ETI 035 | The Dead Spot on the Racquet Face

The latest sensors from Zepp, Babolat, Sony and more provide a lot of data.

dead spotSwing path, type of spin, power, 3d playback (with Zepp) but perhaps the most interesting as well as the most useful is the data that shows where you make contact on the racquet face.

And before going further, one of the most important (IF NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT) skills in the game of tennis is concentration, focus, and closely and continually watching the ball.

This measure is accurately a very good gauge of how well you are doing with your eyes.

But as regards the “boingivity” of the racquet (I got that term from Mary Carillo and like it) off center hits beyond the sweet spot towards the top of the frame occur in the “dead spot” where the racquet has the least return of energy to the ball.

If you have one of the new sensors, or if not if you listen to your hits, you can start to improve the use of your eyes, as well as the feel and sound of your shots by playing more and more with your sweet spot.

On the face of the tennis racquet, there are actually four points of importance that could be noted. These four points on the tennis racquet are the centre of percussion, the vibration node, the dead spot and the best bounce spot.

 

28 Comments

  • Robert

    Reply Reply February 25, 2015

    The ‘boingivity’ of the racket at the sweet spot is a factor in the energy EXCHANGE — energy from the ball goes into the racket (and rebounds off the strings) at the same time energy developed during the stroke is transferred to the ball — at contact. In an article I saw some years back but cannot find now, I read that the ‘dead spot’ is a spot where very little energy from the ball is transferred to the racket (thus does not rebound), so it is not so good a point of contact for volleys and the various ground strokes, which are helped by the momentum of the incoming ball. But at the dead spot there does appear to occur an effective transfer of the energy from the racket to the ball (but not the other direction), which on a serve is virtually all that is going on. I am not going to put links here, but I have seen super slomo video in which one can observe contact on serves at that spot among ATP players. Does this notion hold water for you?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply February 26, 2015

      Robert – I think I follow – the best I might say is an excellent doubles partner friend and competitor, Bill Strei, felt he could hit some serves purposely off center to create a “change up” so to speak – the dead spot is indeed up toward the tip of the racquet head and it could be, though I am totally guessing, that contact there increases the leverage which might offset the energy transfer
      Jim

  • Don McDonald

    Reply Reply January 10, 2015

    Pete,

    The sweet spot moves in response to your swing. So on a punch volley it stays pretty close to where the manufacturer put it. If you are pulling the racquet down and to the right as you do when you serve the sweet spot moves up and left. Think of the sweet spot as moving to where the ball would hit if you swung a little early. So on a right hander’s topspin forehand the sweet spot moves down and toward the tip of the racquet. It moves more on a fast swing than on a slow swing. Playing table tennis with a new ball leaves a little white circle at the contact point. I just noticed that that is where I hit the ball because that was where it felt neatest. It was several years later I read a lesson pointing out the right contact points and 40 years later that I read an article relating that the sweet spot moved in response the speed of the swing.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 11, 2015

      Don – I like your insights, but would feel that on the serve it is not pulling down during the hit but the opposite – hitting up and across – certainly that appears to be how Sampras does (and did) it
      Jim

  • PetitMal

    Reply Reply January 9, 2015

    Your efforts “to explain the poorly explained” are most appreciated.
    My pet theory is that most tennis players are unclear in their minds as to the optimal geometry to hit a ball hard.
    If you want to hit a soccer ball hard, you have to approach diagonally and then accelerate in a short curve to change direction in 3 axes – namely, forward, up and left (for right-footers) using the law of 45 degrees.
    Even in golf, where are clubs and balls are less elastic, you want an inside-out swing.
    In a tennis right-hand forehand, you want to go right, up and less forward,
    You aim is to pull/whip/shear not push the ball, and the body forces are often quite rotational.
    NB Top professionals hit their strokes (groundstrokes, serves + volleys) towards the trailing edge of the racquet – at least, in part, because hitting near the leading edge destabilizes the racquet. Watch Federer/Djokovic/Nadal in ultra-slow motion.

