ETI 014 | Alignment – Swinging Up and or Down


Many ways to play this game, many ways to grip the racquet, and truly many ways to hit the ball.

Flat, topspin, slice, sidespin, under spin – just to name a few (if not them all).

We know to hit up on the ball for topspin, to swing slightly down on the ball for slice or under spin, and to swing more or less level for a flat hit.  And one proviso, the ball will always leave the racquet with some amount of spin, it is impossible to hit the ball perfectly flat.  But for our purposes, flat will mean a ball with relatively little spin.

But in addition to the swing path, and how that will help produce spin, consider simply the orientation of the racquet handle as the racquet accelerates toward the ball.

Pointing the racquet handle down during a down swing will magnify that leverage (good) and pointing the racquet handle up during an upswing again will magnify that leverage (good).

Build your awareness for this “alignment” and your spin will increase – REALLY

Leave a comment and let me know what you think

48 Comments

  • Tom

    Reply Reply November 7, 2013

    I suppose it seems obvious to others who are perhaps more athletic, but I have been using my shoulder and my wrist to position the racquet/handle during the stroke. My elbow has remained more or less in a fixed position or angle, that is the angle between my forearm and upper arm wasn’t changing much. Letting the elbow joint open and close has added significantly to the groundies.

    It’s a bit like the golf swing, the more I let the right elbow angle open through impact (I am right hander) the better and stronger the impact is.

  • Tom

    Reply Reply November 6, 2013

    Jim, love your clear and pragmatic approach to instruction. You mention in ETI014 that the elbow is important to aligning the racquet/handle. I think my elbow has been missing in action for several years now. When I started to focus on using my elbow to align the racquet I was surprised at how much better my ground strokes became. Can you say more about the elbow and how it is used in the tennis strokes?
    Thanks,
    Tom

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 6, 2013

      Tom [ thanks for the note about clear and pragmatic – for surely I am trying on that front – I am working on an instructional series on the forehand right now – and there will be material about the arm and elbow but I am not exactly sure what you are asking
      Jim

  • Ole Clamdigger

    Reply Reply April 19, 2013

    Good Stuff ! Sun’s in the east in the morning, ask your camera man about scheduling..

  • Ahmed

    Reply Reply January 15, 2013

    Racket axis before contact point ETI 014 one of the best explanations , so many videos forget to tell you about topspin. Thanks Jim.

    Ahmed.

  • Michael

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Jim…as always, GREAT STUFF. I’ve been teaching the same stuff for years. But, you slightly changed the words and it made even more (better) sense.

  • Matt Carlson

    Reply Reply August 10, 2012

    Mr.McLennan,
    I’m a tennis teacher too and really appreciated this pod cast.
    The butt of the racquet pointing in the direction for the spin desired
    is easy to remember and communicate to others.
    Thanks.
    Matt Carlson

  • Sally

    Reply Reply June 7, 2012

    I’ve never thought about the handle,it’s always about the head so i’ll keep this in mind,thank you.

  • terry

    Reply Reply April 24, 2012

    thanks it has helped my game get to the next level

  • Noushin Kananian

    Reply Reply April 15, 2012

    Many thanks for sharing your fantastic knowledge.

  • Rob

    Reply Reply April 14, 2012

    Jim, I really like your instruction and the mental and physical “clues” you provide that I can focus on when practicing and playing. I have tried to mimic the butt cap pointing toward the ball by the pros but your video puts a whole new focus on getting leverage on shots. Great video!

