With the dominance of today's power baseline game, the art of transitioning to the net to finish out a point has become a rare sight. Players either win points outright by hitting winners from the baseline, or they're simply uncomfortable moving in to the net.
But playing at the net can still be just as effective as a power baseline rally. The key is to have a smart and solid transition game, which starts with a strategically placed approach shot and proper court coverage.
Approach shot: Cover the line, react crosscourt
Video description: Watch this slo-mo video of how Anna Ivanovic successfully uses the approach shot to move forward and put herself into the best position to close out a point. Think two shot (approach / volley) combo to end the point.
Simply click on the following link to activate video:
The First Step to Playing Better
I've had the pleasure of playing tennis with, against and coached by Greg Moran. He's not only the Tennis Director at Four Seasons in Wilton CT, but also the author of Tennis: Beyond Big Shots.
This is one of the few books about our game that I would characterize as elemental. Internalizing, then applying the aspects of one's personal game within the framework of this book allowed me to take the first step in raising my game to the next level and subsequently levels beyond.
Consider this required reading for players at any level. For more information visit:
The world of doubles is one that is fun and challenging. The secret is forming a successful doubles team, learning how to communicate effectively and knowing the right kinds of strategies and tactics involved in doubles play.
What are the main tennis doubles strategies that will keep the game simple and at the same time guarantee high probability of winning?
In doubles, the ultimate goal is always to get to the net. The team that gets both players to the net first, will most definitely win the point, considering all players equal.
1. Moving forward
When you're at the net in doubles, remember to always move forward after the volley. If you hit your volley and stay in the same place, you will just hit the same volley next time.
If you move forward after each volley, you put more pressure on your opponents, and the volley gets easier each time, because you make contact with the ball at a higher level above the net. Volley low between the players; remember the 'middle' is a moving target.
2. Serving strategy in doubles
When serving in doubles, I cannot emphasize how important getting your first serve in is. You see, it's a very psychological thing. Even if your first serve is exactly the same speed as your second serve, you will most likely still win the point if you get your first serve in. This is because when we are facing a first serve, we automatically put ourselves in the defensive frame of mind, and we are more apprehensive because we expect a big first serve.
On the contrary, we are naturally in an attacking frame of mind when facing a second serve, making us more likely to be successful on the second serve return. Therefore, if you get your first serve in in doubles, no matter the quality of the serve, you have a much better chance of winning the point.
3. Your partner serving
If your partner is serving, you might not realize that you are usually the one responsible for winning or losing the game. Many people think that when they are not serving, they can relax and put all the pressure on their partner. Wrong! As the net player, it is your job to completely take over and poach at every opportunity. So make sure you stand about an extended racquet length from the net, and almost right in middle between the singles sideline and the centerline.
Don't worry about being passed down the alley on the return: if your opponents hit that winner, give it to them and stand your ground on the next point, because they are not going to do it every time, and overall they will probably make 10 to 20 percent of those shots. The most important thing to remember when poaching, is that you should move diagonally towards the net, not just sideways. When you move diagonally, you make your movement move efficient, as you are cutting the angle between yourself and the net.
4. Returning strategy in doubles
When returning, just remember to keep the ball low crosscourt at the serving opponent's feet. If the opposing net player is crowding the net, throw them a lob every now and then, or go for a shot down the alley, just to keep them honest.
As always, you want to try to split-step at the exact time that your opponent makes contact with their serve, and then you can move efficiently to the return.
Lastly, make sure you are always working with and moving with your partner. If your partner is up at net, you need to try to get up there with them as soon as you can. If you are both at the net and your opponents hit the ball wide, fill in the gap in the middle until your partner can recover back to their position.
If you are both at the net and your partner gets lobbed, go back with them, at least behind the service line, so that you are ready for the possible overhead of your opponents.
So remember, in doubles, aggressive play at the net is the name of the game.
The following video link provides on-court insight into some of these strategies:
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Four Seasons Racquet Club Tennis Director Greg Moran brings the same clarity of thought to this excellent book about winning doubles strategy as he did with the singles game in the first edition of Beyond Big Shots (see 'B' Books above).
