Monthly Tennis Coaching Pointers - January 2019
Following on with our new 5 Tennis Tips feature to the Four Seasons Tennis Blog, today's new 5 tips are focused on the volley and net game.
In our modern tennis era, the net game has lost its way in singles match play. With new techniques and powerful racquets creating heavy spin and fast-paced shots, you don’t always get the time to get to the net and close the point.
In doubles, the net game is as strong as ever. Tactically you want to close the net and shut down the angles, which is easier for 2 players covering the doubles court.
For players wanting to add another element to their game, or those trying to sharpen their net play, these tips will help you achieve more when closer to the net.
Tennis Tip 1 – Get a Grip!
Use the same grip for both forehand and backhand volleys, that is, the continental grip (2).
If you’re changing between the eastern forehand grip (3) for forehand volleys, and eastern backhand grip (1) for backhand volleys, you don’t have time to set up the correct technique and be able to place the ball as well.
Tennis Tip 2 – Tisk, Tisk, Wrist
Keep your wrist firm and braced when playing a volley. Most other shots have a relaxed wrist for more racquet head speed.
Try not to choke the racquet, but don’t have a wet fish hand either.
Tennis Tip 3 – Two Left Feet?
Step the opposite foot to which side of the body you’re hitting the ball on. Push off the back leg and lean into the shot, stepping the front foot at moment of contact on the ball.
Right-handed players would push off the right foot and land with the left foot when playing a forehand volley.
Tennis Tip 4 – Chicken Wings
Keep the elbows in front of the body when waiting for the ball and split stepping, then open the racquet and punch the ball in front of your body.
Tennis Tip 5 – Close the Net
The closer you are to the net, the better the angle you can play. Don’t wait back on the service line all day. Move forward and put pressure on the opponent. However, if you stand too close to the net for too long, or at the wrong time, you leave yourself open for lobs.
Thank you for reading. If you have any requests please let me know :)
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Aim to land your split step a moment after your opponent hits the ball. You want to be at the height of the jump when they contact the ball, then land in the split momentarily afterwards. This timing can be tricky at first but will help you with the momentum to move into position for the shot to come.
Rafael Nadal doing a split step before hitting his trademark forehand.
Tennis Tip 2 – Bend Your Knees on the Serve
When throwing the ball for the serve, start bending your knees when the throwing arm starts rising. You should get to the lowest part of the bend when the ball reaches its peak then drive upwards to start hitting the ball.
Notice Pete Sampras’ smooth knee bend on the serve, one of the greatest ever!
The Sampras and Federer serves are things of beauty!
Once you’ve hit a groundstroke, forehand or backhand, and are recovering back into position, push off with the outside leg and crossover before side-stepping and doing the split step. This is a fast and balanced way to recover.
Watch Nishikori crossover his steps after a winning forehand.
Watch Andy Murray practice movement and footwork. Notice the crossover steps.
As soon as you know you’re hitting a forehand or backhand, turn your torso to the hitting side and watch the ball come from over your shoulder. This unit turn of the upper body will generate power as you turn back into the contact point and will help with balance. Your shoulders shouldn’t face the net all the time.
Serena Williams shoulder turn before massive forehand.
Wawrinka shoulder turn for both forehand and backhand.
Ideally, when you close the net for the volley you want to contact the ball above the net height. This gives you more angles to put the ball away and force the opponent to hit a ball from below the net height.
Pat Rafter hitting a volley above the net height, then Rafter digging out a low volley.
Next month there will be 5 more tips to work on. Keep on training!
Our Monday evening tennis competition run across 7 courts at Marrickville District Hardcourts and has 2 divisions. Division 1 is for advanced players and division 2 is for intermediate. Teams consist of 2 players who play 2 sets of doubles and 1 set of singles to score as many games as possible.
Our winners for Division 1 were Tabone/Butijer.
Division 2 winners were Wilson/Jackson.
The next Monday night competition start 17th September, next week! Register or get more information here.
Especially during the warmer months, this competition maintains a lot of the same players so if you're interested please reserve your place.
Division 1 finals court:
Division 2 finals court, singles match:
Today's coaching tip is a good counter-punching strategy but can also be used in any old point, especially if the opponent is constantly playing to your backhand.
