updated October 9, 2018
October 9, 2018
Transition Zone from “Dynamite Doubles” by Helle Sparre Viragh
Helle (Hell a), divides the court into four zones. From the net headed back to the baseline they are:
- Attack zone- on the net. Move into attack to put away volleys
- Offense zone - from the attack zone back to the the service line
- Transition zone - from the service line to just in front of the baseline
- Defense zone - behind the transition zone
Transition Zone is a more descriptive name for “No man’s Land”. We do have to hit shots from here. Often the
return of serve is hit from the transition zone. “Never be in No Man’s land” is unrealistic. Helle’s rule is “hit your shot then get out. You hit that one shot and then
move to, ideally, the offense zone (or if you have to, the defense zone). The point is ONE SHOT from transition then GET OUT.
September 17, 2018
Dynamite Doubles by Helle Sparre Viragh
Lots of great ideas partially summed up in the “ Players Contract”
- I will play in the same major zone as my partner.
- I will get my first serve in.
- I will get my return over the net.
- I will stay in the point until it is over.
- I will make my lobs high, knowing height is more important than depth.
- I will aways make my Split-Hop just before my opponent hits the ball.
- I will BISECT THE PLANE of our opponents when I am the terminator.
- I will hit a minimum of 3 shots with patience when I am the workhorse.
- I will be positive and focused and in-the-game at all times.
- I will let go of the last point played . I will not worry about the end result.
I will stay in the moment and play One Point At A Time.
August 10, 2018
ROG: Red Orange Green and yellow tennis balls; Use them all to improve your game
There are four colors of tennis balls. Three colors, ROG, are all slower than a yellow ball. Red is 75% slower. Orange is 50% slower
and Green is 25% slower than a yellow ball.
Red balls are mandated for beginning children. And there are progressions to take beginning players to yellow balls. All Beginners will learn faster
with red balls. (Golf tees need to be by handicap not by sex. Red tees for high handicap. Having tees by sex or ball color by age is sexism and ageism respectively)
Red balls are also great
inside the house and against garage doors, they cause no harm
Green balls are made for a full size court. Slower speed balls will help your stroke development. One may say, “Green balls will
ruin your (yellow ball) game.” We ask, “Does learning Spanish ruin your English?”. In fact, practicing with green balls is an easy way to improve your practice; you’re
forcing your brain and body to make adjustments. Playing with the ROG balls will improve your tennis skills the same way learning Spanish will improve your language skills. See this tip on recovery and discomfort as necessary ingredients for learning
August 5, 2018
45/35: 45% of all the shots in a
tennis game are the serve. 35% of all the shots are return of serve
THAT’S 80% OF ALL THE SHOTS IN A MATCH!
Practice and play accordingly. You want to have a great serve.
Especially a great topspin second serve.
Learn to trust the technique of a topspin serve, hit your second serve harder, read faster, with more spin.
our mantra for learning is, “Consistency, placement, power”. You must power your serve to get consistency.
You want a great return of serve.That means topspin. It means having
45 / 35 is a slight exaggeration but
it is close enough to the truth to impact your meaningful practice and successful play.
You will win a lot more games if you will
improve your technique for and
ramp it up on the first two shots of each point.
July 28, 2018
BLUR: back, left, up, right
When you come down from your split step you have already decided which way you are moving:
June 17, 2018
Perfect Practice makes Better.
If someone tells you, “Practice makes perfect” find another person for advice. One can always play BETTER.
Practicing poor technique just grooves bad technique: making you worse. Waiter's serve for example.
Challenge yourself to be better. Practice footwork (wider stance, tuck and lunge, bigger knee bend, play from squat), new shots, technique, positions, strategy, and self-talk. Get out of your comfort zone.
It’s better to practice perfect in your head than be on the court getting worse.
June 17, 2018
NO lines in a lesson
If you are in a tennis lesson and have to wait more than a few seconds to hit / handle a ball or run,
please help your pro move out of the last century. Feeding balls to one player at a time is probably how that pro was taught. Net Generation has hundreds of games, drills and skill development ideas that get people moving, having fun, playing tennis. Standing is not playing tennis. Help your pro get the lessons going for everyone. Help them facilitate a group drill or “play” a game with you.
Tennis is all about footwork. Get moving. Play games. I mean fun games like “dink around the net” and “mini-tennis”.
In this video about the modern forehand from Tomaz at Feel Tennis at the 5 minute mark Tomaz says, “If you are not moving, you are not playing tennis.” Keep moving! All The Time!
Jun 15, 2018
Chest to the Sky
When you serve, have some flexibility in your
back so you can open your chest up to the sky. Opening UP allows you to look up at the ball. Above your head, in front and over one shoulder for your 1st serve. And above your head and over the
opposite shoulder for your 2nd, topspin serve, is where you are going to hit the serve. When you open your chest to the sky, you have a clear view of this space. You have room above your head to
adjust your body, shoulders and arms to hit your serve. The more of a beginner you are, the more important this is because your toss will be inconsistent. Also beginners are developing judgment about
which toss to hit. I know, it's hard to catch a toss and retoss it. How many times to do wish we did retoss?
