Thursday, August 9, 2012

ADDING THAT "X FACTOR" TO YOUR GROUNDSTROKE GAME


I recently worked with a group of strong ITF level juniors. Each player had a solid game and the task for me was to take these accomplished juniors to the next level.

Because ground-strokes are such an important part of a player’s competitive success, I focused on adding to their existing ground-stroke games.  Many players at this level have very good ground-strokes but lack that X-factor separating good juniors from juniors that transition successfully into the professional ranks.

During the week of training I brought 3 different theories together and tried to create a much stronger, more effective game which would also continue to develop far into the future.

The 3 Theories I worked on were:

1.  The 7 Target Zones: ADDING ACCURACY

There are 7 target zones on the court. They are…

(1)                Deep Baseline Corner (right side)
(2)                Deep Baseline Corner (left side)
(3)                Side “T” (right side)
(4)                Side “T” (left side)
(5)                Drop Shot Corner (right side)
(6)                Drop Shot Corner (left side)
(7)                Centre Baseline (middle rectangular area)

The best players don’t just hit the ball to “get it in”.  Accomplished player’s use targets to assist in attacking and defending the point.  At tournament level, playing with a “one shot” mindset will not work against an experienced opponent.

Tennis is a form of chess, the 7 target zones on the court taking the place of the squares on the chessboard and the ball replacing the chess pieces.  Like chess, you must coordinate a series on-court target zones to out maneuver your opponent and gain an advantage.  

Drills to establish a “7 Target Zone” mindset:

Throwing Drill:
To create a “target zone” mindset I first show players  the 7 zones on a court and then have them rally together by hand, throwing the ball to the 7 target areas (1,2,3,4,5,6 or 7) instead of using their racquets.

Hitting Slow
I then repeat the same drill but this time have the players use their racquets to find the 7 target zones.  This step should be done slowly, with the emphasis on accuracy, not speed and finishing the point

“No Winner” Game
The no winner game is played with the goal of working the “opponent” around the court by use of the 7 target zones.  Don’t try to finish the rally but to instead concentrate on applying pressure on your opponents court coverage and your response to pressure from your opponent.

2.  The Directionals: PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES

“The Directionals” were developed by Paul Wardlaw and involve high percentage shot selection. There are 3 types of ball to consider:
§  Outside Ball
This is a crosscourt ball which comes from one side of the body (ie: the left side), and travels through to the outer side (right side).

We refer to the line of the shoulders, if a ball traveling crosscourt passes one shoulder and makes its way past the outside shoulder its an “Outside Ball”. An Outside Ball is considered the best way to create offense and the best way to defend when under pressure at the baseline.

§  Inside Ball
If the ball doesn’t make it all the way to the outer shoulder it’s an “Inside Ball”.  Inside Balls are considered the best balls to change direction on and to create the most effective offense.

§  90 Degree Ball
This is the ball hit down the line.  The rule when hitting down the line is that the ball must cross the far baseline at 90 degrees. Therefore the down the line ball is used mostly as a means to out maneuver the opponent

When you are playing at the baseline the high percentage option is to dominate the crosscourt exchanges.  When at net the high percentage option is to volley mostly down the line.

We worked on the correct options throughout the week and tried to eliminate low percentage options from their games.

Drills to develop “Directionals”:

Cross-court and Change
Two players start a crosscourt rally and try to dominate the exchange by hitting heavier or deeper.  If one of the players has an opportunity on a short ball they can change down the line at 90 degrees and finish the “point”.

This drills helps the player to recognize the correct type of ball to change down the line and also confidence in creating inside balls.

No Winner Game
I have described the No Winner game already. When used to develop the Directionals the player will have lots of opportunities to develop a strong outside ball, become mentally stronger in long rallies and learn to respond correctly under a variety of situations.

Basket Feed & “Outside” targets
Place two cone targets on the court, each target representing the outside shoulder.  Feed 6 balls side to side (FH & BH) and have the player practice hitting a crosscourt outside ball beyond the “cone shoulder”.

3.  The DNO Theory: DEFENSE, NEUTRAL & OFFENSE TEMPLATE


Drills to develop the DNO Theory:

Cross-court & change DTL
Similar to the previous drill, both players start by hitting crosscourt. On the correct ball one of the players can change the direction down the line and the two players play the point out until the point has been won.

By combining these three theories all the players received training on targeting, playing the percentages and correct shot selection.