ETI 029 | Tap Tap Tap

Balance, holding your finish, placing your weight precisely against the ball.

Yes there are many ways to hit the ball, and many ways to play this game, but with all the variety of styles and technique – our best professionals are balanced more often than perhaps we readily notice.

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ETI 028 | Scan and Zoom

Is there more to it than simply watching the ball?

Well, the answer is yes. But the answer is not readily apparent.

Scan and zoom describes two different visual orientations, both of which occur on court.

In your own game, are you better at scanning or zooming? Better yet, are you skilled at both?

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ETI 027 | The 3R’s of Tennis

Ready Read React – the all important “3 R’s” of tennis.

But the question, once you have been ready and now have read the incoming direction of the ball – how do you react? What is your first move?

The first move is about quickness, it is about simplicity, but equally if not more importantly, it is about committing and reacting to only and simply what you have read.

If you want to be quicker and find more time to hit the ball – improve your first move.

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ETI 026 | Loose Strings – Very Loose Strings

The game has changed from the old wooden racquet era. Next was graphite composite racquets. Then stronger and stronger players. Followed by more and more topspin (unfortunately from further and further behind the baseline).

The next era in our game’s development occurs from the new “copoly” strings – essentially a polymer material, but somehow little or no friction between the strings.

You will note, no longer do the players walk around between points straightening their strings. That is because those strings move back and forth when meeting the ball – imparting much much more spin.

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ETI 025 | Drop Shot – playing North to South

Play the ball to the open court. Run your opponent. Hit it where they “ain’t” (sorry).

Too often we focus on moving the ball east and west, meaning from side to side. Another option, in some instances a better option, is to play the ball deep and short, very deep and very short. Think of this as moving the ball north and south.

Drop shots will do the trick. Backspin, finesse, stroking from high to low with an open racquet face. But, and this is most important, always meet this ball on the rise, from inside the baseline.

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ETI 024 | Split Step – Be Quick

Three R’s – ready read and then react.

Ready – feet spread, knees softly bent, weight on the balls of the feet

Read – as quickly as possible read the ball, see clearly is this ball coming to the forehand or backhand side

React – turn your shoulders and hips to the ball as quickly as possible.

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ETI 023 | Borrowing Pace – Tennis Ju-jitsu

Tennis ju-jitsu. Blocking, borrowing, deflecting the ball, playing with angles and change of pace.

The game is not always about power and winners. Just as easily the game can become one of rebounding the ball, using the opponent’s force and incoming shot to create our own.

This style, ju-jitsu if you will, comes from shorter strokes, firmer grips at contact, and a willingness to look for angles, dinks, drops and more.

McEnroe was the unquestioned master of this – try it out for yourself.

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ETI 022 | Relish the Contest

Relishing the contest. Appreciating the opponent. Understanding (really) the rules of a contest.

To my mind, some matches are determined before ever hitting the first ball. We have all been in situations where we knew immediately that the opponent had no chance – and equally we have all been in situations where we knew immediately that we had no chance. None at all.

The fun occurs, when we play an evenly matched opponent. And in these contest, both players have an even chance to win.

Look for these opportunities. Keep your cool. You can be ahead and blow this lead, you can play from behind and catch up – but in any event there is chance, there is luck, there are a few balls close to the line.

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ETI 021 | Deep and Up the Middle

Time and Angle.  Tactics – plain and simple.

If you move the opponent well behind the baseline – you will have more time to respond, and their angle of play becomes smaller.

If that opponent is as deep but in one corner or the other, their angle remains the same but their cross court shot will cross the sideline at a steeper angle.

The famous Jack Kramer was known to play the ball deep and up the middle, whenever he had not gained control of the point with his serve or volley.

The same will work for you.

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ETI 020 | Power Lines

Ours is a game of managing errors, of keeping the ball in play, and with each and every shot always playing the percentages.

Play the ball close to the line, you encounter the risk of an error. Play the ball close to the line when the opponent is out of position, now the reward may outweigh the risk.

But worse, sometimes it is possible to lose points simply because you are never truly taking any risks.

With this in mind, consider the line of the incoming ball, and whether you return the ball back along that same line – and this play will always minimize errors. You are playing essentially as a wall. But if you change the line, such that you take a cross court and return if up the line, or you take an up the line and return it cross court – in those instances you are changing the line of play.

If the opponent hits the ball much harder (setting up a power line) then your decisions become much more important, said another way certain decisions expose you to much more risk.

I recommend always play back along incoming cross court power lines – minimize risk, let them change the line.

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ETI 019 | Fire the Extensors

Many elements are combined to produce the serve – and one of the secrets is to have all the elements firing in the appropriate sequence.

Timing – we have all felt the effortless hits and unfortunately we all have at one time or another, felt the effortful hits.

One of the most important sequence during the serve occurs with regard to the racquet drop and the knee bend.

In general, on the serve, one must fire in quick sequence large muscles first leading to smaller and then smaller muscles, culminating in a whip at the top of the swing.

As regards the racquet drop and knee bend, the best one I heard on this was from Vic Braden, who said, “Fire the extensors baby!”

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ETI 018 | The Heavy Ball

One of the most common phrases in tennis today is ‘hit a heavy ball’. So what is a heavy ball?