Eye To the Sky
Sep. 17 2016
A cooperative game to practice the most important shots for doubles: serve, return of serve, volleys.
It's you and your partner(s) against tennis. To win a point you must get three volleys between you. The quickest way is to serve and volley, return and volley and then get
your three volleys. In any case, get three consecutive volleys and you win the point. Otherwise, tennis gets the point. Keep score as normal, team against tennis. Focus
on getting your serve in, hitting a solid return to the approaching server and getting to the net yourself. Then stay on your toes and get your volleys.
An alternative scoring method is to give yourself extra points for more sets of consecutive volleys. For example, if you get six consecutive volleys, then you get two points. If you
get nine, you get three points. Eight consecutive volleys is still only two points.
If you are winning easily, then start cranking up your shots: (agree to this as a team) serve better, do a good doubles return, out wide and/or to the server's feet.
Sep. 6 2016
Serve: 7 fundementals
: ritual, target, stance, grip, ball toss, swing path, momentum
- Ritual - develop and have a ritual read more
- Target - have a target. Think “corner” “out wide” “down the middle” “body”
if you don't have a target, where do you think
your serve will go?
- Stance: Position your front foot toward the net post or the side fence. Your back foot is at an angle behind the front foot A line drawn from the middle toe to the heel of
the front foot will hit the back foot in the arch.
- Grip - you must use a continental or eastern backhand grip to have an effective serve
- Ball toss - is really a ball lift; use your shoulder to lift the ball. The ball will leave your hand at about eye level
- Swing path - the swing path for the serve, especially the 2nd serve is “Up and OUT” read more
- Momentum - serve speed is about creating and amplifying momentum twice, (1)UP then (2) down & up-and-out. The momentum here is created by letting your racket drop
see the video by Feel Tennis here effortlessly generate powerful tennis serves
Use these seven fundamentals as a check. If you did not serve the serve you wanted, how many did you do?
Dec. 13, 2015
Toss Bend Tilt at the same time
On your serve, of course, Toss Bend and Tilt at the same time. You know what a toss is - your ball toss. Bend means bend at the knees. Tilt means hip to the net and chest to the sky.
Bend is to engage and coil the legs.
Tilt is loading up more big muscles, hips, chest, shoulders.
Keep your arm up until you are ready to explode into the ball. Your racquet can come down after your legs start going up. Your arm comes down into bum scratch and back up
to contact as one fluid crack the whip motion. Watch Federer (or other pro of your choosing) serve and see if you can see him in back scratch no strike that, bum scratch position. You can't. His
racket moves through that as part of EXPLODE up into the ball faster than the eye can see.
To Be Terrific = Toss Bend Tilt at the same time
Dec 13, 2015
Second Serve thoughts:
- The importance of your second serve is HUGE
- Every pro has a second serve they depend on
- Their second serve is a top spin serve
- which gives net clearance and a higher bounce
- They can hit their different serves from the same toss
- We can not
- Your toss for a second serve needs to further back and more to the left (right-handed player) All tosses are out in front. Your flat and slice toss are over your right
shoulder. This toss is more over your head.
- To understand this motion, take your racket and a ball and hold it behind your head while you roll the ball up and down ACROSS the strings (and up and down on your left hand)
- To hit this serve:
- keep your feet and body facing the side fence (on a power serve you would face the target slightly more)
- toss the ball so you will be able to hit across your strings, much like when you were rolling it
- attack with the edge of your racket (Just like a power serve)
- hit up - a lot. When you practice, see how high over the net you can hit the ball and still bring it into the service box with the topspin you create. It's
always better to hit a ball out than into the net.
- let your wrist move freely through a hammering motion, abduction and
adduction (as opposed to flexion and extension)
Here's a youtube video on the “Face the Fence” by Tomaz Mencinger at Feel Tennis.
Dec 13, 2015
Forehands to improve two-handed backhand
Your other hand plays a
HUGE part in your two-handed backhand. To improve, practice hitting forehands with your off hand (read arm). Doing this will improve your coordination and make your off side stronger. And improve
your two-handed backhand. For most of us, this will feel like starting all over. Use good fundamentals. Start at the service line and work mainly on finding the ball and a complete follow through. As you get better and move
back to full court, work on the whole stroke: Turn Load Fire Wrap.
Here’s youtube video of Serena giving the same advice.
Dec 12, 2015
Count your steps
between shots to get your mobility number. You hit
the ball. Now start counting every step, every time you move a foot. Every step big or small counts. Count until you hit the next ball. Recreational players (NTRP 3-4) usually have about 5-8 steps.
