill it really felt there. But as soon as I hit the court it was gone. Its as if the different sorroundings, being on court with another player, etc induces a slight stress or something (and you go back to your old ways). Now its getting there though...
 

rfprse

Professional
With a wall, you cannot see the actual result of your strokes: trajectory, spin, speed, whether they are actually in or out, etc. In a sense, it is possible that the shots that you thought you were making were not there even during the wall practice.

IMHO, wall practice is not ideal for the improvement of one's strokes (over 3.5 level). It could still help one's footwork or spacing. But you have to see what those shots actually do to improve your strokes. So, if you have a choice, you'd better use a ball machine, or better hit with a partner or take a lesson, to improve your strokes.
 

Bud

Bionic Poster
The wall is good when beginning to develop muscle memory on strokes. Stand in close and practice going low to high, etc. Also, exaggerate your footwork. I use it to warm up and cool down.

The only way you'll get better playing real tennis however is to get out on court and play matches.
 

jmjmkim

Semi-Pro
Hitting against the wall just scratches the itch for playing tennis, when you don't have a partner. I can't say that i benefit from hitting against the wall. Also, hitting against a ball machine is good for learning the basic skills.

Once you start playing a match, everything you think you learned from the wall or ball machine goes down the drain. Every ball coming at you is different, unless you are playing against a better player who is intensionally giving you a practice set. these are the best for a developing player.
I think playing sets is the best way to improve, once you have developed a good foundation of forehand, backhand, volley, serve.
Learning footwork takes practice. When you hit against ball machine or wall, you use minimum footwork. Once the game starts, you don't have good footwork so the strokes get awkward because of bad timing. Good footwork comes from practice and experience. Longtime players can just anticipate and feel where they need to be, even if the ball is hit by a guy with a 120" racket with tons of "junk" spin.
 

jayhawker

New User
Wall IQ = 0
Thanks for stopping by.


I appreciate everyone else's input. I think that people get different things out of different training scenarios. Some people benefit from walls and machines, some people don't. I actually have used the wall and machine to perfect certain strokes that have allowed me to help my game considerably (because of the amount of reps).

But I'm not really using this post to bash on wall usage or to support it. I'm just a little stunned at how different hitting on a wall is to hitting with a machine or person. I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised.

In the coming week, I'm going to try and get some video of me hitting against the wall, then hitting against a machine. We'll all have a good laugh.
 

mightyrick

Legend
I work on a wall frequently just to practice strokes. But you have to be sure not to let it affect your timing. Doing wall work ordinarily requires a much quicker footwork setup, unit turn, and takeback.

You have to make sure that you don't translate the setup/unit turn/takeback timing to the court. Otherwise, you will rush your shots. You'll make contact way too early... probably either shanking the ball or launching it.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
Thanks for stopping by.


I appreciate everyone else's input. I think that people get different things out of different training scenarios. Some people benefit from walls and machines, some people don't. I actually have used the wall and machine to perfect certain strokes that have allowed me to help my game considerably (because of the amount of reps).

But I'm not really using this post to bash on wall usage or to support it. I'm just a little stunned at how different hitting on a wall is to hitting with a machine or person. I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised.

In the coming week, I'm going to try and get some video of me hitting against the wall, then hitting against a machine. We'll all have a good laugh.
Does the wall you hit against have a deep enough backcourt for you to take full swings at the ball and not have the ball land behind you?
 

papa

Hall of Fame
Also depends on the "quality" of the wall your hitting against. Some walls are absolutely terrible while others are very good.
 

Zachol82

Professional
Walls are good for getting your strokes down, yes. Walls are also good for improving your reaction time as well as your footwork and even stamina.

However, since a wall will only reflect the ball, it can't truly put topspin or slice or any other types of spin on the ball. To put it simply, the type of shots that the wall will "hit" toward you will rarely ever happen in a real match experience.

Also, because YOU are the one hitting the ball, you can already anticipate the direction of the ball. However, if you're hitting against another person, you must also read their body language, anticipate and then make a decision. There is a thought process involved and therefore a delay time in your reaction. With that being said, if you smack a ball as hard as you can against a wall and have it come back straight at you, I guess this can help you speed up your decision making process by having to chose to move to your FH or BH side.

You can effectively use the wall to control the height of your shots. Just stick colored tape on it and try to get the ball to hit either at the tape or at the height of the tape.

Rule of thumb:
If you want to get better at something, just go do that something. Such as if you want to have more match experience, then PLAY matches instead of just rallying around. Of course, I do realize that sometimes you just don't have the opportunity to get to a court or have someone to hit with, but just saying.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I'd say, any improvement will have to suffice for the competition it's improved on....
You figure that out.
You can wipe a 3.5 off the court double bagels, serve like Roddick, and groundie like Nadal. Then you face a 5.0, and your serve is your kid sister's fooling around, and your groundies look like your grandmas.
 

jmjmkim

Semi-Pro
Here is me hitting against the wall, after I read this thread again. I suddenly got the urge to hit some balls against the wall, so I took my daughter and the dog to the park and had her take this video.

My daughter is much better than what you see for a few seconds in this video. It just goes to show that hitting against the wall is very tricky because you do not have much time to set up like a normal stroke. My daughter is not strong enough to whip the racket around in time to hit another shot.

You gotta shorten your strokes by at least 30%, which takes away your follow through because if you practice your full follow through, you can not hit the next ball.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUkFSd-kj0c

Some people recommend to bounce the ball twice between each hit, which means standing farther out. But by then you lose all the pace of the ball, and it just ends up, you smacking a sitting ball. Not much challenge in that. Also, you end up hitting balls that are like 6 inches off the ground.
 
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GuyClinch

Legend
I like using those dunlop speedballs on a wall. They bounce very high and fly slow so you have as much time as you do against a normal partner.

You have time to split step - and really set up..You can really load up your outside foot and swing out.

Whereas with a regular ball if you hit with good pace the ball comes back so quick that you will likely end up slapping at it and anticipating its direction rather then split stepping.

In addition you can go and quickly pound out rallies with a hundred plus balls - even if you are a mediocre player.

Of course this isn't a problem for a 5.0+ player - as they are so quick they can swing out against a wall and still display proper footwork. They can hit for 15 minutes straight without any problem. But for lower level players I think a foam ball is best.

The bonus I think is that you can get some practice in a squash court sized space - or inside - or against your garage.
 
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