The incoming shot “feels heavy” when that shot has a lot of momentum.

Generally heavy shots are produced with a combination of racquet speed as well as body weight “against the ball.”

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ETI 017 | Moving to the Ball – Turn and Go

Tennis – moving and hitting – not really much more to it. Quicker players have an advantage, consistent power hitters have an advantage.

When it comes to improving the moving, the footwork, your getting to the ball and recovering back to center – there are many training methods to chose from. The first and most obvious choice concerns weight training, where stronger muscles may help you “explode” to the ball. Another variation includes actual dance and balance exercises, where the goal becomes moving with more grace and less effort.

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ETI 016 | Positioning for the Hit – Moving in Twos

Hopefully you have seen and worked through the podcast entitled Weighting and Waiting.

And as a subtle review, baseball batters “wait” on the pitch with their “weight” back.  Similarly, pitchers and quarterbacks start their throwing motion with their “weight” back.

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ETI 015 | Lobbing along the line of your shadow

In addition to consistency, control, spin and power, much less trying to produce your best tennis when the chips are down, a large part of the game includes your precise awareness of the conditions – meaning the direction of the wind, as well as the location of the sun.

The next time you are on court with the sun high in the sky, but equally when it is at your back, take special notice of your shadow. As the sun moves through the sky the line or alignment of the shadow will change.

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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.

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ETI 013 | Circle of Play

This one is entirely visual.
Draw a full circle with your racquet, visualizing the face of a clock.

At 3 and 9 o’clock, your arm is horizontal, the racquet head is well away from your body.

Down at 5 and 7 o’clock your arm points down, the racquet head falls below your hand, and your reach is not as extended as it was at 9 and 3.

Use this feel to know that when balls are low (5 and 7), you actually want to play them “inside” but when balls are bouncing up (9 and 3) you actually want to play them “up and away.”

The circle of play is a natural way to feel how your arm moves at various heights, and how to position for the low and high shots.

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ETI 012 | Tossing into the Swing

As Blackie Jones (my first coach) would ask of a student,”If there are two parts to the serve, being the toss and the swing, do you think it is better to swing at the toss, or toss into the swing?”

And as his lessons and demonstrations proceeded, we were schooled in the tempo, the technique, and the benefits for a toss that was low without being overly low, and this produced a motion that was rhythmic and flowing.

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ETI 011 | The Non Dominant Arm

Whether pitching, throwing footballs, unleashing your forehand, or unwinding on the overhead or the serve – your non dominant arm plays a very, very important role.

I have a daughter, and have never liked the term, “throwing like a girl.”

That said, inexperienced as well as inexpert throwers let their non dominant arm hang at their side when throwing. And in that manner the throw is one sided.

But take a look at any throwing skill and you will see the non dominant arm coil with the wind up and uncoil prior to the throw/pitch/forehand/overhead or serve.

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ETI 010 | The Pete Sampras Snap

At the net put your forearm at net level and parallel to the net strap, with the racquet head at right angles to your forearm.

Now practice quickly turning your hand and wrist such that the racquet head snaps forcefully against the net strap.

Take your time, keep experimenting – and once this feels somewhat natural – toss up a few (rather than tossing down a few) and see how it feels on the serve.

You may be pleasantly surprised!

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ETI 009 | Waiting and Weighting

If you want to hit the ball with less effort and more power, take a page from the baseball batter or the boxer – both wait with their body weight on the back foot before swinging the bat or delivering a punch.

Too often players pay too much attention to grips, swings, and spin without ever mastering their balance. And truly even the pitcher puts their back foot on the pitching rubber before hurling the pitch.

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ETI 008 | Pressuring the Second Serve

“You are only as good as your second serve.”

I know, I do write about this quite a lot, but I believe it – and in nearly every instance the statistics of the professional matches support the idea.

The match winner always wins more points on their second serve, and the match loser will always lose more points on their second serve.

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ETI 007 | The top of the bounce

Watch the professional players who are adept at moving inside the baseline to finish the point. They will invariably make contact when the ball is well above the net, if not the absolute apex of the bounce.

And at this height (which is nearly always above the level of the net) the net is less an obstacle. In fact, in many instances it appears the stroke and follow through are almost level if not slightly down, that is they are driving the ball over the net but down and into the court.

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ETI 006 | Looking through the net

Tennis is a game of “UP.”

Suzanne Lenglen, French world champion in the 1920’s, was trained by her father. And the story goes that they would have a tennis outing to a park in Paris, but, and this is an important but – they would play as long as she did not hit a single ball into the net. And the practice stopped (dead in its tracks) with her first netted error. Long, or wide and they continued, but the net was the obstacle to be avoided at all costs.

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ETI 005 | Holding your finish

Holding your finish for just a moment clarifies your balance as well as the quality of your stroke and follow thru.

Further, this method has been used by so many famous coaches – Tom Stow, Robert Lansdorp and more. It will help you as well.

Stow remarked that if the stroke started correctly (balanced on the back foot with a compact but loose preparation) and finished correctly (weight shifted forward and arm well extended toward the target) then everything between the start and finish – meaning contact – would be just fine.

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