  • Bill Guilfoil

    Reply Reply January 9, 2015

    Jim hi have written you before im now 92 and perhaps the oldest professional still teaching and playing both tennis and table tennis no injuries can run jump etc did know blackie Jones was a great friend of mine and came in one summer and played at Glenwood manor resort where I was director of tennis and played then my young 4 of them daughters and now lieves in chapel hill north carolina with my daughter Eileen and their young son 13 a fireball. then their is Erickson in palm springs calif he called me when I was 80 to warm up for the this was the 35 nationals indoors I played with him each day and he said you should play nd did even the second time and lost to both finalwinners not in the finals and had sometough match with both guys. Not sure of your background but know you doing a super job of teaching and am still very much in the race of life realize their is a a and b in ages b when youenter from a about 54 but they tell me I am skipping b and just continue on in a table tennis is booming try my website Bill keep in touch Bill Guilfoil

  • Kevin

    Reply Reply January 9, 2015

    Coincidentally, this video from a fellow whom I follow showed up today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OETMy4n6dWU . I think it shows nicely yer “inside out” swing. My theory, though, is that this swing thought is going to mostly only work on “low” balls. AAMOF, the opposite seems to work best on high balls.

    However, I’m not sure that I can see how these swing variations would prevent contact on any particular part of the string bed.

    As to Mr. McDonald’s points on adding topspin via pronation, I would point out that, if the wrist is laid back during this pronation in the forehand swing, the racket face angle can remain virtually the same through contact. I’m thinking that varying the face angle – at least when the incoming ball has significant pace – might be a recipe for disaster.

  • Jennifer W

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    Jim, a few months ago I purchased a new racket (Head Radical). It was great was I testing out. However, I recently noticed that the strings are starting to wear in the dead spot. With my old racket (Prince 02) it always wore thin in the sweet spot. Any ideas of what might be causing this change?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 9, 2015

      Jennifer – racquets have both their absolute weight, and their swing weight (meaning whether the racquet is head light or head heavy) – and likely this new racquet is balanced slightly different – and that means it would come thru the hitting zone differently – note nearly all racquets are head light but the precise balance point will be different and this is noted in the specs on the racquet
      Jim – does this make sense?

  • Peter

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    Enjoyed your insight Don. How would you draw up the same points on a tear drop shaped racket where the dead spot has a much bigger area?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 9, 2015

      Peter – I am not sure but think your note is for Don and not me – and were it for me I wold not really have a good answer – sorry
      Jim

  • Don McDonald

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    I recently read somewhere that with a really fast camera you can see that during contact the angle of contact between a golf club and ball changes radically, for example from closed to open or vice versa (search for bumblebee and flying golf balls to find article which uses tennis to explain golf). Elsewhere that the club face closes 2 and a half degrees per inch around contact. I would assume that something similar happens in tennis except that, since the tennis contact lasts more than 10 times longer, the effects might be more radical. Hitting the ball on the lower part of the racquet does increase topspin. So does allowing the arm to pronate naturally by closing the racquet during contact. We can take advantage of these things by using the shape and flow of our natural swinging action which follows a predictable pattern but leaves the actual path taken unpredictable. In the past we have acted as though the interval of contact was instantaneous because we did not believe we could control it or needed to control it. Pulling up on the racquet to generate topspin is incredibly awkward compared to pronating up. Further, pulling up does not create topspin. Else why does bouncing a ball straight up from a racquet face held parallel to the ground not create topspin. Topspin is created by having a steeper swing path than the face angle. We tend to restrict ourselves to a flat racquet angle (0 degrees) and a 30 degree upward swing path, but a face angle tilted downward 15 degree and a 15 degree upward swing path creates just as much topspin. Further, we are now beginning to understand that swings that use a closing racquet face angle instead of a racquet held steady might be a better way to create topspin. You yourself pointed out how confusing the terms inside out and outside in are in practice. The fact is that we hit the ball at the points when the swing is changing from inside out to outside in, from open to closed, and when our arm is pronating because those are exactly the times when magic happens. I do not know if I have explained this at all, but just consider the simple fact that geometry gives you a false sense of simplicity and it encourages you to think about your swing and control it logically. Every bit of evidence we have seems to support that this is absolutely the wrong way to perform complex physical actions.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 9, 2015