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The Dropshot . . . or 'gotcha'
When executed with disguise, the dropshot can be an effective weapon for a player to have. Not only can it pull an opponent out of position and open up the court for a putaway volley, but a well disguised dropshot can catch an opponent off-guard 'gotcha' if he is expecting to receive a deep groundstroke.
If you watched any of the 2009 French Open or Wimbledon you likely saw the dropshot executed more frequently than in recent past years. Maybe this is a portent of the game changing a bit to a touch/finese approach from a one-dimentional power-oriented baseline strategy.
Click on the following link to watch Novak Djokovic in slo-mo execute this shot on the backhand side. For most of us I would strongly suggest executing the drop shot from inside the baseline.
A continental grip on the forehand or eastern grip on the backhand (one hand or two-handed) will work best.
A lot of what goes in to the selection of a racquet is really personal preference. Many of us identify with a particular player and select a racquet accordingly. It's appropriate, though, to mentally place in the hands of your favorite player a different racquet and ask how much 'game' is a function of the equipment or the player.
As an all-court player my 'axe' of choice is the Yonex MP-2i. Simply, it suits my game. Here's a photo . . .
At $150+ making a selection mistake can be expensive. I suggest trying some demos from your club or local store. Often, the demo fee is applied to the purchase price. Keep your eyes on the ball.
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The Best String Without Going to Natural Gut
This is it. - Technifibre NRG. Woody at Grand Central Racquet www.grandcentralracquet.com/ in NYC recommended this to me for my Yonex racquets. I told him that as a player I could generate my own power as needed and I was really seeking the control and feel associated with natural gut. However, as I often play on clay or hard-tru and frequently in humid conditions I did not want the wear, weather and replacement issues associated with natural gut. I use 16-gauge and the string absolutely performs as advertised. Yonex recommends two strings, ergo four knots. The tension on my MP-2i frame is 58 lbs. Try it and let other players know of your own experience at the following blog: http://www.blogstecnifibre.typepad.com/
The human body is similar to a machine that needs fuel in order to function. Quality and appropriate fuel makes the machine run even better. Therefore, the foods we eat are extremely important to our lives and especially to the lives of tennis players. They need the right fuel in order to train and perform at high levels.
Healthy fuel for the body includes proteins, carbohydrates and fats. This week's tip addresses the subject of that we must have in our diet. Nutritionist Page Love discusses the amount of fat intake tennis players need in their meal plans and why. She explains that certain fats normalize hormonal regulation, raise metabolism, and help promote healthy skin, hair and bones. She adds that fat is a dense energy source, and it also helps your body absorb antioxidant vitamins.
Fats can be acquired from foods or via supplements. Examples of healthy fats are: avocados, olives, nuts, oil-based salad dressings, nut butters, fish oils, unsaturated fats and omega 3s. People should have at least one tablespoon a day in a healthy diet.
If you want to learn more about fats, proteins, carbohydrates or any other information regarding nutrition, visit TennisResources.com. Enter the word "nutrition" into the Quick Search field or choose our Advanced Search. The search will bring up a variety of videos, articles and audio seminars that will assist in expanding your knowledge in this matter.
This video is a part of the seminar "From sports beverages to vitamins: how tennis players use supplements," given by nutritionist Page Love. She discusses why it is important for tennis players to get enough of the good and natural fats such as vegetable fats, fish oils, unsaturated fats and omega 3s.
Flexibility is an important part of a player's physical
development and also one of the most overlooked. It is probably the least
applied subcomponent for different reasons: Players don't really like
stretching because it doesn't feel good, perhaps flexibility benefits are not
obvious on the tennis court, or it could be that most players don't understand
the importance of flexibility nor have a guideline for how, why and when to
We define flexibility as the range of motion of the joints and
the degree to which the muscles, tendons and connective tissue around the
joints can elongate and bend. There are many factors influencing flexibility,
including heredity, neuromuscular components and tissue temperature. An
important factor for a tennis player is tissue temperature. Heat increases the
elongation and bending properties of soft tissue. Warming up before stretching
by raising the body's temperature or by breaking a light sweat will give you
greater gains in flexibility with less microtrauma to the tissues you are
It is very important for tennis players to include stretching
as part of their routine - a warm-up with dynamic stretching and a cool-down
with static stretching at the end of every practice or match. Maintaining a
good level of flexibility is important in order to get to those difficult balls
and play tennis effectively.