  • Doreen

    Reply Reply April 14, 2012

    I thank you for this video. Something so simply that now makes so much sense for me. I can’t wait to go out and try this.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 14, 2012

      Doreen – thanks – keep me posted on how this works for you
      Jim

  • Bruce Wallace

    Reply Reply April 12, 2012

    simple, useful; fits with “cirlcle of play”

  • Dario

    Reply Reply April 12, 2012

    Thank you, Jim. Another piece of great instructional material. I was not actually aware of what happens with the racquet handle and the buttcap when I aim to the ball. I can’t wait to notice it in my next training on the court…. Unfortunatelly I have to wait some days due to a minor illness of my wrist that pains a lot… (How to cure a lesion like that…?). I think that what is really important is to make the right decision of the stroke you’re going to use just when you see the ball coming to you from the other side of the court…. Isn’t it?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 12, 2012

      Dario – perhaps the million dollar question – the DECISION – what stroke and spin to use – depends on your position, their position, and the nature or difficulty of the incoming ball – Sampras in an interview once acknowledged to a question that “Once a month in matches my shots and my decisions are perfect” – and Pete said “once a month”
      Jim

  • tristan van tol

    Reply Reply April 12, 2012

    thank you very much i did not thought about it like that it will help to improve my ground strooks thanks

  • Mary

    Reply Reply April 12, 2012

    Another piece of the puzzle. Wonderful! I’m going to notice this in warm-up today. I think the fluid motion is essential with this leading butt cap. I think since I have started playing more mixed against tough players, that I have lost some of that fluidity, as I have tried to take the ball earlier. Now I have a lot to think about.

    Quick question: When you are going for the underspin, do you change grips? Just wondering.

    I have questioned why JM DelPo seems to have a different looking forehand: racket head closer to his body, with the butt cap pointed up and an almost scooping motion. I asked my husband if he noticed anything different about Juan and I just got a shrug. Now I realize that he is getting his tremendous spin from that. Am I right?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 12, 2012

      Mary – tightness on the serve always interferes with fluidity (I know this as a teacher and from playing experience) – on under spin it is not always the grip – it depends more on your initial grip – but as to Delpo – I didnt understand your question – for he does anything but scoop it – he hits freely and with enormous power – enormous power
      Jim

  • Jack

    Reply Reply April 11, 2012

    Thanks Jim, another ‘gem’ to put in the quiver. The game of tennis is so complex and your ‘simplicity’ approach to explaining how to master it are gold. It is not possible nor advisable to try and think of every facet of every stroke when playing. But your little gems provide effective anchor points that can be implemented easily; and if done so, will provide effective and rapid results. Great work!

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 11, 2012

      Jack
      thanks – reading this at the end of a day of lessons – makes me glad to have the chance to teach this others – on court or online
      Jim

  • john

    Reply Reply April 11, 2012

    Simply explained > massively effective > thanks

  • Dick McGaw

    Reply Reply April 11, 2012

    Awareness of the position of buttcap and shaft as lever provides more insight into the swing than just saying come from below, above, or level to the ball. You might think about applying this analysis also to the serve with driving the buttcap upward to the tossed ball from the launch and into the snap and pronation. I appreciated your earlier discussion of pronation on the serve.
    Dick

  • harlan

    Reply Reply April 11, 2012

    Great tip Jim. Thx, and keep up the good work!

  • Rene Rivera

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    I Understood butt cap should be pointed to ball and position racquet below ball for top spin . Positioning handle ( shaft ) up, down or straight is such a great and simple way to work on your strokes. Thanks much !

  • Mickey

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Another great tidbit, Jim! I will give this a go the next time I’m on the court.

  • Rodger S

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Thanks again for another piece of the puzzle. My focus has been on the racquet face, yet, in reality, I can follow that it might make more sense to concentrate on my hand, rather than on the face of the racquet.

    Best example I can think of that might be relevant is slamming a slice drive into the net. That seems to a result of too vertical a racquet face with a swing closer to chopping vegetable. A better solution that only focusing on my swing pattern may be to include/add focusing on the grip handle throughout the stroke.

    Regardless, I have made great progress at being able to feel the side of the ball as I hit it.

    I will probably demo a new Wilson racquet to see if there is anything to “the way AmpliFeel works is to replace some of the foam material of the handle pallet with graphite and basalt plates in order to transmit only preferred vibrational frequencies” to take ball feel a bit further.