      Don – lots of research here – fascinating – at my end it feels like the task is to find “the magic” thru feel much like the magic we felt when very young and took the training wheels off our first bicycle
      Jim

  • Greg Pierce

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    Have taken Doug’s course on Perfecting Contact and am in the process of working the scissoring into my swing. It’s been a little challenge as it seems counter-intuitive to swing what seems to be away from your target. But when I do it right it really does work, it just takes some getting used to. And your video certainly explains why, when you try to hit along the target line, you end up oftentimes with a compromised hit, usually in the dead zone.

  • Don McDonald

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    Table tennis has for ages taught a different contact point for each swing type. The clearest indication of this in tennis is seen in the serve where mishits are unlikely. The contact point is always in the upper right quadrant for a lefty and the upper left quadrant for a righty. However, you are spot on, knowing where the sweet spot is, is more a matter of feeling, hearing and seeing (in that order?) than knowing. Love your scissor swing. I thought of it as a rapidly closing racquet face which somehow seems to miss the point. The more I think about tennis the more certain I become that geometry leads to permanent error rather than immediate clarity.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 8, 2015

      Don – thanks for this but clarify I did not understand about geometry error and clarity
      Jim

  • Clair Hesselton

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    As usual I find your information invaluable, and I have passed the info along to my school team.
    Your site keeps the kids involved when they are not in steady school competition.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 8, 2015

      Clair – thanks for this – can I do anything more for your team – where are you located?
      Jim

  • Arthur Quinby

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    You’re inside out top spin shot probably works. I’ll try it tomorrow.

    What I really like about the inside out topspin shot is that it looks, (and I’m assuming feels and sounds good).

    Off to try it in the morning!

    Thanks

    Q

  • Noushin

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    I really appreciate your priceless advanced technical advice.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 8, 2015

      Bud – you can go to the Zepp website to see about their sensor (which they also apply in golf and baseball)
      Jim

  • Matt

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    Jim,
    Great great breakdown. As a 20+year teaching pro, your narrative
    On these topics gives such a broad insight and simplistic breakdown
    Of the game, and mechanics. Keep them coming.
    Matt

  • Kamal Mehta

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    Jim:

    Thanks for the great insight, you are exactly right and i’m guilty of this most common mistake and I played against another guy and who did what you prescribe but I could not quite figure out what he was doing correctly to generate effortless pace and you have shed light on this mystery.

    thanks

  • Schnazola

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    I am actually pretty good at hitting the sweet spot most of the time, but when I don’t, I hit below the node of vibe. I attribute this to the fact that I tend to crowd myself. That occurs most often on two occasions: when I have to run to get a wide ball and when the ball is hit right at me. In the former scenario, I overestimate the effort and speed required to “get there,” and I overrun the spot where I should set up to hit comfortably. In the latter case, I simply fail to realize that I need to move out of the bull’s — er, I mean ball’s — way to create more space. (This bad habit gets really bad when I’m tired.)

    Regarding the first error — overrunning the ball — if I’m still moving when I “get there,” it’s more difficult to keep my eye on the ball with my eyeballs bouncing around in my head than if I would have sprinted quickly to my spot and stopped at the proper hitting distance. (Surely, there are times when that’s not possible, but many times I am moving during the stroke when that was not at all necessary.)

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 8, 2015

      You are clarifying another but slightly different aspect – footwork is not always about sprinting, covering the court, and having stamina (though those are important) but about moving precisely to a spot where you can comfortably hit the ball
      Jim

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