Having Problems With Your Serve?
- Do you practice with focus?
- Has it been some time since you have improved?
- Would you like more zip with far less effort?
- Do you suffer from tennis elbow or a sore shoulder?
You Will Improve When You..........................................
- Jim McLennan
The Backcourt Half-Volley
The Most Difficult Shot in the Game
Some years ago in a Wimbledon final when Federer still ruled the roost, the telecast replayed a forehand half volley from the baseline that looked positively sublime. The announcers marveled at the ease of the reply, as Roger took the ball on the short hop with the simplest of motions.
To my eye, this situation occurs far more often than we may suspect, where you are on the baseline, the incoming ball is extremely deep, might be in might be out, and the slightest hesitation occurs when deciding what to do. Somehow most will wait for the bounce to decide; others retreat rapidly with an overlong backswing, whereas the third option will always be best – hold your ground, turn to the side and wait for the ball. Wait for the ball. Prepare, pause, then hit. In this case, a short and simple motion, but the key always has been and will continue to be the pause. Roger made a complex shot appear unhurried; you can learn to do the same.
So who provides the best model for the feel, look, and simplicity of Prepare-Pause-Hit on a backcourt half-volley? Well, look no further than the absolute best ever 50 year-old tennis player on the planet, John McEnroe.
Prepare does not, nor did it ever, mean racquet back. It simply means turn to the side and position the racquet more or less near the intended contact zone, and done well before the bounce. Said again, turn to the side placing the racquet close to contact.
Problems occur on this shot from any or all of the following. The player waits for the ball to bounce before deciding to prepare. In this instance, when queried, players tell me they knew the ball would be inches out during mid-flight (preposterous).
Players retreat quickly, hedging their bets in case the ball were to land in. But in this instance the quick retreating movements generally disrupt balance and lead to errors
Why work that hard to back up when the effort rarely yields a positive result? (No real answer here as well.) Players prepare quickly with an overly long backswing, which then interferes with timing the ball on the short hop. In this instance a stubborn insistence on "racquet back" is the real culprit. But take a moment to let this sink in; either recall, imagine, or observe on adjacent courts, how difficult this shot appears when the incoming ball lands dreadfully close to the baseline.
Years ago Tom Stow worked hours with many students, myself included, on the timing and technique of the "short hop." He demanded instant preparation, never racquet back, but rather turning the hips and shoulders to quickly position the racquet close to the intended height of contact. And then he would either compliment or implore to "Pause" then "Hit." Prepare in the wink of an eye, then wait for the ball. Rush the opponent by taking the ball early without ever appearing to rush oneself. And whether return of serve or half-volley within this model, always borrowing pace. Not overlong or over strong swings, just using the incoming pace, playing with timing rather than brute force. Federer, McEnroe, and now Andy Murray.
Click photo: Murray baseline half-volley – full swing, but note the precise position of the racquet at the bounce
of the ball.
As Andy Murray climbs toward the top of the professional mountain, he has the skill and plays with the nuance to borrow and add pace – add to this the disguise to hide his intention until the last moment. Murray's ability to change pace, tempo, and intention stifle anticipation on the other side of the net.
Note in the following examples how quickly he turns to the side, but most importantly, study the precise positioning of the racquet as the ball bounces. That is your model, and truly he does indeed show this unhurried pause just prior to the hit.
So step outside the box the next time you're on the ball machine or the practice court and set up a drill where the ball bounces perilously close to the baseline. Hold your ground, turn to the side quickly, pause and hit. Make a difficult shot look easy. Impress your friends. Win more matches. Why not?
See Jim McLennan's "Essential Tennis Instruction" website.
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The Compact Stroke
The game of tennis is getting faster, more aggressive, and “smaller,” and it is beginning to look more and more like table tennis. Doug King believes that the techniques of grip, footwork, swing paths, weight shift, and spin are essentially speeding up the game and making the racquet feel more like a ping pong paddle in the hand. The premise is that the more that you can get the racquet to move in the same timing and the same feel as the hand, the more speed and control you gain.
The Two-Handed Backhand
To teach any shot efficiently Ray Brown believes we must begin with the result we want to achieve and then organize the entire instructional process around that single result. Clearly, in every stroke what we want to achieve is control over direction, spin, and speed. Taking one step backward, this requires that we be able to produce clean contact between the ball and racquet. But achieving clean contact is no simple task.
Five Volley Types
The volley is a huge part of the game but most people practice it just one way -- they stand at the net and have their partner feed them routine balls. Unfortunately, that's not the way the game is played. Jorge Capestany and former French Open doubles champion, Luke Jensen run through five distinct volley types you might face in match play and demonstrate the proper technique for handling each one.
ProStrokes 2.0 - Vera Zvonareva's Forehand
Vera Zvonareva turned pro in 2000, and so far this 26 year old Russian has amassed over $5 million in prize money, eight tour titles, an impressive 12 wins and 2 losses in the 2009 campaign, and presently a ranking of 6th in singles, and 4th in the WTA race. in the recent Australian Open she had wins over Petrova and Bartoli, losing to Safina in the semifinals. In 2008 she held wins over Sharapova, Safina, Jankovic, Dementieva, and Kuznetsova. Vera is a tested and true tour veteran, looking for a breakout result on the Grand Slam stage - 2009 might just be the year.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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