Transferring your Weight - Moving Forward
The game is changing – obviously. Tennis matches in the 1970's appear to have been played in slow motion. Heavy wooden racquets, long and careful strokes, stepping in to every shot. Those players hit the ball hard but they relied more on placement than brute power. Similarly, the present (and aging) crop of teachers who were trained in that era may in most cases teach similar classic mechanics – emphasizing heavy swings, balance, and placing body weight against the ball.
Jimmy Connors Classical style forehand.
Fast forward to the “modern” game – players hit with an open stance, often off the back foot, use brief whippy strokes, and are armed with lighter racquets and larger sweet spots. Certainly Sampras then and now Federer play with racquets more or less similar to the early graphite models of the 1980's – but all other things equal, footwork, balance, and racquet speed in the old days do not in any way resemble the game played today.
I believe the game evolves first and foremost at the professional level. These evolutionary changes are passed on from teachers who either played professionally with that style, or from teachers who have observed these evolving changes. And then these changes are incorporated (sometimes more and sometimes less) at the recreational level. And just as the older coaches may be teaching the old classical style, the younger coaches are definitely teaching the modern style.
The dominant professionals in the 1970's played an offensive style, with many if not most points culminating at the net. Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, John Newcombe, Stan Smith, all displayed classic strokes, moved forward whenever possible, and earned their titles on the strength of their offensive style. Players of that era were similarly trained to step in, move forward, and place their weight against the ball, because that is how the best players did it.
Something began to change in the 1980's. Bjorn Borg displayed the open stance, and parlayed whippy topspin strokes into an amazing run of Grand Slam titles. Still, at that point in time, the racquets were heavy and the sweet spots small, but Borg was able to use that old equipment and play in what might be known as the precursor to the modern style. As the racquets evolved, the game followed suit. Now many of the leading professionals don't really move forward, don't really step in, and don't really place their weight against the ball - except Federer.
Click photo to hear Jim McLennan talk about moving forward and the weight shift.
Patrick McEnroe has observed, “The best shot in professional tennis occurs when Federer moves inside the baseline.” That is quite a statement. The absolute best shot, the deadliest stroke, the mightiest weapon, is the Federer forehand when he is moving forward to the ball inside the baseline. And interestingly, when Roger is moving forward, he does in fact place his body weight against the ball, just as in the 1970's. His hitting stances may not look classical, but the balance does.
So what is the big deal about stepping in? Do you really need your weight in the shot? Why was that so important in the 70's and does any of that matter today? Can you or should you incorporate any of this in your game if you are of the classical persuasion?
Tom Stow, of the classical style, emphasized holding your finish for just a moment to become aware of your balance. Holding my finish, Tom would note my posture, the presence or absence of tension in my arms, shoulders, neck and jaw (yes tension in the jaw is truly a problem). And then when I might be holding the finish more or less correctly (for it was never, repeat never, perfect with Tom), he would then ask me to lightly and quickly tap the toe of my back foot. If I was centered and balanced over the front foot at the conclusion of the stroke, it was relatively simple to tap the back toe. And those of you playing in the classical square stance style may experiment with this “holding of the finish” to see if in fact you can tap-tap-tap. Well the same holds true of the modern open stance stroke – it is equally possible to transfer your weight without stepping in, such that when holding the finish you could again tap-tap-tap the back toe. Take a close look at the five forehand Super Slow-Mo Videos in your My TennisOne account. The pros can do it and so should you.
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(Click link to purchase Jim's McLennan's Secrets of World Class Footwork Video.)
T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Video Analysis
This time TennisOne associate editor, Monty Basnyat, examines the five two-handed backhand super Slow-Mo videos in your My TennisOne account and finds some commonalities you should consider adding to your own game. Check out his video analysis (available to non-TennisOne members also).
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Since Pete Sampras rested his seven years of dominance in the game as undoubtedly the greatest serve-and-volley player ever, the fine art of moving in to the net has taken a back seat to the awesome baseline game. In the final installment of his series on balance, "How ‘Body Sense' Makes Better Tennis Players," Rhys Thomas focuses on the forecourt, where motion, efficiency, and anticipation are the essential elements of successful volleying.
Product Highlights: Pro Tech Video Analysis
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Jeff Greenwald - Fearless Tennis
Feel you're playing tentatively and know that you have greater potential than you're demonstrating in tournaments? This one of a kind, double- CD audio program, FearlessTennnis: The 5 Mental Keys To Unlocking Your Potential, will help you compete with confidence, close out matches and is a great way to get the mental edge en route to a tournament.
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