Now, if you lose sight of the ball,
it’s because you blinked
Few things bring as much joy as the feel and smell of nighttime air on a tennis court. But the perfect game of nighttime tennis cannot be played under poor lighting. You need to see the ball clearly and follow it well in flight—which requires as much light as possible, evenly distributed across the court.
With Har-Tru Advantage Lighting, you can improve the playing experience for as little as $12 per day. Visit hartrulighting.com to find out more.
New DVD - Doug King's "Topspin Forehand"
TennisOne Senior Writer Doug King has just brought out a great new instructional DVD, "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: Topspin Forehand."
In "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin Forehand," Doug King continues his in-depth examination of the modern game, this time focusing on how to develop the kind of powerful, effortless topspin forehands you see at the professional level. This DVD, which runs nearly 2 hours, more than twice the average instructional DVD, will cover every aspect of transforming your forehand into a powerful weapon. You'll learn that developing a great topspin forehand is not about "hitting" and "swinging" at the ball harder, but allowing the body's rotational power to flow into a rhythmic "stroking" model for your forehand. This model shows you how to truly connect with the ball, generating more power and control with a manageable and efficient motion. This DVD also provides in-depth slow-motion analysis, showing you the subtle nuances of preparation, take-back, dropping into the slot, contact, and follow-through. Additionally, there are a number of extremely innovative drills for you to practice so you can easily grasp and internalize everything you've learned. Finally, as in all of Doug King's videos, you'll find you've learned more than just how to develop a great forehand. You'll learn the "feel" of how the pros play, and learn a way to enjoy the game at its highest level.
Publisher's Note: TennisOne has many great tennis contributors who will change the way you think about the game of tennis, including Doug King. If you haven't
viewed any of Doug's videos lately, you owe it to yourself to see a preview of his article this week, "The Powerpocket." See preview (2 minutes.)
20% Discount for TennisOne Members
- "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: Topspin Forehand," by Doug King Public Members
Tennis Warehouse – New Products –
Men's shoes - Nike Air Court Ballistic 2.3 (Rafa's shoe); Head SpeedPro; Strings - Solinco Tour Bite & Revolution; Polyfibre Hexabalde and Black Venom strings
Seeing the Little Things
David W. Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
There are perhaps few things that can motivate a tennis player better than attending a professional tennis tournament and seeing, first hand, the pros in the heat of competition. This is especially true of the the U.S. Open, the biggest arena in our sport. Beyond the elaborate, celebratory, and festive nature of the U.S. Open, enthusiasts can witness the biggest names in tennis practicing on the outer courts and playing on the show courts…all for the biggest stars in tennis!
However, one can miss the little things the pros do; the elements of each player’s game that provides the pros the means in which to execute great shots over and over. Personally, I’ve enjoyed all the professional matches I’ve been fortunate enough to attend. The U.S. Open is my sentimental favorite because my first trip to the Big Apple was spent with a week of Media Credentials at the Open.
What are We Seeing? What Should We Be looking for?
When I attend any professional match, I feel as if my eyes are catching things that other people may not be looking for. Instead of just watching the ball go back and forth over the net (which I also enjoy), I look for things that contribute—or prevent—players from reaching their potential. Many people, when watching the pros up close, view them as super-human. They place professionals on such a high pedestal that they literally lose sight of the essence of the game. Not that professionals are unworthy of such accolades, yet it would serve people better, at least those who want to improve, to analyze professionals with more of a discerning eye instead of simply watching them hit and say, “Wow!”
In many ways, pros simplify the game. This can be summarized when we hear people say, “Gee, the pros make it look so easy.” And, in fact, they do! In my experience, most recreational/club players employ so many ineffective or extraneous stroke components that they have to go through gyrations just to counter what I call “Clutter” in their games. This is why so many players are offered “Tips.” (This was discussed with great accuracy by our writer Doug King in our last newsletter, Tips to Mastery.)
The Little Things
When I sit with club players at tournaments like the U.S. Open, I often hear things like, “What a huge shot.” Or, “How in the heck did he do that?” These sort of subjective comments or questions don’t allow the observer to think inside the box. That is, they are so busy being “wowed,” they lose sight of what indeed made it possible for a player to execute such a shot.
Click photo: Notice that Gulbis switches to a continental grip before hitting this slice approach and the touch volley.
What can the recreational, club, junior player take from looking at “The Little Things?” Let’s start with the most basic…or, at least, the most intimate: the Grip
When a pro executes a severe angle volley, for instance, an observer can look for several things relative to the grip: The continental grip, the racquet head orientation to the arm before and after contact, the position of the racquet on the turn, the hold of the racquet after the shot.