Simply put you play a high, deep topspin crosscourt (CC) backhand, then a low slice down the line (DTL). Your aim is to push the opponent right back in the court and force him or her to play above the shoulder height with the most likely return to be a short CC slice, or something mid-court. Having anticipated the short return you move forwards cutting down your opponent's reaction time down and playing your DTL shot. This means she has less reaction time they have to cover a lot of court to reach the ball. Another benefit from forcing her to play the high ball then a low ball below the net height, is it’s the perfect setup for an approach to the net and volley.
If you're playing an opponent who is aware of these types of tactics you will have to wait for the most opportune moment and the weak return from them. So keep rolling the high loopy backhands CC and be patient. You’ll get your chance.
This might feel counterintuitive against a big power server but you should move forwards into every return of serve. Having the body weight behind the return acts like a wall. You will also improve your accuracy and consistency with this technique.
From the split-step move into the court and cut the angle of the ball off. If you struggle doing this move back a step and give yourself an extra half metre. This should give you the time. Especially playing against big servers, you want to feel almost like you’re throwing your body at the ball.
Stay tuned for more free coaching tips.
On Sunday we had our Adults Winter Tournament and it was a blast. As usual there were 4 divisions with 6 players battling it out in each group. The playing conditions were perfect for tennis. The sun was out and not a hint of wind. It was shaping up to be a wonderful day.
After the speech and the rules were set out it was time to play. Best of 8 games for 5 matches each player and the 2 top point scorers play out the final for the trophy… and the glory!
Unfortunately we were missing Tony Strachan for his infamous BBQ so I had to make do. A few BBQ steaks and veggies were had, even a few beers. There's nothing better to slow down the footwork o
It was a class of regulars including David O’D who won the Division 2 round last comp. In the end John M. defeated friend Matt B. 6-3 to clench his first Four Season Tennis trophy. John uses the unconventional double handed forehand and backhand which maximises power although it was a close match. Not bad for a hangover.
Two first-timers were contenders for the trophy in Div. 2. Marc F. from our Social Tennis and Marcelo H. Playing in his first tournament in Australia. Marc took it out with a 6-1 victory. It was nice to see Marcelo using the serve volley tactics but Marc had slightly more power which clenched the victory.
It was regular players all around in Division 3. All play in our tournaments, social tennis and/or do lessons. It was the most evenly scored division of the day. In the end Ash P. defeated Rachel O’C 6-3 for his second FSTS trophy. Might have to be division 2 next time Ash.
After waking up in Brisbane Kate B. flew into Sydney with only one thing on her mind… tennis tournament! Making a late entrance Kate ended up playing a final against the Frenchman Eric A. who eventually defeated her 5-3.
Thank you to all who participated in the tournament and those who came down to cheers friends on. It was a wonderful day and I hope to see everyone next time.
Plus, here are some more pics...
This article will give you a simple tactical game plan to get you over the line in your next match. Keeping your strategy simple when playing matches is key. It’s easy to get disheartened when expectations are too high and you will ultimately end up losing the match.
Strategy 1 - Strengths and Weaknesses
Tennis players approach their matches in different ways. Some just hit and hope. Some over think their game plan, making it too complex, thus becoming negative in their approach when they can’t accomplish their goals. Some work out their opponents weaknesses and use their strengths to exploit them. The last approach is the best and most likely to pay dividends. It is also the first strategy I want you to implement in your next match.
Look for these obvious weaknesses in your opponent:
Strategy 2 - First Serve
The second strategy is to get the first serve in to play. The returner is mentally on the back foot for the first serve, and you’re under less pressure. Take advantage of the mental pressure the opponent is feeling by being consistent and making them play the ball every time.
You can build this consistency by:
Strategy 3 - Crosscourt
The third strategy is to hit crosscourt. Don’t even think about hitting down the line. This simple placement strategy will keep you in the point and still allow you to attack. This crosscourt strategy works particularly well on the return of serve because it puts you in the point and neutralises your opponent therefore setting up a level playing field.
Be aware that it can become an easy read for your opponent after a while. If you pull your opponent wide or see them lagging to get back into recovery position then you can hit down the line to the open court to keep them honest.
The crosscourt shot is a high percentage shot because there is more length of court to hit to and the ball travels over the lowest part of the net. Also your body is naturally rotating crosscourt.
