tennis 40 best tips
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FROM THE NATIONS TOP INSTRUCTORS
1. MAINTAIN THE ANGLE Instructors always tell you to keep your racquet
head above your wrist when you volley. Its good advice, but when misunderstood it can lead to awkward, ineffective volleys on low balls. Rather than worrying so much about your racquet head, concentrate on maintaining the same angle between your racquet and forearmin the correct position, its about 120 degreesfor all volleys, no matter how high or low.PETE COLLINS, PTR, AUGUSTA, GA.2. POINT IT OUT On the forehand, point your 3. SWING WITH NO STRING Racquet
nonplaying hand at the ball while its on the way to your side of the net and track it with your hand toward your desired contact point. This will promote a good shoulder turn while you bring your racquet back and coil your upper body.ANNI MILLER, USPTA & PTR, LAKE OSWEGO, ORE.
CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES
acceleration, or swing speed, is the key to hitting harder shots. One way to get the racquet around faster is to relax your hitting hand and arm enough to swing freely. Heres a trick that will help you learn to do it. Bring two racquets to the court, one strung, one unstrung. Hit three balls with your strung racquet and then hit three with the unstrung one. When done correctly the ball will simply pass through the open racquet face. Keep alternating between the strung and unstrung racquets until your swing speed with both frames is the same.JOE DINOFFER, USPTA &PTR, DALLAS
4. DRAW THE LINE Changing the direction of the ball and going down the line at an inopportune moment in a rally is an elementary mistake. You should only choose to go down the line if three conditions are met: Your opponent hits a short ball; you reach the shot in a balanced position with the ball in your hitting zone; and you feel you can hit an outright winner or put your opponent in serious trouble. JACK THOMPSON, PTR, WILLIAMSBURG, VA.
5. GET HIP To learn where to make contact with the ball on an open-stance forehand, place your dominant wrist at your hip on that side and have someone bounce a ball to you. Catch the ball at hip level without moving your handyoull have to get your back foot behind the ball. Next, add the racquet and hit the ball, keeping your wrist near your hip. This forces your stroke to be out in front, producing more power and enabling you to push off your back foot for a quicker recovery. JOSEPH THOMPSON, USPTA MASTER PRO, ROLLING HILLS COUNTRY CLUB, GOLDEN, COLO.
CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES
6. DONT SPIN OUT Its a common mistake on the one-handed backhand to open your hips as you hit the ball. This causes you to swing across the ball and produce an unreliable stroke. Heres a quick x: Hold a hopper full of balls with your off hand and have a partner feed balls to your backhand. The weight of the basket will keep your hips from ying open and force you to use your shoulders to drive through the ball. If you dont have a basket of balls, use a heavy tennis bag. DR. LOUIE CAP, PTR, HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.
7. DIVIDE AND CONQUER I like to divide a set into thirds. In the beginning, I hit crosscourt, following the natural hip and shoulder rotation of my body to get a rhythm, and feel out my opponent. In the middle, I try to play my strength to my opponents weakness. At the end of the set, when its time to close it out, I think aggression with discretion and play aggressively but under control.RICK VETTER, USPTA, MEQUON, WIS.
8. GO THROUGH THE WINDOW One key to
winning more matches is to minimize your unforced errors. The net is your rst obstacle to overcome, and the easiest way to beat it is to imagine a window thats 2 or 3 feet above the net. Aim every shot into that space for a greater margin of error. Take a similar approach when dealing with your other obstacle, the lines. Again, imagine a zone 2 or 3 feet inside the lines and keep your shots in that area.JORGE ANDREW,USPTA & PTR, LEXINGTON, S.C.
9. OVERHEAD BREEZE You have a strong breeze at your back, but you just hit an overhead into the net. Surprised? Dont be. Wind at your back can cause your opponents lob to hang up in the air and throw off your timing. You end up hitting the ball too far out in front and dumping it into the net. The next time the wind is at your back, concentrate on hitting your overheads deep into the court. Youll be less likely to hit into the net and give your opponent free points.DR. LOUIE CAP, PTR MASTER PRO, VAN DER MEER TENNIS CENTER, HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.
