How to hit the Drop Shot
Now that we've discussed where and when to hit the drop shot, this final installment in our video series discusses how to execute the drop shot. By making some simple adjustments to your slice you will be able to hit a well-targeted drop shot. Learn more about these techniques and continue to Play the Clay, Learn to Win and Play for Life!
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Foundation vs. Evolutionary Change
David W. Smith Senior Editor, TennisOne
As we approach “prime time” in American Tennis with the upcoming U.S. Open and the preceding U.S. Open Series of tournaments, we will have the opportunity to watch a lot of tennis on television, and for a lucky number, attend one of these professional events.
In observing tennis either live or on television, players and students of the game often see different things. Yet, as I’ll talk about in a moment, the foundation is almost identical among top players across the board.
However, one thing that has always struck me is the debate about how this foundation is developed. That is, some say you can let people learn to play tennis any number of ways; the thinking or belief is that each individual will eventually adapt or evolve. This, of course, is true within the context of simply using gravity and adjusting ball speed and height to make a ball land in the court.
Others focus on teaching skills to players, even though learning of those skills will feel very foreign or uncomfortable at first. However, through practice and applied replication, the unfamiliar will indeed become familiar and comfortable. Certainly, we can see the latter approach used to teach musical instruments, keyboarding, and other sports such as golf, where proper swing or finger positions also seem awkward at first.
Another area discussed is the use of unconventional methods that some people use and have mastered to the point of becoming competitive at relatively high levels in spite of such unconventionality.
Yet, the key word in that last sentence is “relatively.”
I’ve had some coaches write me letters claiming they had a student who used what most pros would recognize as limiting or mediocre form, only to have that student progress to become one of the more competitive players in their region. I always have two questions for such a coach:
- Where does the player live? Because most of the coaches who write me with such descriptions are from less competitive areas of the country. A good example of this is when I moved from California and began teaching tennis in Arizona. I took over the training of a “Top-5” ranked junior boy in the USTA southwest region (Arizona and New Mexico) and took him to California to play some of my former students at the high school I taught at.
He played one of my former players and lost soundly, 6-1. The kid from Arizona asked, “Hey Coach was he your number one player here?” seeing the skill and ease in which he was beaten. I said with a smile, “Yes, Justin, he is number one.” Then I paused and added, “He is number one Junior Varsity.”
My player from Arizona suddenly realized he would be lucky to make junior varsity on my former high school team.
- How good could the player have been? This is important because even as we can’t go back and compare a player’s potential had he or she learned things differently, it is a good bet that if a student has the kind of athleticism and mental strength to make ineffective shots more effective, then we could all imagine what such a player could have become had he been taught more effective methods from the start.
Watching the Pros
When we watch professionals play tennis, we often hear two seemingly contradictory statements: “Wow, the pros all look alike!” or, “Wow, the pros all look a little different.”
Depending on what we are observing, both statements could be considered accurate. If we are looking at what the players are all doing with the ball at or near contact, we see almost identical elements occurring. The pros all hit with what I call, “A repeatable, reliable swing path.” This simple but true statement actually can be used to describe any skilled player…even players who might indeed use ‘unconventional’ form. If the player can create a swing path that is dependable and repeatable, then the will indeed be able to hit more effective shots more consistently.
Even as the pros may have idiosyncrasies and other perceptual differences in getting their racquet to the ball, the bottom line is, all those differences lead to essentially the same event during the contact phase. The difference between those differences and the different swing patterns we see among recreational players is that recreational players have a difficult time in two main areas:
- They don’t create a similar swing each time.
- They don’t create a contact window that is defined, dependable, reliable or repeatable (within the context of contact timing, racquet face orientation, contact point relative to the body, and other elements that are not congruent within each swing).
One thing that must also be taken into consideration is that while it is one thing to hit more effective shots more consistently, it is also another issue to be able to “defend more effective shots hit more consistently by our opponents.”
This is where a lot of players using unconventional or ineffective form fail to improve. You see thousands of players reach the 3.5 level only to remain there for life. A great many of these players have the athleticism, desire, and dedication to move up, but not the skills. Yet, they often win a lot of 3.0 and 3.5 trophies! There is a big difference between 3.5 and 4.5 players that goes beyond just hitting consistent shots. 4.5 players often hit deeper, harder, and with more angles and spin.