Crosscourt hitting is the essence of percentage tennis, which every tennis payer should aim for.
Some tips for hitting crosscourt:
Use this simple game plan to take into your next match. It is easy to execute and will definitely steer you towards a win:
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Sometimes small adjustments to your technique will pay huge dividends in your game. Here we’re going through 5 common forehand errors that are a must change for anyone looking to improve their technique and stop making unforced errors.
Back in the olden/golden days of tennis the continental grip was used for just about everything from forehand, backhand, volleys, serve and all inbetween. A good example in the 1970’s is John McEnroe who used the continental grip on his forehand. But with the pace, athleticism and equipment of todays game, a whole lot of changes have been made to keep up and play better tennis. One of which is the grips.
Today’s standard grips to use on the forehand are the eastern forehand grip and the semi-western forehand grip. Often grips are a hybrid between the 2. Some players still also use a full western or close to.
The eastern forehand grip is the grip used to hit flatter balls and considered a more traditional grip. Some players who use the grip include Roger Federer and Pete Sampras.
The semi western grip is now the most popular grip used, especially by professionals. Some of whom include Rafael Nadal (although his is sneaking towards the full western grip), Andy Murray and Djokovic and Sam Stosur
Depending on what court surface you play on, who you play against, your swing and what feel natural will determine which grip is right for you.
The most common forehand footwork errors include:
Stepping across the body with the left foot before hitting the ball which. This closes the body off to the court too much and inhibits body rotation thus power and swing length, and recovery steps
Stepping forwards into the ball with the right foot opening the body to the wrong side of the court. This opens the body too much and making a take back non existent.
Modern footwork has us using open and semi open stances, unlike the closed stances of yesteryear. Depending of your court positioning, try and keep a gap between your legs if facing the net. For instance, if stepping for a wide ball step out with the right foot, loading the leg and driving up through the leg.
If you need to step into the court you can step forwards into the court and there be no gap, so long as the left leg doesn’t step across the right. There are variations such as the walking/hopping crossover forehand used on short wide balls and return of serve.
As mentioned in the footwork, if you don’t turn the body, you don't get any swing on the ball or power in the shot. After the split step use the right foot to step open and turn the body out. From here move into position and hit the ball. There are different variations depending on which direction and how far you have to move but basically speaking turn the body as soon as possible.
Some cues to help turn the body include:
Pointing at the ball
Looking over your left shoulder
Point the butt of the racquet towards where you want to ball to go
Face the side fence (beginner)
If you're not hitting with any topspin chances are you have the wrong grip, incorrect swing or poor preparation. This can even result in backspin if you’re not careful. Topspin in when the ball spins forwards, putting more air pressure on top of the ball, making the ball dip into the court. This means you can clear the net by a safe distance but make sure the ball falls into the court before the baseline of the other side. It also allows the ball to jump up and forwards after the bounce.
Topspin if used well can increase your consistency hugely and it also allows you to control the pace of the ball.
For maximum topspin use a semi western or full western grip, although the eastern forehand grip can still generate a lot of spin. The simple principle remains come from below the balls contact point, brush up and over the ball, finish the follow through. Try to make the ball spin forwards.
Follow throughs can differ greatly among players. Just look at Nadal’s over the head compared to Andy Murray’s below the elbow follow through. The grip has a lot to do with the follow through, so does your court positioning as well as where your contact point is, where you want to ball to bounce and how much topspin you hit with.
For a beginner we generally teach ‘over the shoulder’. This gives a definitive point to finish to. However as swing get more advanced and players use different grips, follow throughs change. When using an eastern forehand grip, over the shoulder or between the shoulder and elbow is the general finishing point. With a semi western or full western grip finishing the swing over the head or between the the shoulder and elbow is the go.
If finishing over the shoulder, a good checkpoint it to ‘catch’ the racquet at the end of the swing. This ensures the body rotates and the left arm swing through as well.
When using a western variation your swing is more of a wave or windscreen wiper action as opposed to the closed off racquet head in the eastern grip.
So check your forehand next time you’re playing and see if you’re making any of these errors. They are pretty simple to correct with some time, coaching and repetition. Remember there is not 100% way of hitting the ball. Every player has their own idiosyncrasies and way of hitting. See what works best for you.