10. GO LEFTY FOR A BETTER BACKHAND
Assuming youre right-handed, your left hand should drive the stroke when you hit a twohanded backhand. To get used to this feeling, practice hitting left-handed forehands (righthanded forehands for lefties).ROBERTLANSDORP, FORMER COACH OF FOUR WORLD NO. 1 PLAYERS
11. POUR IT ON
To learn how to follow through on a topspin forehand, imagine that you have a cup of water in your dominant hand and a cup perched on your opposite shoulder. Your goal is to swing all the way around until you could pour the water from one cup into the other.JEFF HAWES,USPTA, BURLINGTON, N.C.
12. REACH FOR THE STARSCLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: MANUELA DAVIES/DOUBLEXPOSURE (2); CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES (4)
When your serve isnt working, you may become tentative and let your toss drop below the proper contact point. This will only make things worse. Whenever your serve goes astray, force your tossing arm to extend upward completely before releasing the ball. Then reach for the stars and strike the ball before it drops.WILL HOAG,USPTA, FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.
13. VOLLEY SOFT AND DEEP
When you come forward and your opponent hits a low passing shot, try to hit a high, lofty ball without much pace. This will achieve three things: First, the higher the ball goes over the net, the deeper it will land in the court, driving your opponent back. Second, most players dislike returning a soft ball because they have to generate the pace. Third, if your opponent lobs from far back in the court, youll have time to reach the ball and put it into the open court.JIMMY PITKANEN, USPTA & PTR,KNOXVILLE, TENN.
14. INCREASE YOUR RACQUET-HEAD SPEED
Perhaps youve seen those colorful foam balls that many instructors use with kids and beginners. They are often called transition balls because their purpose is to help novices improve at rallying. But they can also help more experienced players of any age increase their racquethead speed, which is critical to generating power. The idea is simple: Because the foam balls are larger than regular tennis balls, they travel more slowly and cover less distance. This allows you to swing faster without the fear of hitting the ball long. When you go back to regular balls following a session of using foam balls, you should nd youre hitting deeper ground strokes with more pace.JEFF HAWES, USPTA MASTER PRO, ALAMANCE COUNTRYCLUB, BURLINGTON, N.C.
15. SERVE TO THE RHYTHM Get better timing on your serve by counting to
three. Say one with the backswing; pause a beat and say two at contact; then say three as you follow through.KEN DEHART, USPTA & PTR, SAN JOSE, CALIF.16. TWIST YOUR WRIST To produce underspin for a deadly drop shot, you
need to open your racquet face beneath the ball. Heres how you practice it: Place your racquet head across the top of the net, with the bottom edge of the racquet head resting on the net. Keep the same grip and allow your wrist to turn with the racquet as you drag it along the net. Move the racquet toward the net post until both sides of the racquet head touch the net and the racquet face is at. This is the proper technique for the forehand drop shot. To practice the backhand drop shot, turn your palm down until the racquet head is on top of the net.GENE HOLLAND,PTR, WHEATON, ILL.
17. AIM YOUR PALM One reason players make errors on the forehand volley is that their wrists dont stay rm during contact, resulting in misdirected shots. To cure this problem, point the palm of your hitting hand in the direction you want the ball to go and freeze it there.WILL HOAG, USPTA, FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.
18. KEEP A LOOSE GRIP Many players strangle their racquets when they serve. How tight is tight enough? On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being loose and 5 being a death grip, a 2 is about right. Another way to think about it: Pretend you have a little bird in your hand. You want to hold it rmly enough so that it wont y away, but not so tight that you begin to squeeze it.ANGEL LOPEZ, USPTA, SAN DIEGOCLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: MANUELA DAVIES/DOUBLEXPOSURE; CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES (6)
19. TURN SIDEWAYS FOR OVERHEADS To put away lobs, you
have to move backward quickly. The best way to do that is to immediately turn sideways, point your off hand upward as the ball goes up, and move back using crossover steps. Turning sideways helps you rotate your hips and shoulders into the shot for more power.MIKE VANZUTPHEN, USPTA, MESA, ARIZ.