College players (NTRP 4-5) usually have about 8-12. Pros have 12+. Someone counted Nadal’s at the 2014 French Open, which he won, and he averaged 22 steps between shots. Obviously you are
looking to increase your mobility score. Keep moving. Take those small adjustment steps around the ball bounce to get into the perfect position.
Dec. 9, 2015
Four check points of the modern topspin (open-stance) forehand (and two-handed backhand):
- Turn your Wings
- Drop and Load
(this used to be “Pat” for “pat the dog”. “Drop” is a more simple instruction and motion)
- Fire and Pull
- Wrap and Roll
Open stance means your feet are the same distance from the net, for example both on the baseline.
1) Turn your Wings: Unit turn. Turn your body as a unit from the hips up. Both hands on your racquet. Wings means your elbows are up; create lots of space between your elbows and your body. It's really hard to overturn.
2) Drop and Load: Let your racquet and body Drop. It's simple really; all you do is relax and let gravity take your racquet down. Your body drops to a squat Your arm, wrist and hand
are in a straight relaxed line. There is no backswing. Load the inside of your outside leg (leg on the same side as your racquet). You're coiled, loaded athletic.
3) Fire and Pull:
Fire your hips. Starting with your legs and then hip(s), let all that loading and coiling start uncoiling into the ball. And let that action Pull
your hand into the ball. Notice we never said anything about a backswing. This action, fire and pull, will naturally take your racquet back and then down and in. Let your arm be loose. Your body was hard and tight like the handle of a whip and now you’re loose and cracking; allowing your hand and arm to create racquet speed
4) Wrap and Roll: Your arm will wrap around your body. Some shots the wrap will be lower, a windshield wiper stroke and some shots your follow through will be over your shoulder. Roll
your forearm. It's really your forearm and not your wrist that rolls (and pronates in the serve. ) If this is not familiar to you, finish with your hitting hand over your opposite shoulder with
your wrist against your cheek. Tap yourself lightly on the shoulder 1-2-3.
There’s only time to do one or two of these mentally. Choose one to say or watch for a few shots.
credits to Rick Macci for introducing me to these concepts Check out his videos on youtube. And Tomaz at Feel Tennis for changing “pat” to “drop”. Feel Tennis at youtube
Apr. 16, 2010
Find the ball: no backswing
Your opponent hits the ball.
fitness; you must get in position so you have a chance at returning the ball
eye-hand coordination: find the ball with your racket. Before you can hit the ball back, you must get the ball on your racket or your racket on the ball. They mean the same thing. Ideally you contact the ball on the sweet spot of your racket. We’re talking eye-hand coordination. To facilitate your eyes and hands working together, keep your racket in front of you - in your field of vision. The mental image that you want is catching the ball like a baseball player; your glove is out in front of your body tracking the ball. Tracking the ball. Use your hand, just like a baseball glove to track or stalk the ball with the idea of having the ball contact your racket on the sweet spot. Once you “catch” the ball you can
Third: technique; push the ball back over the net with a full follow through.
from “Play better tennis in 2 hours” Oscar Wegner
Mar. 19, 2010
Australian doubles formation
Changing your formation for a point in doubles may get you an easy point. Odds are in your favor if you are more confident playing the formation than your opponents are receiving it.
The server's partner stands diagonal from the receiver. (Normally the server's partner stands in front of the receiver). To be confident using the
formation, practice it with your partner. Play entire games using the formation to see what works and what doesn't. When you use this formation, you will almost always "force" your
opponents to go for the "new" target, the empty lane in front of them. To hit this target they must change the direction of the ball and hit over the high part of the net. Some ideas and
clues that might suggest using Australian formation are:
- the receiver is winning the point with a good cross-court return
- server's partner is not comfortable at the net and you want to force the return to the server
- Ad court, the server's forehand is much better; "force" opponent's return to server's forehand
- In a long service game, you need a quick point. Your opponents will be forced into a new return that changes their confidence from the grooved return they've been using.
- Server's partner is poaching well. Combine the new formation with a planned or signaled poach. You know where the return is going - go get it.
Server's responsibility is to cover the new target, the empty lane. Consequently, adjust your serving position to increase your ability to cover the likely
Celebrate your team tactic with "G'day mate!"
Mar. 12, 2010
Push - engage and follow through
from "Play Better Tennis in 2
Hours" by Oscar Wegner
Imagine a big can full of water. This can is as tall as your neck and 2 feet on each side. Now you're task it to push the can of water over. You walk up to the can.
You engage it: make solid contact with your hands. You set the rest of your body in a stable stance and you push the can over. How does this relate to tennis?
- no back swing: we don't slap at the can before we engage it
- stable stance
- find the ball: in the same way you engaged the can, you engage the ball
- push it over: using our big muscles, and joints: hips, shoulders, push the ball over the net with a big relaxed follow through.
