Todd's 20 Second Tennis Tips
5 TIPS TO HIT A
Power, grace and if you're footwork, balance and timing are in sync with your swing, you'll get a ton of spin and pace!
1. TIP: THE BALL DOESN'T HAVE A BRAIN, YOU DO!
It's not going to stop and wait for you to get into position. It's going to keep moving toward you, so it's your responsibility to immediately identify what the ball is going to do once it hits the ground so that you can get into and be in position to hit the ball in your hitting zone (which is between your hit and knee, about 6 inches in front of your body) at the time of hitting/making contact with the ball. This deals with seeing the ball, tracking the ball, timing, reacting and footwork.
2. TIP: RUSH YOUR FEET... NOT YOUR SWING!
(Read, Ready, Rhythm, React, Recover) The 5 R's of tennis...
In my opinion, footwork is the most important thing about tennis when it comes to the mechanics of the game, but if you can't get to the ball in time, then you won't be able to hit it effectively and you won't have control of the shot. Most coaches say to prepare your racquet. I say, you should prepare your feet! Usually, if you're late getting to the ball, there's a good chance that your swing will be too fast or rushed because you're not in position; which typically means you'll have no control over the shot. Identify (see) what the ball is going to do (react to it) and get into position (set your body up). If you get to the ball in time, this will dramatically fix your problem, but even before that, it's the utmost of importance to see the ball as soon as possible from the other side of the net so you can get into position faster. Ideally, you should be moving twice as fast as the ball is moving to get to the shot. Footwork... Footwork... Footwork!
Read: See the ball!
Ready Step: Ready step is basically a split step before the ball is struck by your opponent. Don't just jump up and down, this is your opportunity to identify the direction of the ball and have your body flow that way toward it.
Rhytym: Move your feet to get the the shot in a rhythmic step fashion. Move on your heels (to toe) and then load up behind the ball.
React: React the the ball and make contact.
Recover: How your move your body back into position after you hit your shot.
3. TIP: WHEN MOVING TO THE BALL, TAKE SMALL STUTTER STEPS (BABY STEPS) TO SLOW YOUR BODY DOWN AND THEN STOP BEFORE MAKING CONTACT. (IF NOT SLIDING ON CLAY)
It's important to keep you feet on the ground when hitting your groundstrokes and to not over-run the ball or keep running as you hit the shot so that you can be stabilized and on balance while hitting the ball. When moving to the ball, run fast (rush the feet) but when you're near it, slow your body down with baby steps (stutter steps) and then stop before you hit and make contact with the ball. This will keep your body in control, stabilized and in position when hitting the shot.
4. TIP: IMAGINE HITTING 5 BALLS, NOT ONE!
When hitting groundstrokes, yes, you want to use a brushing motion to help create spin by using more acceleration of your hands and using your legs to load up and get down under the ball to create more height over the net on the shot, but as you swing through the ball, it's important to drive through the ball (long hands) so the ball doesn't land too short for your opponent to attack. To keep the ball deeper and with more pace, imagine hitting 5 balls, not just the one as your swinging through the shot. In other words, you see 1 ball, but imagine seeing 5. This will increase pace on the shot and simutaneously, add dept so the ball lands deeper into the court. Hence, the longer the stroke, the deeper the shot. Another way to remember this is to keep the ball on the strings as long as possible. However you "slice" it, don't stop at contact with the ball, commit to the shot and follow completely through. Get your body moving forward as well. The longer the stroke, the deeper the shot!
5. TIP: WHEN HITTING YOUR OPEN STANCED FOREHAND, IMAGINE OPENING A DOOR KNOB AT CONTACT POINT.
To help facilitate the brushing motion on your forehand, imagine turning a door knob counterclockwise if you're a righty and clockwise if you're a lefty when making contact with the ball as your arm goes up through the shot. This deals with the pronation of the forearm as the arm is moving up through the shot during contact of the ball. Kind of like a windshield wiper effect. As you hit upward through the forehand (there has to be a downswing first... hence, low to high), the right side of your body/hip/shoulders should be untwisting/turning forward toward the direction of the net through the ball (for a righty) and your weight will transfer from your back (right) leg (which is planted on the ground) to your left. The right side of your body uncoils, turns, twists, opens forward as you're swinging and your hips should then be facing the net at the end of the shot with your body weight now transfered to your left foot. This goes the same for a lefty, but just use the opposite sides as above. Also, in terms of the brushing motion, you should use more of your hands and accelerate through the ball right before contact. Swing down and brush your hands forward.
While swinging, create racquet head speed. This will also help with creating a "heavy" shot (topspin) and a hard upward motion of the ball as it comes up off the court on your opponent's side making it a more difficult shot to hit. Remember to use a loop "backward C motion" on your backswing and don't forget... it's one continuous motion. Your shot will also potentially have height and depth, which at the end of the day is what you're looking for on your groundstrokes!
Bonus Tip: Tell yourself, (righty) "Right leg down... Twist... Untwist..." Just remember that as you're untwisting, you're body is moving forward through the shot and you're doing a reverse pivot on your back leg (pushing off and forward) to help generate power so that the energy now gets dispursed to your left leg. In other words, push off your back leg to your front! Imagine your right hip is a piston to an engine. Have that right hip fire forward toward the net as your coming up off your leg. A great tip here would be to imagine squishing a bug as rotate forward.
Hopefully, that helps. There's more to the open stance or semi-open stance forehand, but for now, just understand that when hitting the ball, all of your energy goes forward and at contact point, open the door knob brushing over and through the shot!