Tuesday, March 13, 2012

THE MOST IMPORTANT LINE IN TENNIS: THE HEAD TO FOOT RELATIONSHIP


The most important line in tennis is the imaginary line from your head to your contact foot.  This line creates the smooth effortless power, timing and consistency that the pros possess and we all envy.

Let’s look at the Head & the Contact Foot separately…

Your Head is a centre point for balance.  If the head is inside your two feet, you are balanced. If your head is outside either the left or right foot you are off balance.  Therefore controlling the head position is important, especially in a dynamic sport like tennis where we are faced with a series of complex movements in quick succession. 
At the moment of contact the head is positioned between two feet
Disciplining the head leads to consistency of timing

 The Contact Foot is the foot you use to interact with the ground and create inertia.  Nature doesn’t care which foot you use, it can be the “back” foot or the “front” foot, nature just wants that link to be established so that the bio-mechanics can take place through the body and into the racquet.
The back foot being used effectively on this deep ball

Therefore…

Head = Balance
Contact Foot = Timing and Power

If the Head is trained to be positioned directly above the Contact Foot at the moment of contact, you will experience perfect timing and easy power. 
The Serve also benefits from better bio-mechanics

Most players today are far too dependent on creating power from the arms and this leads to control issues.  While the arms are important, don’t ask them to time the ball, nor to provide the power for the shot.  Those jobs should be performed by the “Line”, which is the relationship between the Head and the Contact Foot.

For more on the "Line" go to the following link on youtube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YJeMh0F7VU&feature=plcp







Sunday, March 11, 2012

SIR ISAAC NEWTON TEACHES YOU MODERN TENNIS FUNDAMENTALS



In talking about a scientist who was born in 1643 I run the risk of losing my audience very early in this article. However Sir Isaac Newton’s theories are important and help clarify for us the essential laws governing tennis.  The most important of Newton’s theories related to tennis is his 3 Laws of Motion.

Here are Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion, explained in a way that both coaches and players can immediately incorporate into practice sessions…

1. The Law of Inertia
An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

This highlights the fact that in tennis, the ball (object) doesn’t have to be stroked in order to achieve your goals.  Strokes such as the return of serve and the volley can be directed to the target with minimal swing and by merely using the already existing inherent energy present in the ball. The ability to use the energy supplied by your opponent is crucial to a player relating to the ball and adapting to speeds and depth issues.
On the return of serve we use the existing energy present in the ball


2. Acceleration is Produced when a Force Acts on a Mass
Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object)

If the goal is to create more speed to the ball, the racquet must gather more speed.  In tennis terms we can create more racquet speed by creating a bigger backswing and allow momentum from the backswing to increase velocity before contact. This can occur when a player has time to take a full backswing but if time is limited, Newton’s first law comes into effect.
The size of the backswing has a direct relationship with the amount of velocity we can generate


3. For Every Action there is an Equal and Opposite Reaction
For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action

This is perhaps the most important and most misunderstood law when applied to tennis.  Simply put, every stroke you play in tennis must be generated by an equal reaction somewhere else.  That “other reaction” is created in the ground through a players’ interaction between their feet and the court.  Once started, this reaction transfers through the body through a kinetic chain, until it transfers into the racquet swing and finally the ball.  Get that ground reaction correct and the timing and power all players seek will be achieved.
Everything starts with the interaction between ground and our feet


Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion supply you with numerous practice topics and takes you back to the essential elements that contribute to optimum ball control, timing, generating power.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

THE DEVELOPMENT "MISSION STATEMENT"


Many coaches are involved in the daily task of developing junior tennis players with the goal of them reaching the top of our game.  A very important question for those involved in junior development is “When we develop junior players for the future, what in essence are we trying to develop”? What is the goal? A simple question with profound implications to the way we approach each on-court session.

For years my goal or mission statement when training junior players was to create a player with “Perfect Defense on Wood, and Perfect Offense on Clay”.  Think about that, defense on the fastest surface and offense on the slowest surface.

Probably the fastest surface you can play on is a wooden floor indoors. Think of the problems you are faced with on fast wood. 

· Returning serve: requires exceptionally fast reflexes and compact strokes

· Teaches a player the skills of staying relaxed enough in the hands to adapt quickly, but firm enough on contact to stabilize the racquet

·  Fast & low bouncing ball: requires fast footwork and a good feel for your contact point

·  Shorter points: Must strike early in the rally.  Requires a different and more urgent mindset

· Playing a net-rusher: Requires a good understanding of the position of your feet.  Standing deep off the baseline gives the net-rusher too much time to read the passing shot.  Requires you to stand up close to the baseline and take the ball earlier, giving the net-rusher less time and to force them to volley from a deeper court position

·   Develop the defensive aspects of your game

All these elements need to be part of a players training as they develop. But this is only half of the equation…

The slowest surface we play on is red clay.  All the problems faced in the example above are neutralized by the slower and higher bouncing red clay. The biggest issue now is how to create some meaningful offense!