The only moment of "tension" is as we engage. As we make contact we stabilize our hand, wrist arm . The rest of the motion is a relaxed extension of
the purposeful contact.
Test it for yourself: drop and hit the ball over with no backswing. Contrast that with drop and hit with no follow through. Try to hit the service line "T". Which
technique gives you consistency and accuracy?
Push it over.
Mar. 2, 2010
Observe - observe your self
from "The Inner Game of Tennis" by Tim Gallwey
During a tennis game we have a
steady stream of chatter in our heads. Seldom is this chatter constructive. Usually it's unsolicited advice or criticism about a technical component of our game: "stay down" "watch
the ball" "move" "get your racket back" ... Who is saying this? Let's call her "self 1". Ask self one to "be quiet" and give him something to do like
"where am I contacting the ball in relation to my body?" "how does my follow through, relate to ball
placement?" (more ideas below) Tennis is a complex physical action. Talking is also a complex coordination of several body parts. We don't instruct our lips, mouth and tongue to form words.
We think the words we want to say and all the "parts" automatically work together to do what we ask. Tennis must be the same way. If you focus on your "lips" your
"conversation" will be stilted or gibberish. Thousands of years of genetics have prepared you for tennis. Keep your analytical side occupied:
- which opponent is going to hit the ball?
- watch them for clues, body position, racket face, - what shot are they likely to hit?
- where's their shot going? "left" or right" "drive or lob"
- look for the seams or number on the ball
- position of my racket face on contact
- watch the ball for rotation, spin, "junk" (play the ball after the bounce)
- play "bounce hit" or "flashlight" or "shoulders"
observe, mitigate (self 1), Play Great !
Feb. 26, 2010
recovery - renew and restore energy
To build capacity, we must push
beyond our normal limits. Stress is not the enemy in our lives. Paradoxically, it is the key to growth. In order to build strength in a muscle we must systematically stress it, expending
energy beyond normal levels. Doing so literally causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. At the end of a training sessions, functional capacity is diminished. But give the muscle twenty-four to
forty-eight hours to recover and it grows stronger and better able to handle the next stimulus.
We build emotional, mental and spiritual capacity in precisely the same way that we build physical capacity. We grow at all levels by expending energy beyond our ordinary
limits and then recovering. Expose a muscle to ordinary demand and it won't grow. With age it will actually lose strength. The limiting factor in building any "muscle" is that many of
us back off at the slightest hint of discomfort. Any form of stress that prompts discomfort has the potential to expand our capacity - physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually - as long as
it is followed by adequate recovery.
Improve your tennis game by "stressing" your technical abilities, your physique (read "core"), your mental game or your
Apply the growth formula to grow your game: stress, grow, recover
material heavily borrowed from "The Power of Full Engagement" by Jim
Loehr principle 3, page 13
click here to visit his High Performance Institute web site
Feb. 21, 2010
anticipation - how to be fast without being faster
quickly as you can to the direction of the ball allows you more time to get to that ball. When is the balls direction determined? When your opponent hits it. At the moment of contact, the angle of
their racket sets the ball in motion in a particular direction. Your job then is to:
- watch your opponents and determine who and where they are likely to hit the ball
(if you turn around to watch your partner hit the ball, you rob yourself of time to catch
this important information)
- split-hop just before the ball is hit
- immediately decide "left" or "right" "up" "back"
- explode in the direction of the ball
(lead with your head and shoulders and take a big first step)
- keep moving: once you get to the ball, take adjustments steps, play the ball after the bounce: keep your racket in front of you "stalking" the ball
- recover: keep moving: forward to attack, back out of no man's land, sideways to center your position in the middle of possible returns
The bad news is genetics plays a role. Your natural speed and dexterity and for anticipation your hard-wired "observe-react" neural pathways are what they are.
The good news is you can get physically faster with training and better technique. (a Zball is great for practicing big step) And you can get better at anticipation with practice. A great drill
is to verbalize the direction of the ball as soon as you can. Pros know immediately, beginners know when the ball is upon or past them. Most of us know about as the ball passes the net.
Watch, decide, explode - anticipation
Feb. 12, 2010
game plan - have one
When you are playing to win, have a game plan.
Implement your plan to win points and games. If you are playing doubles, agree with your partner on your game plan. The advantage in having a game plan is you can analyze the results of your efforts
into "are we executing the game plan?" and "is the game plan working?" Obviously you must first execute a game plan to know if it is working or not. In doubles, a good game plan
with which to start is "no unforced errors". When you cross over after the first game, review: "Did you win the game?" "Why did you win?" "Did you execute your game
plan?" If you didn't win the game and your game plan was "No unforced errors", then how many unforced errors did you have? If you had more than one unforced error, you didn't
execute your game plan. You can't give away two free points and win many games. If you executed your game plan and you lost the game then you may think about adding to it or changing it. Maybe
add "and hit down the middle" Agree with your partner, again, on the game plan.