20. POINT TO THE SPOT
Successful volleying requires solid control of the racquet face before and after contact. As the ball comes in, you need to line up the racquet face with the balls ight path using minimal backswing. To gauge your success in controlling your racquet face, check to see where its pointing after contact. The strings should be directed at your target.PAULA SCHEB, USPTA, BONITA SPRINGS, FLA.
21. PRACTICE YOUR DISTANCE CONTROL When nerves strike or its
windy out, players often have trouble controlling the depth on their serves. You can practice your service depth by hitting from different locations. Try serving from a few feet inside the baseline and behind the baseline to master hitting to various depths.JOHN RAKER, PTR, HARRISONBURG, VA.
22. GO TO THE FENCE Hitting a
23. LOB AND APPROACH In
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C., FORMER COACH OF 21 ALL-AMERICAN PLAYERS
USPTA, HOLLAND, MICH.
CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES
topspin serve requires you to swing up and out. Heres a good way to learn how: Walk outside the court, stand 5 feet behind the back fence, and practice hitting your serve over it by brushing up on the ball.BILLY STEARNS,
doubles, if you play against a team that plays with the server back and the other player at net, you can take control by lobbing your return to the server and moving in. Even though the server can easily return your lob, he probably wont hurt you with his reply, and your side can take over the net.JORGE CAPESTANY,
25. TAKE IT EARLY High-
bouncing topspin shots at the baseline are trouble. The next time someone sends a high, looping ball to your forehand, try this: Load up early and launch yourself forward and upward to play the ball in your power zone. At contact, both feet will be off the ground, and youll land on your front foot while your other foot swings backward. This advanced play will keep you on the offensive.TODD MILLER, PTR, BUFFALO, N.Y.
26. WORK WITH WHAT YOU GET Recognizing the high24. CATCH THE OVERHEAD To
learn to get into the proper position for an overhead, practice by catching the ball in your nondominant hand with your arm extended. This forces you to get underneath the ball, critical to hitting a smash.PAULA SCHEB, USPTA, BONITA SPRINGS, FLA.
percentage play is key to performing well at net. If someone hits down the line with pace, thats an opportunity to volley rmly crosscourt. If someone hits down the line softly, go for a sharper angle.NICK SAVIANO,SAVIANO HIGH PERFORMANCE TENNIS ACADEMY, SUNRISE, FLA.
27. VARY YOUR STANCE You can add variety to your serve by altering your position on the baseline to create different angles. The same serve delivered from near the center hash mark looks different to the receiver when delivered 3 or 5 feet toward the sideline.PAULA SCHEB, USPTA, BONITA SPRINGS, FLA.
28. POLE POSITION
Its an axiom in tennis that good doubles begins with good service returnsthey need to be more precise than in singles. To improve your returns, stick a pole through the net next to the center strap so youll have a tall target. If you dont have a pole handy, use a squeegee, broomstick, or anything else that will extend the center strap into the air. Then work on hitting your returns crosscourt to the opposite side of the pole. When the serve is hit down the middle, hit the ball away from the pole toward the servers doubles alley. When the serve is hit out wide, try to dip the return into the opposite service box so the net man cant gobble it up. With a pole and a little practice, youll be hitting great returns in no time.JOSEPHTHOMPSON, USPTA MASTER PRO, ROLLING HILLS COUNTRY CLUB, GOLDEN, COLO.LEFT: MANUELA DAVIES/DOUBLEXPOSURE; RIGHT: CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES (3)
29. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR If you prefer your forehand volley over your backhand volley, increase the likelihood of hitting it when you serve and volley by standing in the middle of the court when you serve from the deuce side (ad side for lefties). Two-thirds of your opponents returns will likely go to your forehand side. In the ad court (deuce for lefties), stand out wide to give yourself more forehand volleys. When you do get backhand volleys, hit them crosscourt, which is easier than going down the line.LYNNE ROLLEY, FORMER COACH OF GRAND SLAM AND OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS
30. TALK IT OUT Great doubles teams communicate all the time, not only with words but also with positive body language and gestures. After a point is over, move toward your partner to offer encouragement and show unity as a team. If your partner misses a shot, dont show frustration. Instead, tell him something that will keep him positive and get him ready to play the next point.JORGE ANDREW, USPTA & PTR, LEXINGTON, S.C.