Footwork is sometimes difficult to teach because we try to emphasize something that should happen naturally. Baseline shots in today's game require rotational movement in order to have a more efficient recovery, although the movement and footwork for approach shots is quite different. Instead of the lateral movement that is used a lot on the baseline, approach shots require you to move up on angles in order to make it to the net and finish the point with a volley. During practice, emphasize making the passing shot player uncomfortable and create floating balls on which you can come in and win an offensive position in the service box. Later you can use these same tactics during your match.
Description: Check out the video clip called "Transitional footwork," which is a premium clip made available to basic subscribers this week. This clip is taken from the "On Court with USPTA" instructional DVD "The All-court player," in which USPTA Professional Mark Bey discusses the type of footwork one needs to use when moving into the court to hit approach shots.
There's no question that the foundation to a player's movement on court is having a quick first step. If a player can develop a quick first step when reacting to an incoming ball, he is better able to get to it in time to properly set up for his shot. It is important for a player to work on his footwork with every practice session so that he may develop an explosive first step, move to the ball with speed and quickly recover for the next shot.
Baseline Drill to Improve Speed and Quickness
Video description: Watch as Master Professional Rick Macci performs a fast-paced baseline drill with a junior player, focusing mainly on the player's footwork and speed when moving from side to side and quickly alternating from forehand to backhand. Not only does this particular drill develop speed, agility and quickness, but it also focuses on conditioning.
There are two schools of thought regarding the way in which a forehand should be executed. I've always subscribed to the philosophy that's it's a good thing to be able to execute a variety of stokes in ways that are appropriate for a given situation.
Because the modern game has received so much attention (it's what most of us watch when viewing tennis today) let's begin with the modern game forehand.
Modern tennis technique has been influenced greatly by the addition of power and speed to the game. This is due to players maximizing the use of the kinetic chain and angular (versus linear) momentum, as well as the popularity of the semiwestern grip. With this fast-paced power game style, it is important for players to learn how to hit groundstrokes with an open-stance, modern forehand technique.
Loading for the Modern Forehand
Video description: Watch the video clip titled "Loading for the Modern Forehand," taken from the "On Court with USPTA" television show and featuring USPTA Master Professional David T. Porter, Ed.D. In this tip, he provides a detailed demonstration of how to hit the modern forehand, including an explanation of the preparation phase, the concept of load-explode-land and the proper shoulder rotation used in the shot.
Each person is built differently; even most twins have individual features. Some are taller, some are shorter, some are stronger and some might have a great touch. It really depends on the individual's genetics or natural instincts. What's most important is that based on their strengths and weaknesses, players find the type of style that fits them best, but at the same time are able to handle other skills when facing certain types of players.
What type of game style do you or your opponent(s) use?
Are you doing a good job on the baseline by being consistent and moving the opponent around, or do you prefer to win points by hitting outright winners? Are you successful by being a counterpuncher and getting every ball back while making it difficult for the opponent to hit winners? Are you forcing the opponent to miss? Or maybe you like to attack and come into the net a lot? Do you perhaps fall into the best-case scenario by being the all-court player, which successfully mixes the different styles and is able to select and transition easily from one style to the other, making it very difficult for the opponent?
Develop a variety of skills that will lend themselves to making mid-game adjustments, when necessary, while still emphasizing a preferred style!
Watch more videos about "game styles" by going to TennisResources.com. Simply type in "game styles" or any other combination of words into the Quick Search field and an extensive collection of clips and articles will match your search. You can also use the Advanced Search for more specific results. Simply select "Game styles" or any of the other subcomponents under the "General Performance Components-Strategic" category to find more useful video tips from several of the world's top teaching professionals.
How do you choose a game style and how can you use it to your advantage?
USPTA Professional Brett Hobden and Master Professionals David T. Porter and Jim Parker define the various game styles a player can develop, and they explain the importance of the ability to implement each style when needed.
