Sunday, February 24, 2019

THE ROLE OF THE WRIST ON THE SERVE



The wrist plays a really important role in the serve. It not only allows you to generate more power but also gives you greater feel for your targets.

In order to perform these jobs the wrist needs to be supple and relaxed.

The most common issues associated with players with serving problems stems from them having wrist that fail to function well, usually because the wrist is locked.

It's really important to have a loose wrist when you serve. Apart from a loose wrist allowing you to generate more power and give you more feel, a loose wrist will also take the pressure off your shoulder joint and therefore prevent injuries in the long term. 

Here are some key check points to help keep your wrist loose on the serve:

1.  Ensure the take back is relaxed
If the take back is relaxed it's almost certain you will hit the serve with a loose wrist. If you are stiff or tight on the take back it's difficult to change to loose during the swing.

Look to see how loose the take back is in the video. Divij Sharan doesn't "carry" the racquet back as if it's a heavy object. He allows the weight of the racquet to "break" the wrist and to relax his arm... there's no tension here at all.



2.  Hit the serve with your wrist, not your arm
The mindset to adopt is one of hitting the ball with your wrist, not your arm. The wrist is the dominant focus when you serve.

A serve with a dominant arm will always be still and lack the power and feel you need.

3.  Release the wrist on the finish of the serve 
As a check point to ensure that your serve is relaxed throughout the serve try to finish with a soft wrist. 

Avoid squeezing the finish and tightening. Often a habit of tightening the finish or the serve creeps into the whole service motion without you realizing it.



PLEASE COMMENT OR ASK QUESTIONS ON ANY OF THE INFORMATION HERE! 


Friday, February 22, 2019

4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "Control of Heights"




80% of all the mistakes you will make in tennis will be either in the net, or out over the baseline (the other 20% of the mistakes will come from hitting too far right and too far left).

We can address these two most common mistakes directly, because contact is responsible for both of them.

If you hit the ball too short, your racquet face was too closed on contact with the ball.

If you hit the ball too high and out over the baseline your racquet face was too open at the moment of contact.

Many people confuse the jobs of spin and contact.
When trying to master feel for net clearance don't ask spin to give you feel for height accuracy, that's the job of contact, not spin!

For height accuracy you need to put your awareness in the position of your racquet face and particularly the awareness of whether the racquet face is open or closed. This should be the sole method of achieving net clearance accuracy.

The job of spin is to create the required arc to help keep the ball inside the lines. 

Understanding the two different and distinct functions of contact and spin is a very important component in mastering  control of your groundstrokes.
It is therefore really important to gain enhanced "feel" for your racquet head. 

There are two approaches a player can take to increase feel for their racquet head. Firstly you can hope that your racquet head feel develops from hitting thousands of balls over years of practice. 

However what I have found with this "improvisation" method of gaining feel is it breaks down under pressure.

The other method, and the one I teach my students, is the use of the opposite hand, or non racquet hand to set the racquet angles (closed or open).

When adopting the "Opposite Hand" control the racquet 
with the finger tips... this will give you greater feel for the 
racquet face and ultimately greater feel for your heights

There are several benefits to using the opposite hand, but the one we will focus on here is using it to set the racquet face angles in terms of degrees of closed and open depending on the height you want the ball to cross the net.

Fingers on the throat of the racquet, ready to set the 
racquet head at the desired "Open" or "Closed"
positioned...

Instead of improvising  with your racquet hand (it already has enough work to do!), you will begin setting the racquet face with the opposite hand during the backswing.

For each shot you are deciding what height you want the ball the clear the net. The higher the net clearance, the deeper the ball will land at the other side. The lower the ball crosses the net the shorter the ball will bounce on the other side.

In Summary

1.  Separate the roles of Contact and Spin. They each have distinctly different roles to play. 


2.  Contacts' role is to given you net clearance 


3.  To gain greater awareness of your net clearance (heights), use the opposite hand on the throat of the racquet to set your angles in degrees of Open and Closed


By introducing this second step of 4 Steps in Understanding & Mastering Contact you will increase your  awareness of heights and gain mastery over the reason for 80% of mistakes on groundstrokes.


Please send your comments here to join a discussion on Contact.


4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "The Three Parts of a Swing"




THERE ARE 3 PARTS OF A SWING and each part has its own unique function.

The 3 parts are (1) The Backswing (2) The Contact and (3) The Follow Through. Here is a break down on each of these 3 parts of the swing.

THE BACKSWING: The purpose of your backswing is to supply power to your stroke. The bigger the backswing the more power you can generate.

A return of serve for example doesn't require much backswing generally because the power you need is mostly coming from the serve you are trying to return.

Strokes where you commonly  want to generate more power than normal, are mid-court forehand and shoulder height groundstrokes. It's common to see players taken big backswings on these two options because they want to generate extra power.

THE FOLLOW THROUGH: The Follow Through is the release of energy from the stroke you just completed.

The size of your follow through should be directly related to the amount of backswing you created to hit the ball - no more, no less... they are related to each other, backswing creates power and follow through releases that power.

