Take your serve to the next level?
At Wimbledon the announcers rave about Serena’s “rhythm.” We marvel at Roger’s effortless fluidity. And Pete credited 7 Wimbledon titles to his “best second serve in the game.”
Do you practice yours? Are there specific areas you wish you could improve? Discover a lucid, common sense, time tested approach.
“No lesson I have ever had with a teaching pro – and I’ve had a lot – ever made the serve remotely as clear as Jim McLennan’s superb online videos. Bravo!”
– James Kaplan co-author (with John McEnroe), You Cannot Be Serious, and (with Brad Gilbert) I’ve Got Your Back.
Discover a lucid, common sense, time tested approach.
"What's New" Product Video
– from Tennis Warehouse – adidas men's apparel – Fall Barricade Polo/crews; woven jacket, competition shorts; Gamma racquets for beginners to advanced (CP-1200, CP-1000, Tour 300)
Holding Your Ground – Court Position and Shot Selection
There are many darn ways to play this game, and many styles to choose from.
Patient retrievers (and they are often the club champs), bold serve and volleyers, two-fisted bangers, drop-shot lob artists, and more. But often, when players at our club practice their tennis using the ball machine, nearly all strokes are played from well behind the baseline – the incoming ball descends comfortably into the contact zone to be met with a long flowing stroke.
But there is another alternative. One could practice those same shots from on, if not inside, the baseline. Agassi played the ball early, McEnroe played the ball early, and the majestic Roger Federer will often take incredibly deep shots from the opponent with deft half-volleys – playing the ball on the short-hop, and making the difficult appear routine.
Hold Your Ground
Think of this as holding your ground – preparing early, taking the ball either on the rise, or sooner than that, playing it on the short-hop. The art lies in the simplicity and in the timing. No huge windmill backswings. No massive topspin hits. No preplanned winners. Rather allow the depth of the incoming shot and your court position along the baseline to dictate the tone and tempo of the shot. Jazz musicians improvise and you can learn to do the same. But for this you must step out of “the box” and beyond the normal (playing well behind the baseline as the ball descends with long and flowing strokes) point of view. Court position may be as important if not more important than the nuts and bolts of your forehands and backhands.
Crafting a Half-Volley
Playing the half-volley is no mean feat, but you probably already know this. In fact, it may be that the term “no man’s land” simply arose to describe a player’s inability to time and execute a half-volley. Unfortunately the solution, avoiding this area of the court, obscures the need to convert these same shots if you are a net-rusher. And at the end of the day, there is little difference between this shot on the short-hop from the service line or from the baseline.
When it comes to the actual stroke, you must simplify, simplify, and simplify yet again. From the waiting position (Tom Stow used the terms this way and it is a refreshing change), once you determine if the incoming ball is a forehand or backhand – turn to that side with dead hands (no herky-jerky movement) to assume the ready (to hit) position. But the art to this ready-to-hit-position lies in keeping your hands low and near to the contact zone.
Further, the turn to this ready-to-hit-position is all about placing the weight on the back foot, and the waiting/weighting is now about timing a quick step-and-hit. Too often players struggle with this shot by stepping in to assume the ready position, but truly preparation and stepping in are two completely different issues. Turn to the ready-to-hit-position, and now wait and let the ball enter the contact zone. The stroke will be short and firm, more a block than a blow, but the power will occur from the momentum of the incoming ball. These shots can be hit firmly, but they will require timing.
So what is the big deal about court positioning anyway?
Good question. Borg played well behind the baseline. Rafa plays well behind the baseline. And there are 18 Grand Slam titles between them that attest to this particular style of play. But (as always there lurks a “but”) when playing deep and well behind the baseline, if you do not possess the legs of a Borg or the will power of a Nadal, you will be running back and forth, giving your opponent more time to react, and you will be playing to a smaller and smaller hitting angle. In short, you will be working much too hard (remember how early Borg retired!).
Moving forward reduces the opponent’s reaction time and increases your angle of play, but that only occurs if in fact you can and do move forward. And to my eye, players who routinely practice from behind the baseline on descending incoming balls, rarely move forward with skill, confidence, or with winning results.
The half volley, improvised on the short-hop from on or inside the baseline, will never be an approach shot, but by holding your ground from this position, you will much more easily move forward if and when your opponent plays short.
At the end of the day, we are simply playing a game within a box. And the more you know about the nuances of this box (rather than just the nuances of the swing) the better you will play.
See Jim's DVDs at bottom of this page.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
The Toss is Essential for a Consistent Serve
Most coaches and players will tell you the serve is the most important shot in tennis. And anyone who follows the pro tours, especially the women, knows that the toss can be one of the toughest parts for many players. If the toss is not in the right spot, it's very difficult to develop a consistent serve. Here, Tom Avery teaches what is considered an advanced move, the loop toss. With a little practice, you can quickly grasp the concept and develop a more consistent serve.
Taking Control of the Ball
More often then not, in doubles and group lessons, players are hitting the ball in more of a reaction format rather then a controlling format. They do pretty well and have some good exchanges, yet nothing is really getting accomplished. It is as if they react to the situation and play the ball back instead of having intent and taking control of the ball. If this sounds like something that you can relate to Jordan Coons may have a way for you to raise your game to the next level.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Francesca Schiavone's Backhand
What a performance capturing the 2010 French Open. Francesca Schiavone is 30, and that is somewhat old within the women’s ranks, and to keep this unusual thread going, she plays with a one-handed backhand. She has captured just four singles titles and prior to this breakout performance she has been a doubles specialist. But, I guess, “Nothing is Impossible” and certainly that was the case for a player who had lost in the first round of this same tournament the previous year. But with wins over Stosur, Dementieva, and Wozniacki we can only wonder what the rest of the year will have in store. New this issue, Schiavone's backhand.
TennisOne Writers Store
One of your many new benefits as a TennisOne membership is your ability to purchase selected instructional DVDs at 20% off ($7.50 off each) in our new TennisOne Writers Store (login in first to access members links):
- "Building Your Serve from the Ground Up," Jim McLennan Members Public
- "Building Your Ground Game," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Building a Kick Serve," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Achieving Peak Performance the Wholistic Way: The Mental Game," Happy Bhalla Members – Public
- "Building a World Class Serve," Phil Dent Members – Public
- "Building a World-class Volley," Dave Smith Members – Public
- "Best of Ken DeHart," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Corrective Techniques & Myths," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Defeating the Monsters in Your Mind," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Skills, Drills, and Games for Beginning Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- "Drills for Intermediate Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Drills for Advanced Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- Click here to see all the benefits of a TennisOne Membership.
- Click here to sign up for a risk-free, TennisOne 30 day free trial membership.
Copyright Notice: The contents of the TennisONE web site and contents forwarded to you by TennisONE are intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Republishing of TennisONE content in any way, including framing or posting of these materials on other Web sites, is strictly prohibited. See our full copyright statement
If you wish to be removed from our newsletter list, please send an email to email@example.com and leave the subject line blank. A confirmation email will be sent to you, and you will be removed from our newsletter list once you reply to that confirmation. If trouble unsubscribing, simply email us with a request to unsubscribe at: firstname.lastname@example.org