  • aussie jeff

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Jim

    Totally awesome so simple yet so effective can’t wait to get out there and try this out.

    cheers
    Jeff

  • Mark

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Thanks for extending the best tip I received from MTB. This will allow me to go back to the coourt with a more complete knowledge of positioning the buttcap.

  • Jcroidis

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Thank you for one more useful lesson.

  • ken saban

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Jim,

    You answered many questions that I had about the swing path. Keep up the good work!

    While I do not know where you call home, I would enjoy taking some lessons or clinics. Is this ever possible?

    Thanks.
    Ken – Pittsburgh

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 10, 2012

      Ken – I am in the NorCal Bay Area – very close to Stanford – come and visit – quite a few have already done so
      Jim

  • Lynda

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Awesome video and instruction…I never thought of it before! Thanks!

  • Brian

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    How can you keep looking younger on every podcast? I like the butt end of the Racket reminder not just on a ground stroke but on all three backhand shots you deminstrated. I’m trying that out tonight. Thank’s Jim.
    Brian

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 10, 2012

      Brian – thanks – it must be the camera angle – for in the morning I haven’t looked “younger” for quite some time – your note brought a smile to me
      Jim

  • Vince Kane

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Paying more attention to the angle of the racquet shaft to gain more spin was about as simple as I’ve ever heard it explained. I’ll be using that to teach my kids. Thanks,….Vince

  • Jim Fournell

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Jim
    You keep giving me new insights on the mechanics of game. I will play with this alignment information during my next practice and let you know its impact on my game. I have a question. I purchased your backhand course and could use some advise on when to use the slice and when to use the top spin. Is the slice basically a defensive stroke?

    Thank you
    Jim Fournell

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 10, 2012

      Jim – take your time in the MTB course – your question is answered in a few areas – if you are out of position the slice will float (defense) but if your opponent is unskilled at the mid court then a knifing slice low and skidding is actually offensive
      Jim

  • Tom Lavery

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Thanks again for another great tip I knew that I was doing something simular without being aware but I will try out your demo tomorrow just before game time . Thanks again Tom Lavery

  • Jarkko Pesonen

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    In your opinion is the alignment critical for racket acceleration or shot accuracy?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 10, 2012

      Jarkko – actually both – this works for accuracy, for best leverage – but most importantly it is simple and it is how Federer does it
      Jim

  • Dave Landeau

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Great. The 1st time for a clear explanation on how to position the racket ( butt end down, level pointed up)

  • Bill Goforth

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Jim,

    I knew about the pointing of the but cap but hadn’t thought about the alignment of the racquet in relation to the swing path. Fabulous tip.

    Thanks!

    Bill

  • Kevin

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    My “best” swing thoughts involve pointing that butt cap toward the ball. I also find that the “later” that I wait for that 90 degree “change of orientation”, the more acceleration and racket head speed I develop. *And*, if I “let” it happen, rather than “make” it happen, I get better results. It seems that a high percentage of errors I see on the court are from folks trying to square up the racket face – and either getting it done too soon, or getting it done too far back in the stance.

    Reminds me of what they call “casting” in golf vs. the “delayed release”. They yield *massive* differences in clubhead speed.

    Kevin

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 10, 2012

      Kevin – good note on casting and delayed release – golf and tennis are really very similar
      Jim

  • Martin Hassner

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Ah the simplicity tells the tale…the idea that one can focus on the handle at the point of completion is a heck of a way to check on what happened during the swing…More and more it seems that only a video camera can help one to check on how well we’re following the detailed instruction. It’s nice
    to have a moment when our eyes alone can help the process…
    This certainly beats all of those physics-oriented degrees and angles to be concerned about.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 10, 2012

      Martin – thanks, I appreciate the word “simplicity” – I work on that all the time
      Jim

  • jim o

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    wow, makes a lot of sense, can’t wait to try. thanks.

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