Commonalities in Tennis Strokes
Often, players who watch professional tennis remark, “Gee, the pros all look the same.” On the other hand, some who watch the pros play might say, “Gee, the pros all look different.”
Depending on what you are looking at, both statements are true. If we look at the different grips on forehands, the use of one or two hands on backhands, the backswing characteristics on the serve or on groundstrokes, and the various stances many pros employ on various shots, differences can indeed be clearly seen. However, if we look closely, we can spot many commonalities among the pros in almost every stroke.
The action of the racquet on specific serves, for example, is almost identical among all skilled players. Nearly all the pros use a continental grip (with a few very slight variations), the racquet can be seen as brushing from left to right for right-handed serves, and we can clearly see all right-handed servers today push off mostly off their front left foot and land on this same foot after contact. So, among all pro strokes, while idiosyncratic differences can be observed, basic commonalities exist during the integral part of the stroke.
One of the clearest commonalities among pros that can be seen is the use of the hitting arm in the execution of the backhand volley. With almost no exceptions, the dominant arm becomes straight and firm through the course of the volley; from before contact to well past the contact point.
Maintaining the hitting arm's integrity throughout the shot
improves aim, pace, and consistency.
For the pro and the developing player, this firm, straight-arm position optimizes both the advanced volley result as well as the development of skilled volleys by students.
When many beginners and intermediate players turn for a backhand, the natural inclination of the arm is to bend at the elbow. It takes a conscious effort to hold the hitting arm firm during the turn for the backhand volley. When the elbow bends, the hitting arm then will tend to push the racquet towards the ball instead of creating a firm stroke.
In addition, the movement of the elbow joint on the backhand volley requires one more controlling aspect to the volley; not only does the player have to execute the arm's motion correctly, but the need to time the elbow's release becomes necessary as well.
Power and Control
Physics laws-of-motion dictate that the longer the lever, the more force can be applied by that lever and with less effort. Because the volley is seldom a full-swinging shot, with many beginners, power acquisition is often done with wrist or a bigger backswing - both are detrimental to control of the volley.
A firm, straight elbow allows smaller players to hit big volleys.
Since most volley winners are executed with placement rather than power, control is certainly at a premium for all players. Using a straight arm to hit the volley will improve the ability to volley the ball with a firm, yet precise stroke.
I often demonstrate the volley using just two fingers holding the racquet to emphasize that strength is not necessary for effective volleys; good technique, however, is! And maintaining a firm elbow will improve your technique!
Take a look at your backhand volley technique and see if you can improve this aspect of your game!
As always, we would love to hear your views on the subjects raised in this newsletter. Please click here to send your email directly to me.
Dave Smith, TennisOne Associate Editor
(Click link to purchase Dave Smith's book, Tennis Mastery, at tenniswarehouse.com.
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Product Highlights: Pro Tech Video Analysis
The Pro Tech Video Analysis system is the industrys premier video analysis service. Pro Tech puts your strokes side-by-side with the strokes of three professional players, providing a detailed graphical analysis of your strokes compared to the reference points of these top pros. This invaluable visual comparison, combined with the detailed analysis by a current tour professional coach, offers the most advanced and unique learning environment in tennis. Pro Tech will store your video lessons for two years on your own web page, so you and your coach can evaluate your progress from anywhere in the world. TennisOne members receive a 10% discount.
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