Follow through also has another very important function to perform. It creates spin.

The higher your hand finishes after contact, the more topspin you can achieve.

If your hand finishes low after contact (chin height), there will be less spin on the ball. If your hand finishes above your head after contact, there will be a lot of topspin.

This demonstration of a running forehand shows the 3 parts of a swing working together to achieve a desired shot...


(1) Because the ball is fast and deep the depth of the backswing is less because his opponent has created all the energy required for the shot. 


(2) The player has positioned the racquet face at the correct angle to send the ball over the net at the desired net clearance. 


(3) The finish is extreme because all that remains for the player to do is create arc and "tail" at the other side of the net to keep the ball inside the baseline.

THE CONTACT: Of the 3 parts of a swing, Contact has perhaps the most important role to play. Contacts' job is to get the ball over the net and in the direction you want.

The racquet face position at the moment of contact will determine where the ball goes. The ball goes solely where the racquet face tells it to go.

In Summary:

1.  The 3 parts of the swing described here all have different functions. Very often players' try to vary these roles. The most common instance of this is when players try to spin the contact in the belief this will give them elevation over the net.  Net clearance is the job of Contact, not spin.

2.  Every stroke is different. Players need to learn when to adjust the amount of backswing, Follow Through or Contact depending on their needs in the point..

This is the third part of 4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT.  By understanding the clearly defined roles of Back Swing, Follow Through and Contact you will gain greater mastery over your groundstrokes in terms of feel, versatility and adaptability.



Please feel free to comment below to begin a discussion on this post.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

4 STEPS TO UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "The Swing Myth"





The biggest myth in tennis and the biggest impediment to a player’s progress in mastering Contact is the belief that perfect swing form equals perfect strokes.

I call it the "Golf Mentality". It is the belief that if you imitate "perfect" form you will produce the perfect result with your swing. It's simply not true.

Players and coaches everywhere are practicing form as would a golfer at a driving range.

Why does the "Golf approach" not work?  Because of two important differences between golf and tennis...

a. Tennis is unpredictable, the ball is changing and we have very little time to prepare.

b. With golf the ball is stationary. We have time to prepare. It's predictable.


Part of the preparation in golf before hitting the ball is deciding which golf club to use. We use a driver for long distance and a wedge for height and for shorter distances.

Golfers adapt mainly with the club selection, but in tennis we only have one "tool" in the toolbox and we continue to use the same racquet throughout the match.

In the three previous articles on "4 STEPS TO UNDERSTAND & MASTER CONTACT" I have clarified the immense role Contact plays in our game. I have explained the roles of the back swing and the follow through to help de-contaminate your contact and therefore allow it to perform its most vital role - getting the ball to its target.

In this last article I am encouraging you to make contact your #1 priority. Adapt your back swings and your follow throughs, speeds, spins, and arc for every ball but always maintain a deadly accuracy with your racquet face and therefore your contact

This is the final article of 4 STEPS TO UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT. I look forward to your feed back as you take this information to the practice court and ultimately the match court.    



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "Late & Early"





Lesson 1: LATE & EARLY CONTACT...

When you hit a ball with late or early contact, that can be a positive thing or a negative thing, you either did it on purpose or by mistake, 

Let's look at late and early contact in the positive sense first...


To master the tennis rally you need to be able to direct the ball both down the line and cross court at will. This is where the ability to hit late and early on purpose is crucial.


If you contact the ball early within the contact zone the ball will go cross court.  





If you contact the ball late within the contact zone the ball will travel down the line or inside out ( depending on how late you hit the ball)



This is the positive aspect of late and early contact.

However, most players think of late and early contact in the negative sense. This is when they struggle with timing the ball in the right spot within their contact zone.

Here are some reasons you may be hitting the ball late unintentionally:


  1. Your arms dominate your swing
All swings should start in the ground, it supplies the timing and power for your stroke. If you are not injecting "Ground" into your stroke as you start the swing then you are asking your arms to generate timing and power, neither of which the arms are able to do as well as the legs when interacting with ground.

  1. You don't begin your swing from the ground first
Sometimes you might be under pressure to set up "Ground" because the ball is either too deep or too fast for you ( or too deep AND too fast at the same time) to prepare.

This will lead to timing problems and invariably late contact.
  1. Your swing is manufactured and not practical
Another common reason for late or early contact mistakes is a players' fixation with producing "copy book" form.

Most early stages of tennis coaching involves showing the new student where to take their backswing and where to finish their follow through

The problem with this type of coaching is that it does not take into account the ball!

These players then continue trying to produce the "perfect" backswing and follow through on all balls, rather than "reading" each ball and adapting to the situation. 

In summary, 

1. Train yourself to be able to change the direction of the ball by adjusting the contact point.

2. Also, be adaptable to each and every ball by adjusting your backswing and follow through according to the properties of the ball you are hitting.

By working this first of 4 Steps in Mastering & Understanding Contact you will gain greater control and feel for this important fundamental.