Formulate, evaluate, congratulate yourselves
Feb. 6, 2010
Learning; tennis as a vehicle
Think of a time you stretched the
limits of your body with weight lifting, yoga, gardening, or other intense workout. Your body is sore from the stress of additional demands. Your body reacts by building more muscle, flexibility and
strength to accommodate the additional demands. Research shows our minds are the same way. We must stress our minds and bodies to stimulate growth and development.
To improve your tennis game,
you must stress your game with new strategies and new technique; learn a new shot, practice a new doubles formation. Use guidelines (every return is a lob) to turn your games into practice learning
situations. Use drills to intensify your practice sessions. Set limits, to sharpen your focus, "let's get 10 consecutive shots in - just using a doubles lane".
(ideas from "The Power of Full Engagement" by Jim Loehr link to his High Performance Institute
Feb. 2, 2010
Connect with your partner
Doubles is all about getting your partner
in the point. Court position beats stroke production every time. That's why the best doubles players are not necessarily great singles players; Daniel Nester or Mahesh Bhupathi for example.
Professional doubles players connect after every point and you'll be a better doubles team if you do too. Hand touch, racket tap, knuckles thing, chest bump, you decide with your partner before
the match starts and do it every point. You'll find it's hardest to do when you need it most, immediately after an unforced error. Use this ritual and it will develop into quick adjustments
in your game plan or give you a chance to call a play for the point.
In addition to agreeing on your connection, it's great to agree on what's helpful to say to each other. "Come
on" "let's go" are a bit dry, generic and over used. Imagine you are the server's partner. As the receiver gets into ready position, the receiver's partner says
to the receiver, "down the line". Did that change your position, attitude or anticipation? Maybe that's their "code" for safe cross court
"Switch" "Bounce it" “Help” How is your team going to communicate other important information?
Perhaps you develop communication strategies
for your entire USTA League Team.
Doubles is a team sport: connect, communicate, WIN!
Great article on connecting in the USPTA magazine: touch, smile, eye-contact
Jan. 30, 2010
Drop shot guidelines:
Has you opponent fallen down?
Is their foot
stuck in the back fence?
If you can answer "yes" to both these questions,
then a drop shot might be the right shot.
It's so tempting to hit that ball that just
dribbles in the opponent's court forcing them to run like crazy only to double bounce or better yet set you up with a floater put away.
Practice your drop shot. Get good at it. Determine where you need to be in the court to hit an effective drop shot. Then, especially in doubles, remember the mantra, "consistency placement power". Your shot arsenal, and hence a good shot to select, includes more dependable shots than your drop shot. If
you are still insisting to hit a drop shot consider:
Are you inside the service line?
Are your opponents pushed back, preferably behind the base line?
Can you afford to lose the point?
your team ready to respond if they get to your drop shot and do something brilliant?
In short: drop your drop shot.
Jan. 23, 2010
Show your name:
Imagine you're wearing a jersey on with your name
printed across the shoulders. Your "job" is to show your name to your opponent twice on every shot.
First: on your unit turn. When you coil for the shot, get your hips and shoulders turned.
Second: on your follow through. When you finish
that stroke completely, your entire relaxed body will carry through and wrap around.
Get your body in your shots.
Give 'em the shoulder (s).
(courteously, of course: USTA Code #1)
2016 - If your feet are facing and you are swinging for the side fence, this is easy. I’ve come to believe the serve is less about rotation and more about Shoulder over Shoulder, (Feel Tennis Video) much like the motion of a cartwheel. Your ball toss shoulder goes up (over) then serving shoulder up and over
Jan. 20, 2010
Unit turn: for more consistent ground strokes, Turn Your Wings
the mantra of successful tennis: "consistency, placement, power". Consistent tennis wins points. Consistent ground strokes come from good fundamentals.
get to the ball, take your adjustment steps, adjust while you see what happens after the bounce, adjust again and now
Second: do a unit turn. Instead of "backswing", turn your entire upper body unit. A unit turn
- takes your racket back with both hands and your elbows, wings up
- keeps your head centered over your body: balance and both eyes on the ball
- coils your body involving your big muscles in the shot
Third: find the ball with your racket and push it over with a big follow through.
abbreviated back swing is ideal for quick action like return of serve. It will also help you when you're "off" to get back in the swing of things. A big backswing comes naturally as
your skills improve and you add more power to your shots.
Jan. 13, 2010
Inside-out forehand: what, why, how, where
means the ball that is going to bounce closer to the center, inside of the court than the outside lines, hence it's an "inside" ball.
Why: Most tennis players have
more confidence in their forehands than their backhands. Run around your backhand to hit the shot in which you have more confidence.
How: Move quickly to get in position, load up your
hitting leg, same side as your hitting arm, hit a full topspin forehand with confidence.
Where: cross court, outside, or down the middle (especially doubles) or down the line if your
opponent is way out of position. Inside-out typically refers to hitting angled cross-court. Choose the target that implements your game plan or play you have for that point.
