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.
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1. Doubles Positioning
Start in the classic position for doubles With player A at the baseline serving or returning, and player B at the net ready to poach and apply pressure. This is the best starting point for doubles play, especially at a recreational level.
Too often both players will start at the back of the court or Player B will just hang around behind the service line the whole point. You ideally want the volleyer to be in front of the service line and the baseliner behind/on the baseline.
2. Player Communication
Start communicating from even a beginner level. It’s important to have a strategy, even a basic one, but also to build moral. Communication can be anything from a ‘good shot’ to ‘I’m serving down the T, try and poach the return’.
Try and set up plays, or at least tell your partner where the serve is going so there is some structure, otherwise they’re playing as blind as your opponents.
One of the simplest communication tactics is to shout ‘mine’ or ‘yours’ during the point. This can be applied for a mid court shot, lob, or any ball that could potentially be hit by either player.
3. Get to the Net
Over the years I’ve taught a lot of B and C grade players who when they start lessons struggle to commit to the net, usually because they’re scared of net play. If you’re one of those players you need to practice approaching the net. You will win some at the net, and lose some but you have to get there to get better at it.
Start every point in a neutral position, but don’t just stay there all match. The most aggressive position to win the point is both players at the net, the most defensive is both players at the back of the court. Get to the net.
Remember this, the closer you get to the net, the more angles you can play. Doubles is a game of angles and you want to get on top of the net and put the ball away. Playing from the net also means the opponents have more court to cover, plus as you come closer to the net the opponents have less options to hit to and often revert to the lob, which can often be a smash, or try and hit a winner which can easily turn into an unforced error. If you stay back on the baseline every point, you don’t create any pressure and the opponents have more options to hit to.
4. Don’t hit to the volleyer
If you have a player at the back of the court, and a player at the net, HIT TO THE PLAYER AT THE BACK OF THE COURT! The volleyer can finish the point easily if they get a swing at the ball. Keep the baseliner back by playing deep balls wide in the doubles so it’s also out of the volleyers reach.
As you pull the baseliner further out of court the volleyer has more court to cover, then when you see the opportunity play the down the line shot. But be patient, you have to create the openings before pulling the trigger. You can also play a down the line winner if you think the volleyer is moving in to the court early or leaving space, but it can be a low percentage shot if played at the wrong time
5. Poach, Poach, Poach
On the reverse side, as a volleyer, you need to poach the crosscourt rally and finish the point. This is tricky because it all comes down to timing. Move too early and you might get passed down the line, move to late and you miss to ball and open the court a little. The key is to move once to opponent has committed to their swing trajectory. If they try and change mid shot there is a high risk of an unforced error.
Try doing fakies. Feign a step to poach early and make the opponent hesitate. This is a great tactic for sussing out the opponents timing and nerves. And most important of all is it applies pressure which results in unforced errors.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these little tips for improving you double social play. They’re easy to implement with a little practice. In your net double match just aim for 1 of the tips for a whole set and you’ll see some progress. Keep building on each of the goals and before you know it they will all come naturally.
If you’re keen on playing some social tennis here at Four Seasons Tennis or want some more info check out the Social Tennis Page
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.