Showing posts with label instruction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label instruction. Show all posts

Saturday, June 27, 2015


The serve is a unique shot in tennis because its the only "closed skill" shot we hit, meaning we control all the elements from start to finish. All other shots are "open skilled" which means we must react and adapt to what our opponent sends our way.

I believe a big part of serving well is the attitude you bring to serving. If you feel the serve is merely a way to start points then your serve will never be a true weapon. I believe that the serve is your premier weapon and the best opportunity to win points quickly and consistently. You should maintain an aggressive and confident mindset regarding the serve.

Having a more positive, aggressive mindset over time also creates "instinct" that helps you maintain control of your service games, maintain momentum with your service games and the ability to get yourself out of those tricky break point situations that come along sometimes. 

In order to create instinctive service shot selection when a player doesn't have it a coach can introduce key components of service shot selection and the required service mindset by giving the player "tasks" to perform during service games in a match.

These tasks should be introduced during real competition matches to be most effective but can be practiced before tournaments on the practice court also.

I like to give players five tasks, one for each service game. The player focuses on his/her task for one complete service game. The player completes each of the five tasks in rotation, returning to task #1 after they complete task #5.  I make sure that each service task, if done well, will almost certainly set-up a strong service game that should win that game.

Here are 5 examples of service game tasks:

  1. Attempt 2 service aces in this game
  2. Win the 1st and 3rd points of this game
  3. Win 75% of your service points in this game
  4. Win the 1st and 2nd points of this game
  5. Don't commit two consecutive errors in this game

The coach should monitor the players performance during the match and do a post match review of the tasks. Soon the player will begin to think instinctively, adopting the aggressive, confident and smarter persona you were looking to develop.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013



There are thousands of players, both men and women, who are trying to make their way in the world of professional tennis. I thought it would be interesting to clarify the steps, in my opinion,  that a player must take to get all the way to the top. 

  1. No National Ranking & No ATP points
Can’t always get into the qualifying draw for local futures and must rely on wild cards

  1. National Ranking but no ATP Points
Possible to enter qualifying of Futures events because of his National ranking but not always accepted

  1. Enough ATP points to enter Futures qualifying
Must compete in the qualifying events where physical & mental fatigue can be a major obstacle in progressing deeper in the tournament

  1. Qualifies into the main draw consistently
But has trouble progressing much further because of the physical and mental demands of qualifying

  1. Enough Points to enter Main Draw Futures
Can win through rounds of main draw consistently

  1. Ability to Win Futures titles consistently
This allows the player to achieve a sufficiently high ranking (approx. 300) to get into the main draw of Challengers.

  1. Plays both Futures and Challenger qualifying
In order to maintain their ranking because success in Challengers is limited

  1. Able to enter Challengers
Must be able to consistently get through to quarters in Challengers to defend futures points from previous events over 12 month period

  1. Ability to win Challenger titles consistently & play ATP qualifying
Sights firmly on the main ATP Tour but needs to maintain ranking so continues with Challengers

  1. Able to enter into major ATP Events
Can achieve a sufficiently high ranking from success in Challengers to get into main draw of ATP events (approx. top 100)

  1. Seeded in Grand Slam events
Has a ranking inside top 32 ATP and avoids top seeded players Initially

  1.  Wins ATP events

Monday, April 23, 2012


Many years ago I was watching a match in Japan between Andres Gomez and Aaron Krickstein. I was sitting close to the court and realized that I was watching something very different from anything I had ever seen before.  I was watching a table tennis rally!  Both Gomez and Krickstein were trying to produce a rally that was dominated by the flight of the ball rather than where the ball was bouncing. They were controlling the ball inside a tight “funnel” of arc through the use of topspin.

Today that might seem normal but back then it was the beginning of a new era in tennis.

Long before this, Bjorn Borg had changed our perception of topspin in tennis.  Borg hit the ball with much more arc than any other player at that time and years later while watching  that match in Japan I was witnessing the beginning of a post Borg era. The younger players coming through such as Krickstein and Jimmy Arias were hitting tremendous topspin on the ball and in the process were increasing the speed of the rally.

These evolutionary steps from Borg to Krickstein are important and they are exactly the steps I use today to teach players the value of topspin and how they can use topspin to increase the speed of their groundstrokes, and yet still retain control of the arc. 

These steps are:

1.     Learning the importance of Arc
Borg introduced us to the importance of the arc.  He was able to stand deep in the court and rally all day without error because the ball was crossing the net higher than anyone else and dipping well inside the lines.

The Drill:
Have your players rally across 3 courts at diagonally opposite sides.  Rally from court 1 all the way over to court 3, using court 2 as the “net”. Encourage the players to hit heavy topspin looping shots.  Before long the big muscles will begin to hit the ball and the player will begin to lift off the ground to hit the high bouncing ball. 

If there is an umpire-stand in the middle of this drill even better!

I have also used flat tennis balls that don’t bounce much and sometimes have used balls out of a bucket of water. This takes the life out of the ball and creates a very physical workout for the players involved.

2.     Creating a physical presence with big Forehands
The next generation after Borg realized that if they were able to comfortably control the arc of the ball through heavy topspin, they could also increase the speed of the ball without the fear of it flying out.  This generation began to develop huge forehands and physically muscle the ball, and their opponents, around the court.  Andre Agassi and Jim Courier were another two successful players to come out of this era.

The Drill
After the 3 court topspin drill I have just described, bring your players back to one court.  Place a “short” target in the middle of the service boxes and stand the players back to the fence.  Now have them rally from deep at the back fence, attempting to hit the cone target placed at the service boxes.

Make sure the players maintain the arc from the previous drill and again allow the whole body to lift off during contact.

3.     Taking the ball early to increase the pressure
The next stage of this topspin evolution came when players began to move closer to the baseline.  Agassi was famous for his ability to stand on the baseline and take time away from his opponents.  Another player who changed his position on the baseline was Thomas Muster.  Muster was known as a player who could chase balls all day but wasn’t able to attack the point because he stood too far back from the baseline.  When Muster began to stand closer to the baseline during the rally exchange his opponents immediately felt more pressure and Musters ranking soared. Players like Muster, Agassi and Courier all had Borg’s arc, forehands from the Krickstein and Arias era, but began to stand closer to the baseline. Muster, Agassi and Courier all became #1 ranked in the world.

The Drill
Instruct the players to stand with their heels inside the baseline to rally.  Encourage them to increase the speed of the ball while still maintaining the topspin arc. Have them resist the temptation to step back on deep balls.

These were the 3 evolutionary steps that changed our game and how it was played.  By copying these 3 steps in drills you will give players a better understanding of topspin.