Jan. 10, 2010
Mini Tennis: dynamic stretch and great drill
Start your tennis time
with a warm-up: dynamic stretching. Dynamic means movement, as opposed to a static stretch like a forward bend or other standing stretches. You want to give your muscles and body a chance to prepare for the sudden and quick motions of tennis. Some of the benefits and ideas of mini tennis are:
- start close to the net and keep the ball in the service court to minimize the amount of running (remember, we're warming up for full running)
- get your feet going: light bouncing, exaggerate your adjustment steps, keep adjusting 'till just before you hit the ball
- use and exaggerate complete strokes especially your unit turn, preparation, and follow through to get the correct motion and warm up your core.
- use heavy spin to get your feel going and keep the ball in the shorter court
- Take a step back every time y'all get five balls in a row with no errors. If you make a mistake then you start that set over again. Let's say you are on the 1st set of
five and on the 4th ball one of you hits the ball into the net. You start over at "1". It takes 7 sets of five to step back to the base line.
- Drill part: When you can use complete strokes and keep the ball in the service courts, that's ball control. This is your short ball angled put-away shot.
Jan. 8, 2010
Kitchen Tennis: wii does not count
Here some exercises you can do at
home to improve your tennis game:
- ball toss: (1) pick a spot on the ceiling and practice getting the ball exactly where you want it. A service ball toss is really more of a ball lift. You raise the ball up and let
go. The more you mimic your serve the more effective this practice is. Visualize the court, place yourself at the base line, follow your serve ritual, do your coil and toss. (if your ceilings are
too low to actually toss a ball then toss with no ball or go outside) (2) learn to juggle with your toss hand. (Thanks for the juggle idea Fred)
- attack with the edge: practice your service motion (without your racket). When you would contact the ball, is your thumb pointed at the top of your head? You want to hit across
the ball starting with the edge of your little finger and across the palm of your hand.
- follow-through: finish your strokes. Watch the pros and do what they do. Finish with your elbow under your chin or across your body. Swing your arm in a relaxed manner from
contact point through to a complete finish. One handed backhand: open your chest; fling both arms in opposite directions, one continuing past the target and the other behind you.
Jan. 3, 2010
"mine" "mine": Be a "Nemo" seagull
"Finding Nemo" is a very cute animated family movie about a father clownfish, "Marlin" ultimately rescuing his son, Nemo. There are many interesting and enduring characters.
Competitive and tenacious seagulls compete with each other all the time repeating, "mine" "mine" "mine" "mine" "mine".... This is a great attitude to have when you are playing net. If you try for more poaches, you'll be amazed how many you get. Every shot is yours. You're closer, you have the
put-away angle, go get the ball. Your partner has hit a few cross court groundstrokes, your opponent is having to stretch low for a ball; look for clues, close the net, be the gull, get the ball
I find this series about doubles tactics very helpful (and convicting). Look how much of the court belongs to the net player!!
Dec. 31 2009
Plays from your play book
In many sports, coaches develop
playbooks which they share with the team. All the team members learn the same plays. In the huddle, the play is called and everyone knows their part. Now it's a matter of execution. Tennis
doubles is a team sport too. You're using plays whether you're verbalizing them. "I'm serving to their backhands." "I'm returning cross-court". "If I get a
forehand and we're up 0-30, I'm returning down the line". Develop and use plays. Play as a team to win. Have a game plan, an overall strategy your team is agreed upon to win the set. Use
plays to win a point. Details of a play might include intended placement, serving formation, receiving formation, poaching or not, serve & volley, who's getting what.
Develop plays. Call them in your huddle.
Dec 30, 2009
After tennis stretch
The good news is playing tennis provides
the cardio component of a sensible exercise regimen. The bad news is research shows a sensible regimen has three parts: cardio, stretching and weights. When you get onto the court, do some dynamic
stretching to get your body warmed up. Mini-tennis is a great dynamic stretch. After your games, take 5 minutes to cool down and stretch out. Take a walk around the court. On each corner or side of
the court do a simple stretch for a 40 count. Stretches like: cat, cobra, dog, forward bend, lunge, sun salutations, triangle or warrior. You're playing with people committed to fun and fitness.
Help each other develop a post-play stretching ritual and it will become another healthy habit.
Dec 28, 2009
Practice with purpose
Hone your existing skills and develop
new skills. If you just repeat what you know, you are at best grooving a good stroke. If what you know is poor technique then you are grooving a poor shot. You can practice while you play with a
little cooperation from your group. Play, "no second serves" to pressure "first serve in". Play "receiver must lob" to work on overheads and topspin lobs. Play
"receiver must hit cross court" to work on angles and server's partner poaching. Play "server must serve and volley every serve". Clinics and ball machine are great for
hitting 100 angled volleys.