In the previous era of traditional tennis, linear stroke technique was more predominant, which meant players used a linear momentum to execute the shots. For example, the well-known terminology of turn-step-hit is linear movement. Today's stroke technique is largely characterized by angular momentum, which is defined as the rotation on an axis. The terminology used is load-explode-land. Instead of hitting in a straight line, by shifting the weight from the back foot to the front foot as done before, a lot of players today hit the ball by shifting their weight using a rotational movement.
How familiar are you with these terms?
Expand your knowledge by clicking on the following link. It discusses linear and angular momentum and the modern game. Simply type the words "linear," "angular" or "modern" into the Quick Search field and you will find a list of related results. If you want to learn more about the technical aspect of the modern game choose the Advanced Search and click on "Modern shot technique" under the "Technical" General Performance Component. You will find a large number of videos featuring top teaching professionals as they explain the modern shots of tennis.
|Highlight: Linear and angular momentum |
Description: Check out this video featuring USPTA Master Professional David T. Porter, Ed.D., who defines both linear and angular momentum.
Nutrition is a critical aspect of our lives and especially of the lives of athletes. As a coach or as a player, do you ever take the time to think about your diet? How often do you reflect on how you are fueling your body? Are you getting the right proportions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats? What about vegetables, fruits or grains? Are you consuming foods that have a low to moderate glycemic index?
Nutrition can be viewed in two interesting ways: as fuel and also as a drug. Food is the fuel we need to keep us going and perform our daily activities. Also, based on the type of food we eat and when we eat it, food can act like a drug. Dr. Jack Groppel describes what a well-balanced diet means and why it is important to follow one. He describes how nutrition can change the body's chemistry and influence one's physical, emotional and mental performance.
An interview with USPTA Master Professional Jack Groppel offers his definition on nutrition and how it serves as fuel for a player's body. Groppel also discusses hydration and how food can change body chemistry. Watch it here.
Unpredictability is an important characteristic of a successful tennis player. Keeping the opponent guessing about the shots he has to return and making him uncomfortable is a tactic that many great players use. The serve is one shot that can be disguised if a player has numerous serves in his repertoire. If you can hit the flat, the slice and the kick serve and make appropriate choices and adjustments throughout a tennis match, you will be successful.
Today's tip is on the kick serve. This serve offers control and good placement, creating difficulty for the opponent on the return. The forward swing of the kick serve allows clearance over the net and a high rebound of the ball for the return. You can hit the ball with high racquet speed and still make a safe shot. Most players like to return a flat, powerful serve because it comes into their preferred strike zone, which is around waist level. The high bounce of the kick serve might cause some discomfort for the opponent.
To learn more about the serve and how to improve this important aspect of your game click here:
The kick serve is an effective and useful weapon to use on a clay court. In this video tip, Lorenzo Beltrame explains the benefits of using a kick serve and teaches the technique on how to hit a kick serve, including the grip, shoulder turn, ball toss and racquet face at contact.
Andy Roddick has perhaps the most powerful and efficient serve on the ATP tour. Let's look at the following video for an in-depth analysis of how he generates his power. For those of us who like crunching numbers this one is for you :-)
Serve and Volley
There are a number of essentials required to develop a strategic serve-and-volley game style. A successful serve and volley player will follow his serve to the net, take time away from his opponent and consistently and accurately put away volleys. A player must be willing to move (forward), react quickly to an opponents service return and accurately place a volley that puts the opponent into a defensive position.
Among the elite serve and volley players Pete Sampras redefined and elevated this style of play. Click on the link below to see a slo-mo video of Pete executing his serve and volley.
Slice shots - forehand and backhand - are often used on approach shots to keep the ball low and force an opponent to hit up, or when a player is in trouble and needs to hit a shot that gives him more time to recover. As a tactic, slice is used to change the pace of a rally during a point. By creating this change, it allows a player to disrupt his opponent's timing and influence what kind of shot his opponent hits.
When executing this shot on the backhand side think 'knuckles up' and fully turn your torso.
Let's take a look at Tim Henman hitting a superbly executed back-hand slice. Simply click on the following link:
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