TENNIS WHISPERER NOTES
Refresher notes from clinics and lessons. Latest revision: 1 Aug 2021 Contact Rob
In 1933, Mercer Beasley wrote a book: “How to Play Tennis”. Beasley was the coach of the Federer/Nadal equivalents of his day: Vines, Austin, Parker. Beasley began with the following: “No two tennis champions have ever played the game alike. All of them, however, possessed a strong foundation and sound tennis fundamentals. What follows here are the fundamentals of modern tennis, on which you can build your own individual game.”
Beasley went on to outline the three (3) greatest tennis tips of all time: 1) Keep Your Eye on the Ball, 2) Get Your Racket Back as Quickly as Possible and 3) Move Your Feet!
While racket technology, court surfaces, and shot selection have continued to evolve, nevertheless the basics have never changed. Our evergreen Whisperer Notes illustrate and reinforce the three (3) greatest tips — enjoy the read. Questions/comments are always welcome. Above all, enjoy the game, it’s a great game for all ages.
BALL WATCHING: FOREMOST OF THREE KEY ELEMENTS
- Effect of “dominant eye”. Most players are cross dominated.
- To minimize the effect of eye dominance, be at right angles to the direction from which the ball is coming — particularly on service return and volleys.
- Move your eyes, and not your head to watch the ball. Moving your head loses time for your shot preparation.
- Focus on the ball seams to improve ball watching.
- “Soft eyes”! Gaze at ball rather than starting at the ball. Staring caused mistiming because the focal length is triangulated to a single point and the ball may not be in the field of vision.
BALANCE: SECOND KEY ELEMENT
- The natural ready position is to comfortable balance the racket across your body. And yes it changes every day because your muscles contract.
- Move your racket before foot in preparing to hit the ball. This is key with returning big serves.
- Relative ball height in relation to body height — preference is for waist high and moving forward to the bounce of the ball.
- Good balance ensures full body weight transference: ‘heavy ball’.
- Balance is the key element for serving — see below.
RHYTHM: THIRD KEY ELEMENT
- Rhythm ensures your body weight transference into a shot. The racket typically weighs about 250 -320 grams. You want your body weight (KGs) transferred into the ball. A fast arm only swing can lead to tennis elbow.
- Effect of racket head speed on:
- Ground stroke — (smooth, one speed)
- Service — (two speeds)
- Volley — (accelerate)
- Effect of ball speed:
- a faster ball is much easier to hit given the relative angle of the ball bounce.
- a slower ball is much harder to hit — timing/early preparation is key given the slower ball has a much more of a vertical bounce.
- a high bouncing ball above shoulder height, particularly a lob, is the hardest of all.
- Effect of court surface, ball type and playing conditions.
- Allied with proper racket stringing, mitigates ‘tennis elbow’ .
- The serve is the most difficult shot. [Recall it’s the only shot you get two gos at!]
- Requires coordination of entire body to maintain balance and rhythm.
- Bounce the ball a minimum of three (3) times to allow you to set your serving stance and maintain your balance to ensure a consistent ball toss. This is the ONLY time you have control of a point — use the time wisely.
- Ball toss is in line with your right shoulder for right handers (1 o’clock), left shoulder for lefties (11 o’clock)
- Two speed motion for serving: a slower ‘school zone’ for a consistent ball toss, faster motion for the actual hit to accommodate higher or lower toss.
- Soft grip similar to throwing a ball. Locking the wrist disrupts a smooth weight transference.
- Most feared shot — most players are frighten of getting hit by a faster ball particularly when they cannot accommodate their eyes/vision fast enough.
- Volleys require you to continuously change your vision from parallel (‘driving a car’) to triangular (‘reading a book’) focus as ball travels towards the player.
- Keep the ball out in front — in the field of vision
- Move your eyes to watch the ball — moving your head loses time to recover for next shot and takes your eyes out of the game.
- Turn your shoulder to volley, not your whole body. Basic volley (80%) is to catch the ball out in front — no pizza sauce required.
- SECRET OF THE GAME: The player who hits the ball over the net and into the court the last time, wins the point.
- Be aware of the effect of the net height on:
- baseline groundstrokes
- approach shots
- net groundstrokes
- Strategy 101: Be aware of where you are on court and use the Red/green zones — to know when to defend or attack/’pull the trigger’!
- Size is a definite advantage since a taller player can ‘finish the ball’ from closer to the baseline: ‘Ghost Line”
- The basic groundstroke is a cross court stroke to take advantage of lower net height in the centre — irrespective of singles or doubles play.
- Use a 4/7/8 breathing strategy to cope with/control your emotions. (See Angels & Demons on Court post)
- Your personal challenge is to determine your own type of game: power, movement, feel, position.
(C) MUIR TENNIS ACADEMY 2010-2021