Play with purpose: agree on a rule to force uncomfortable, learning situations.
Dec 27, 2009
Keep your feet moving; (or for you physics aficionados: which state
are you in?) Newton's first law starts, "Every object persists in it's state of rest or uniform motion..." Newton probably discovered this playing tennis. He noticed how much faster
he was getting to the ball when his feet were ALREADY going. So: sway, take little steps, do split hops, run in place, tap dance, just keep moving. The only restriction here is Code 34: "Any
movement or sound that is made SOLELY to distract an opponent..." (emphasis mine). If the soles of both your shoes are in contact with the court, you are "at rest" and you will have to
"change your state" to get into the game.
Dec. 25, 2009
Stay Positive: The next shot is more important than the
last mistake. Some positive rituals are:
- say what you wish you had done: "I'm hitting down the middle." is better than saying "that was poor shot selection". saying: "punch the volley"
is better than saying "Don't swing at volleys"
- Do the correct thing. For example if you didn't follow through, take a couple of shadow strokes with a complete follow through to reinforce the positive shot
- Complement your partner on everything they did right. For example, they missed an easy volley, in your between point ritual you might say, "great poach move, right target
too, keep it up"
- Increase your focus and observation to limit your self-talk; you don't have time to berate yourself if you are looking for the seams of the ball or eager to poach "this
ball is mine" or shifting your focus from opponent to opponent looking for clues "who's getting the ball" "what's their target" "my shot is into that open
- restate the game plan instead of apologizing
- stand tall, adjust your strings, evaluate your strategy
- develop a fun expletive you can use “oh butterfinger” “crispy crunch”
Dec. 23, 2009
Full wrap for consistency, control, & power
ground strokes, forehand and two-handed backhand, with your racket wrapped over your shoulder. Hold your finish and check to see if your arm is wrapped so your elbow is under your chin. One trick
here is to hit relaxed. Your relaxed arms will naturally want to carry through the momentum of the kinetic chain. Power comes from the angular momentum of your entire body. Your hand and racket are
at the end of the chain. Think end of a bull whip or end of a line of people on roller skates or a turning water skier. In tennis we have loaded legs, coiled hips trunk and shoulders that create snap
in your strokes – if you let the whip crack.
Wrap doesn’t have to be over the shoulder; it’s a good default to insure you are hitting up on the ball. Pros will finish anywhere
from around their waist, with a windshield wiper stroke to over their head: extreme finish like Nadal.
Dec. 22, 2009
After the bounce – play the ball After the ball bounces, you
set up to hit your shot. All the time up to and until the ball has bounced is preparation time.
You exploded in the direction of the ball as soon as it came off your opponent’s racket
You got to where the ball is going to land and you’re taking tiny adjustment steps (love the sound of shoes squeaking on the court) to put the ball exactly in your strike
zone – right?
Now – the ball bounces – you make your final adjustments, load, and hit it back. You have so much time. Try this in a practice: as soon as the ball bounces,
(yes I’m talking about on your side before you hit it) turn a complete circle before you hit the ball – it will show you how much time you have. (On a slow ball you can turn 2 circles)
Dec. 21, 2009
Down the middle
Many times down the middle is great shot selection:
- The net is lower in the middle.
- Opponent(s) then have to create their own angles.
- Force communication errors in doubles when both or neither player goes for the ball.
- If you serve down the middle, and your doubles team is focused on covering the middle, the correct focus, your opponent has a small target on either side of the court to hit a
- Many players hit well on the run or stretched out, down the middle can create those awkward “at the body” situations.
Dec. 19, 2009
Discuss: strengths and weaknesses
Each of us has strengths and
weaknesses. If you are playing to win, do some analytical work in the warm-up. Evaluate yourself to determine what feels good and doesn’t. Analyze your opponents for strengths and weaknesses.
If you are playing doubles, after the warm-up and throughout the match, as you make more discoveries, talk to your partner about playing to your strengths and their weaknesses. Do you play the same
every day? Of course not! And neither does any one else. You may know "Betty has great slice serve out wide". On a particular day you might observe "John can't hit a backhand
volley to save his life." Adjust and Strategize to play your combined strengths to their weaknesses.
Dec. 16, 2009
Put your 1st serve in play.
Think about receiving serve:
do you feel differently about “getting” a second serve?
Stay offensive and seed an additional element of challenge; put your 1st serve in play.
Especially in doubles, it’s your responsibility to get your partner in the point.
Your partner is better prepared, has higher energy and thinks “oh yeah” when you get your 1st serve in. (And your partner knows where the serve is going because y’all planned it in your between points ritual.)
Dec. 15, 2009
Consistent: you are getting the ball in the court and forcing your
opponent(s) to hit an extra shot.
Placement: you are placing the ball into the empty quadrant and forcing your opponents
- to run
- to hit awkward shots
- to recover their positions
- to communicate with each other
- Now you may hit out with more power. Consistency, placement, power
If power reduces your consistency or placement, then you have to go back (at least one step).