Certain grips, for example the eastern grips on volleys, may work just fine against the slower, less effective 3.5 level player but are inadequate against harder, faster, lower, or better placed balls that more advanced players are capable of hitting.
But back to our pros: What about the saying that “Wow, the pros all look a little different!”
Good question! I’ve trained approximately 3,500 players in over 35 years teaching tennis. While I’ve trained almost all those players within an almost identical foundation, no two players ever emerged playing exactly the same. It is impossible to produce “tennis clones” contrary to what some people might claim. The personality, character, perception, and individual style of every player will “evolve.” Their strokes, techniques, playing style, and strategies will develop to meet their personal sense of need, strengths (or weaknesses), and feel. Yet, all these students evolved from a common and advanced foundation.
Conversely, players who first learn inadequate or ineffective techniques must change such patterns if they hope to compete at more highly skilled levels. That kind of change is never natural or easy. When change is mandatory for advancement, it comes at a price: usually a long period of frustration followed by reverting back to old habits. In other words, two steps forward and one step back. This explain why millions of players who take lessons to break old habits sometimes have an impossible time doing just that!
I don’t know a single pro, top college player, top ranked junior, or top ranked adult club player who didn’t at some point, learn more effective patterns through some means.
Now your thinking, "What about the Magician?"
Top pros may all look a little different; from full western grips to strong eastern, from straight back backswings to full loops, from platform stances to pinpoint stance serve positions, from attacking game plans to counter punching, and some, Like Fabrice Santoro play like nobody else. However, within these differences, they all create a stroke that meets the criteria I mentioned earlier (yes, even Santoro): Hitting more effective shots and defending more effective shots more consistently.
Click photo: Fabrice Santoro looked different from the other players, however, he had a repeatable, consistent swing pattern he could rely on.
We can see extremes in the differences among pros too, yet their foundation still falls within this criteria. Consider Monica Seles or Fabrice Santoro with two-handed forehands. Or look at Jim Courier whose two-handed backhand was executed using a strong eastern backhand grip on his dominant hand, unlike most all other two-handers who favor closer to a continental grip for their dominant hand.
Yet amid this diversity all these players creating a repeatable, reliable swing pattern that is both done with a level of command as well as a with a fluid stroke that can adapt in a split second.
So, for all our students of the game out there, remember that diversity is never going to be a problem for any player learning the game properly. However, when players learn the game within ineffective means, this kind of diversity seldom allows the player to reach their true tennis potential.
The answer? Evaluate your current stroke pattern and identify the issues within your swing that contribute to problems (or have a pro help you do this!) and then emulate the stroke you know will provide you with the advantages mentioned in this article. Finally, employ the new strokes in every opportunity without reverting back to the safety and comfort of your old methods. I have a saying that summarizes this concept:
If we avoid that which we are trying to achieve, then we will only achieve that which we are trying to avoid.
Think about it!
See Dave Smith's new DVD...20% discount for TennisOne Members - "Building a WorldClass Volley," Members – Public.
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The Serve: Part 1
Michael McDowell introduces the first of two articles, using the SportsCAD video analysis program to analyze key elements of a high level serve. The serve is the most important stroke in the game and perhaps, the most complex. In part one, Michael examines in great detail the preparation phase; everything up to the point in the serve that is commonly called the trophy position.
Wimbledon Semi-Finalists and the One-Handed Backhand
All four semi-finalists at this years Wimbledon championship played with two hands on the backhand side, but that was not the thing that stood out for Dave Kensler. Did you notice? They all hit one-handed underspin backhands – sometimes by design and sometimes out of necessity, but never-the-less, they all used it. The primary message here if you have a two-handed backhand is to work on your one-handed shot because you are going to need it.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Robin Soderling's Serve
This imposing Swede has finally stepped onto center stage. A threat on all surfaces, and with the coaching of former world #1 Magnus Norman behind him, many in Sweden predict he will topple Federer and Nadal in the rankings and ascend to the top spot. Following back to back French Open final appearances, with wins over Nadal (2009) and Federer (2010), this year Robin Soderling holds wins over Cilic, Berdych, Murray, Tsonga, and Davydenko. Huge flat hits off both wings, somewhat like Del Potro – the high kicking Nadal like topspin shots matter little to this big Swede – lets see where he takes it this year. New this issue, Robin Soderling's serve.
TennisOne Writers Store
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