All of these issues are directly influenced by the continental grip; whereas the recreational player who uses an eastern grip will find every one of these elements different compared to the pro. In fact, a player who uses an eastern forehand or backhand grip will find it nearly impossible to execute a severe angle volley. (This sometimes explains why many players look at pros as being almost inhuman: because of just one little element, the grip, the recreational player simply sees such a shot as impossible!)
There are many “little things” that players can watch for in addition to grips: Stance and body position at the start of the serve, the finish of a topspin or slice shot, the type of spin used on volleys, etc.
In addition to simply looking at each individual player’s “little things,” comparing those same elements to other players can greatly reinforce the impression when we observe all players doing essentially the same thing with only slight idiosyncratic variations. For example, the continental grip is used by nearly every single pro on the volley, the serve, the overhead, and the dominant hand on the two-handed backhand.
Typically, beginners tend to face the net and their target when first learning to play. This is because the most rudimentary means to see a moving ball–and then direct it somewhere–is to face it and the target the player is aiming at. Yet, when we watch the pros play tennis (and pros in most other sports), the skilled player is usually turned sideways, especially in sports that use a swinging implement such as a bat, a golf club, or a tennis racquet.
Take a look at the basic body position of the pros, on certain shots such as the one-handed backhand topspin, the backhand volley, and the slice backhand…all these shots require a very sideways position for maximum effectiveness and success.
The statistic identifying the number of steps the pros take compared to the number of steps a club or recreational player takes is very revealing. Ken DeHart, associate editor at TennisOne, has done some excellent articles covering footwork relative to this concept. (Legendary Pat Etcheberry has also contributed some excellent drills that address footwork at TennisOne as well!)
The most fundamental aspect of tennis is to be in the best position to hit the best shot for each situation. Just because we can reach out and hit a ball with minimal steps doesn’t mean we should! That is a big problem for most players: because they can save a few steps by reaching for balls…and make a few of these shots, they get lulled into doing this minimalistic footwork in more and more situations.
With the pros averaging about 12 steps between each hit, and the typical club player averaging less than five steps, we can see that this simple observation can have a huge impact on players who do indeed decide to work on improving this part of their game. Watching the pros can emphasize this emphatically
One caveat here! Make no mistake, the pros are in incredible shape. Next time you are on the court consciously try to take 12 steps between each stroke and see how long you last. Pros can do this for five sets. Most of we mortals will tire out after 3 or 4 games.
Obviously, there are many other areas to observe, (Strategies, shot selection, swing path, etc.). But, the idea is to start looking at the pros in two main ways:
- Look for similarities for similar shots hit.
- Look beyond the “wow” factor and start to look at ways in which they executed such shots.
You can start to train your eyes to see more as well as learn more. When this is accomplished, tennis is no longer a “blur” but a series of identifiable stroke components that make the “wow” possible.
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 Two-Handed Backhand Return of Serve
The return of serve is perhaps the least practiced stroke in the game of tennis, and yet it is the second shot hit on every point. Don't get the serve in play and you lose the point, it's that simple. Here, Christophe Delavaut's in-depth examination focuses on the common threads of the two-handed backhand return of serve. Christophe shows you how top professionals duplicate the exact same movements while executing the return of serve.
Play Tennis to Gain Rather than "Not to Lose"
Raphael Nadal is a fantastic competitor. If you listen to interviews he always speaks about working hard every day to improve. Nadal always looks at what he can gain. He plays to gain a title. He never thinks about what he has to lose; only at what he has to gain. So how does one acquire this mentality? David Sammel uses an analogy of climbing a high ladder in this intriguing insight into developing an attitude of gain.
Volley into the Can
Since most players learn groundstrokes first and then later learn the volley, they struggle to prepare differently for the volley. This is because they have literally thousands of reps in preparing a certain way and they often can not break that habit and learn a new preparation which is what is required for an effective volley. To help players learn the preparation for the volley, Jorge Capestany and Luke Jensen use an empty tennis can. This simple drill will almost always put the player’s hands, feet, and body in the perfect volley position.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Ernests Gulbis' Forehand
Ernests Gulbis has had a breakout season, with wins over Baghdatis, Youzhny, and a stunning upset of Roger Federer at this year's Masters in Rome. Gulbis turned pro in 2004 and achieved a very steady, yet fairly unnoticed, rise in the rankings and this year he is showing the makings of a top-ten player. Gulbis has one of the best return games and his backhand is also one of the best. He attacks the ball, sometimes taking the ball flatter on the rise and other times slicing and dicing from the baseline. His forehand and serve weapons, are on par with the best players on tour today also.
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
- "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin," Doug King 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.
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