Winners are gratifying. Staying in the point wins tennis games.
Dec. 14, 2009
Consistency, placement, power
Consistent: you are getting the
ball in the court and forcing your opponent(s) to hit an extra shot;
(remember all those easy put away volleys that went into the net)
((the opposite of consistency is beating yourself by
hitting unforced errors - giving away free points))
Go for more on your shots by placing the ball. Aim at least 2 feet inside the lines.
Even in doubles there is an empty quadrant; ¼ of
their court empty; place the ball there.
Successive placements will create huge open spaces for a winner.
Dec. 13, 2009
Consistency, placement, power
is the mantra of successful tennis
players: age 4 - 104, NTRP 0-7.
If you get the ball back one more time, you might win the point.
In doubles, 90% of your shots need to be good.
Yes, you need to hit 9 good shots before you
hit an unforced error.
Doubles is all about getting your partner into the point.
If you're struggling, count how many shots you hit in a row before you hit an unforced error.
team is struggling, count consecutive good team shots.
Dec. 12, 2009
Serve: Hit your second serve harder
That's right! You have
probably heard, "You're only as good as your 2nd serve." And now, "Hit your second serve harder". How's that going to work? What about double faults? The trick is: you
have a dependable topspin serve for a second serve. Your 1st serve went out. (If your 1st serve went into the net see the "keep your head up" hint.)
If you want your 2nd serve to go in, then you have to hit it harder so it will spin down into the court. Hit a "harder" second serve and maintain your aggressive
Dec. 11, 2009
Serve: Keep your head up
The day of your first serving lesson you
heard "keep your head up".
What does that mean? If you keep your head up, your serve will clear the net.
If your serve goes into the net, you dropped your head. Here are some
hints to clear the net on your serve.
(1) watch the ball; watch the ball until you see empty space where the ball was.
(2) change your focus to the sound your racket makes at contact: watch the
ball until you hear "schickkkkkkk" the sound of your strings dragging across the ball.
See also Chest to the sky
Dec. 6, 2009
Serve: Attack with the edge of your racket:
Hitting up on the ball
is the key to serving You have to clear the net. A good visual for hitting up is to imagine you are going to hit your toss with the edge, the side edge of the frame. You want the ball to travel
across your stings from one side of the racket to the other (topspin / kick) or diagonally across the strings (slice or spin serve).
Tomaz at Feel Tennis has a great drill to groove your service motion, The Edge Drill (Starts at about 3:30)
Be sure and do the edge across your back
to get a good drop. Tomaz has lots and lots of great serve videos.
Also think about the way your wrist moves. You want to Hammer the ball.
Dec. 4, 2009
Have a ritual; have a target
Your serve is totally in your hands. Start your serve, especially your second serve with your service ritual. If you don’t have one, ask your pro to help you develop one uniquely you.
Secondly, have in your mind where the serve is going. Just like life: to get where you want to be, put your destination in mind!
Dec. 2, 2009
Bring your fencing skills to the net:
Why is volleying like sword
- keep your racket up and in front of you, protecting your self
(when you make your unit turn, your racquet will still be in front of you)
- make little powerful parries to direct the ball
- recover quickly to parry the next thrust
- keep your sword up, if you over swing, you will be defenseless to the next attack
Dec. 1, 2009
Raise your strike zone
- Find some space in front of a mirror or get your oldest child, or spouse to be your mirror and watch you.
- relax your arms, keep them relaxed while you spin in one place.
- Let your relaxed arms rise with the angular momentum of the spin.
- See where your hands rise to and settle? - ask your observer
(When was the last time they saw you spinning like a kid?)
- Where your hands hover as you spin is your strike zone.
Use your speed and agility to get in position to hit the ball in your optimal strike zone.
Nov. 30, 2009
Everything you have heard about a split step is true:
- take one every time the other team is preparing to hit
- center your body weight, slightly forward; ready to explode in the right direction
(read right direction "any direction". You'll know the right direction when
they hit the ball)
- keep on your toes, literally, ready to move
Hop instead of step. Keep your momentum going, mostly forward.
Nov. 29, 2009
Feel the ball.
Think about touch between 2 people:
touch a person or you can stroke them One is a touch; the other is prolonged contact skin to skin. (Try it now on your self: touch -- stroke) You can touch the ball with your racquet. Or you can
brush the ball with your strings; prolonging contact with the ball. The result of brushing the ball is greater feel, control and ultimately - power.
Make your strokes into strokes.
Nov. 28, 2009
UP and OUT:
Walk up to the net
Thinking about your serve (service box looks big from here?)
focus on the service line (at the back of the rectangle into which you are serving)
as you walk backwards toward the baseline
notice when the entire service box disappears below the net
hit up on your serve to clear the net!
You have to be 8 feet tall to hit down.