31. SPIKE IT Many players have
trouble getting depth and power on their volleys without overswinging. The key is to keep your racquet traveling along the path of the shot. To do this, imagine you have a spike in the center of your string bed and you want to stab the ball. This will encourage a rm wrist and stabbing motion, which will add punch to your volleys.PAT WHITWORTH, USPTA,HAMILTON MILL, GA.
32. GO FROM THUMB TO KNUCKLES Forearm rotation is key to adding
power to your serve and overhead. To learn this motion, set up in the classic overhead position, with your racquet hand holding the frame up and back. From this position you should see the thumb of your playing hand. After you rotate your forearm properly, youll see your knuckles. The faster the rotation from thumb to knuckles, the more power youll generate.BUTCH STAPLES, PTR, CHICAGO33. LOB ON A CLEAR DAY The lob is always an effective shot, but on clear days its a killer. Why? Because theres no reference point in the background that your opponent can use to judge distance. When there are clouds, most players nd it easier to perceive depth and hit overheads.DR. JACK GROPPEL, USPTA & PTR, ALGONQUIN, ILL.
34. FIND THE IDEAL CONTACT POINT
Youve probably been told to hit the ball out in front on a volley. Thats misleading. You should make contact between your shoulders. If you make contact at this point, your arm acts as a lever and pushes through the ball for more power.PAULA SCHEB, USPTA, BONITA SPRINGS, FLA.
35. PINPOINT YOUR STANCE You have a smooth
service motion, a good toss, and decent accuracy, but you cant generate enough power. Sound familiar? You may not shift your weight forward enough. Adding a step to your serve might help. To master the technique, which is called the pinpoint stance, put thin rubber targets, or poly spots (available at tennistrainer.com), at the baseline where you normally put your feet to serve. Stand on the targets, toss the ball, and move your back foot onto the front target alongside your front foot. The forward movement will shift more of your weight into the stroke.MIKE OCONNELL, HEAD TENNIS PRO, INDIANA UNIVERSITY TENNIS CENTER, BLOOMINGTON, IND.
36. STEP ASIDE One of the toughest shots in the game is the high one-handed
37. ALWAYS LOOK AHEAD
In doubles, inexperienced players often make the mistake of looking back if their partner is at the baseline hitting the ball. Dont do that. Instead, keep your eyes on your opponents. But which one should you focus on? Imagine two mean dogs live on your street. One is in the house at the end of the block and the other is in the house next door. When you walk down the street, which dog do you pay attention to rst? The one next door. Always keep your eyes on the dog whos most likely to bite youthe opposing net player.PAULA SCHEB, USPTA,BONITA SPRINGS, FLA.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: DAVID KENAS (3); CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES (3)
backhand. Although its difcult to make an offensive play, you can avoid needing to go on the defensive by putting more distance between your body and the ball and using a at swing thats parallel to the court. Moving laterally away from the ball puts you in a stronger ball-striking position.JOHN RAKER, PTR, HARRISONBURG, VA.
38. HIT EM HIGH, HIT EM HARD To slow down an attacking doubles team, hit one down-the-line lob return and one hard return right at the net player during your rst return game. Youll give your opponents something to think about and you may even earn an early break. DAVE HAGLER, USPTA MASTER PRO, PTR, LOS ANGELES
39. ORDER THE COMBO Think of your drop shot as a two-shot combo, not as an outright winner. Use the drop shot to bring your opponent to the net, then lob or pass him on the second shot. Always assume your opponents will get to your drop shots. If they dont, consider it a bonus.CHAN BEARCE, USPTA & PTR, GORHAM, MAINE
40. CATCH THE BALL IN A CAN How
many times have you missed a forehand volley because your backswing was too big? Heres an easy x. Hold an empty ball can with your dominant hand, have your partner toss a ball to you, and catch it in the can. This will force you to keep your hand steady and use your feet to get to the ball.DR. LOUIE CAP, PTR, HILTON HEADISLAND, S.C.