·  Hitting winners: the point needs to be set-up with the goal of pulling your opponent out of position.  With the court opened you can expect to hit more winners

·  Points are longer: Must be patient.  Requires a different mentality and an understanding of structuring the point

·   Predominantly a baseline battle

These are just a few of the aspects that distinguish wood from clay.  By developing junior players in a way that allows them to adapt their games to the different surfaces, we ultimately produce a well rounded player who can deal with all situations.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

GETTING ANA IVANOVIC BACK TO #1


When Ana Ivanovic loses matches you can almost hear a collective groan from tennis fans around the world.  Many people want to see her get back to the form that won her a Grand Slam title (French Open) and the #1 ranking in the world. She is simply one of the nicest players competing on the WTA Tour.

Getting back to her past form will not happen unless Ana works on several key areas of her game.  Here is a breakdown of those areas:
                                         
1.      The Serve:
Ana’s problem with the serve is well known.  Many coaches have tried to find the solution by working on her toss, which tends to become wayward at the worst times. Isolating the toss will not solve the problem.  Here is the solution...

a.      Work on the coordination of the left (toss) and right (racquet) arms together.  Do this by having Ana close her eyes and serve.  Initially she will miss-hit or miss the ball completely, but in time she will begin to coordinate the left and right arm and achieve a greater degree of teamwork between the two.

2.      Wide Forehands:
Ana is renowned for her big forehand but when she has to move wide it often breaks down. Here is the solution…

a.      Everything in tennis starts in the ground and Ana has poor “ground” on wide forehands.  Her problem starts in the right leg.  Ana must learn to use her right leg to step open-stance and prepare a platform for the forehand.  This platform will create the timing, power and balance needed to play wide forehands effectively.

3.      Play with a Strategy
Ana is a player who thinks that if she plays her game well enough, it will beat anyone in the world.  This way of thinking hurts her because with so many good players around, to consistently win matches you must develop a strategy for each player.  Playing everyone the same way will never work.  Strategies could include slowing the ball down or speeding it up. With some players she might need to keep the ball up higher or down low.  Ultimately she must look for ways to prevent her opponent playing at her best!

These are not major things to work on but together they would make a big difference to Ana’s results and her ranking.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

THE TENNIS EQUIVALENT TO THE BOXING JAB


Many years ago I was watching a boxing bout on TV. During the fight the commentator  made the statement “In boxing the jab is everything, from the jab comes everything”.

It seems that in boxing the jab does many things and the fighter who can dominate with the jab has an enormous advantage.  The jab establishes distance, allowing one fighter to control the space between himself and his opponent.  The boxing jab is also used as a first step from which other punches follow.  A jab can be followed by a hook, an upper-cut or another jab. What the commentator also said that day was that the fighter who dominates with the jab will control the fight.

I began to wonder what the tennis equivalent was to the boxing jab.  I believe the crosscourt is the tennis “Jab”.  The crosscourt is used as a way to set up the point.  Whenever the crosscourt is strong enough it will create the first step to attack.  A wide crosscourt can force a short half court return from the opponent which can be attacked.  A player dominating with the crosscourt on either side will often force their opponent to change down the line, which is a low percentage option. The crosscourt is also used as the best form of defense, often neutralizing the point almost immediately.

One of the main problems both Nadal and Federer have with the Djokovic game is the strength of his crosscourt forehand and backhand.  Until they can both find an answer to the Djokovic crosscourt dominance they will both struggle to gain any advantage in the groundstroke exchanges.

Work to develop your tennis “Jab” and you will see an immediate improvement in your results.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

THE 5 CORE ELEMENTS OF MATCH-PLAY




In the heat of the battle it’s difficult to think clearly.  With so many things going on it's sometimes easy to forget the basics. But to play at your best certain parts of your game must function in order to win matches. 

Some people call them “The Percentages”, but everyone has a slightly different version of what “The Percentages” actually means.  I like to call them the “5 Core Elements” needed to play at your best.

I expect my students to mentally check the 5 core elements at different times during the match, particularly during those important periods of a match such as after a break of serve, or when either their opponent or themselves establish momentum. 

Important moments in a match can mean either you or your opponent are ahead on the scoreboard, it's about maintaining positive momentum or reversing negative momentum in your favour.

The 5 Core Elements of match Play are:

1.     High Percentage of First Serves
Any time your 1st serve begins to fail and you are beginning points with your 2nd serve you are automatically putting pressure on yourself .

2.     Consistent Returns
Remember that the serve is an advantage, while the return means you are at a disadvantage.  By getting the return back in play consistently you are neutralizing the servers’ advantage and can now work at winning the point.

3.     Pressure in the Rally
It’s impossible to win points at the highest level if you can’t exert pressure on your opponent during the rally. Creating pressure during the rally can give you the opening to either hit a winner or draw an error from your opponent.

4.     Low unforced Errors
By keeping the unforced error count to a minimum you force your opponent to come up with more and that often means that they try to do too much themselves.  Great players never beat themselves.

5.     Mentally Stable
Keep mentally stable when you are up a break, otherwise you come out of the patterns and mindset that got you the break in the first place!  Likewise, if you go down a break or a set, analyze the situation clearly and come up with a plan to get back on level terms.  Sulking won’t help you and neither will becoming too confident and “show boating”

When using the 5 Core Elements of Match Play remember that every match is different.  If you served well in yesterdays match you may serve poorly in today’s match, you need to monitor your performance throughout the match and be constantly aware of the 5 elements in each match you play.