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.

If you want more length and less effort on your forehand – check out STREAMLINING – using the template of an overhand throwing motion see how your legs, hips, torso, and even your non dominant throwing arm unlock a flowing streamlined forehand – REALLY


  • Franco

    Reply Reply June 5, 2013

    Coach, now I admire you even more. So, you’re teaching data which is the most up-to-date and reflective of how the pros play right now, and YOU don’t even play it yourself? Wow. It’s amazing. I suffered as kid at the hands of coaches who could not play the way the pros played, and therefore told me (and other teenage tennis hopefuls) to do it like them, not like Laver, Newcombe, and then Borg, McEnroe, Vilas, Nastase or Ashe. It takes a lot of maturity and intelligence to be able to see new techniques, understand their worth, embrace them and break them down in understandable concepts like you do. But it’s way more impressive and humbling to discover how selfless it is on your part.
    Bravo, Jim, really. Thank you.

  • dufus

    Reply Reply January 1, 2013

    Against lots of lesser players this works. However, it seems pretty much a suicide shot against the few with a killer power topspin they can put deep towards either corner. If you’re regularly playing with those few, seems you’ve got to learn to do more…

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 1, 2013

      Dufus – maybe but again maybe not – at the hightest level if Federer gets the ball very deep and up the middle and Novak or Andyare not on the baseline taking the ball early but rather behind the baseline at contact – they are rarely able to do all that much with this ball, especially if Federer (or you) are centered on the baseline when you get this ball so deep

  • Stavroula

    Reply Reply December 25, 2012

    Thank you for all your work. Happy holiday from Athens,Greece

  • Bob Randall

    Reply Reply December 20, 2012

    Your strokes are fine! The basic eastern forehand is a very penetrating shot that is a heavy ball, and still good in my book! You do not need to apologize for the classic stroke.

  • Dom

    Reply Reply December 20, 2012

    Useful tip. The only downside of hitting down the middle is that you have less runway than if you hit towards the deep corners.

    But the big advantage is that your balls are not going to land wide.

    Have a great Christmas Jim.

  • Jeff Worley

    Reply Reply December 20, 2012

    Thanks for the tip. Sometimes I place too much emphasis on hitting a more difficult shot down the line when, strategically speaking, I don’t really know why I’m doing it. In some situations, the unintended consequence of hitting a good shot down the line is that I open up angles for my opponent. Your tip is a good reminder that sometimes the less difficult shot is the better shot.

  • Jagdish

    Reply Reply December 19, 2012

    A basic fundamental – one known and practiced for long by top players, but now stated and demonstrated in very simple and effective manner by you especially for the average club players like a lot of us. It is amazing to see how many professional players also ignoring such basics and trying to hit an incoming good length cross-court ball from the opponent, down the line early in the rally and missing time and again.
    Looking forward to your next tip,

  • Noushin Kananian

    Reply Reply December 19, 2012

    Many thanks for sharing our professional tips.

  • Lars

    Reply Reply December 19, 2012

    thanks Jim, simple advices are always the best and you’re the master in that category. It’s obvious if you are forced back you have move court space to cover .. if you hit down the middle your opponent cannot hit a sharp cross court shot which you may have difficulty reaching from where you are if you choose to go for a corner. Then wait for the opponent to hit a short ball and move forward if your reply is good or wait for him to go for a corner which gives you other options. It’s easy to think about these things off the court but we sometimes forget on court so we just need to train certain habits so these types of play are chosen more or less without even thinking. Thanks for reminding us.

  • Robert

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    This makes me think of a comment in the NTRP description of 4.0 level play, “Rallies may be
    lost due to impatience.” But as rallies extend, this becomes a much wider observation. If you use this approach with a pusher type player, they will soon give you something you can hurt them with. After the second or third reply, most other players will try to do something special with the ball and go for something. Their margin of error gets much smaller. And after a couple of errors the pressure on their game increases. Don’t think about this as one shot in one point to get one result, but shot after shot, point after point. This is personal experience equalizing the situation against guys who hit it harder and faster than I do, and who love the low fast ball anywhere near the baseline.

  • Costa

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Jim, First of all Merry Christmas; Your advices are VERY USEFUL and VERY LOGICAL. I am so sorry because I am so old and not to many things are sticking in my mind….I will try tomorrow this last advice and I promise that I will let you know HOW did work it for me

  • Georgia Beletsos

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Hello Jim:

    You have very good points and great insight into the game. It doesn’t add to your credibility when you make excuses about your style of play or make comments about your camerman and the sun in your eyes, these are distracting points.

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Lately I have improved my topspin technique (still using ean astern grip) and underspin drives, so as soon as the rain slows down, I’m gonna get on the court and practice going down the middle again. I have experienced some unfortunate replies hitting down the middle with balls that weren’t good enough to do the job – not deep enough to drive them back, nor outside their comfort zone enough to keep them from cranking up a good angled reply on me. But, when I get it right, it does work very well…like when they are anticipating a cross court ball and are running over to the next corner, and I place it just behind them.

    I found that by starting my forehands with a closed racquet face it has really enhanced my forehand…possibly due to my elbow position not being held in as close into the body as you hold it with your swing. I’m gonna tinker with that a bit as I think the racquet face open vs closed at the start of the swing and the elbow position during the swing are important for consistency.

  • Sam

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    So what’s the meaning of the ending comment about semi-western grip and hitting deep and down the middle? It passed me by.

  • Kris

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Good very basic and useable video lesson. I think not developing simple long hitting habits is a huge gap in most tennis training. I don’t know what the stats are but we all know that deep balls put us on the defensive and cause errors. Shorter and mid-court balls can be taken aggressively and lead to winners.

    A deep ball doesn’t have to be strong, fast, spinning or at a tough angle. The very nature of being deep means there is only so much the other player can do with it.

    I’m looking forward to trying this technique on Saturday.

  • Rob

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Great, simple and direct video Jim. Brilliant and insightful as always. Thanks for all you do!

  • Al Yearwood

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Can’t tell how often I worry about hitting hard and neglect any kind of strategy. Deep and down the middle is one of the best tactics used against me. It’s hard to get out of the way of the ball and harder still to be smart enough to go back down the middle instead of trying to create angles that are not there.

    You mentioned shot selection and error management, two of the weakest parts of my game.

  • frankie V

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012


    It’s nice to see someone distill the game down to the most important fundamentals (like deep and down the middle). It doesn’t matter whether you are Nadal or a hermit crab, this is smart tennis. I see too many of my students trying to play “outside” their “control ability” and it just leads to error after error. Keep up the good work Jim.

  • ohiojack

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    I love the lesson, sometimes it boils down to you have got to hit the tennis ball back. That is what makes this game so interesting , and if you don’t or can’t hit deep the pressure keeps building. thanks again

  • Christian

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Thank’s for your effort … No matter your style of play or how beatifull are your strokes a little bit of tactics are allways wellcome …. If you succeed to push your opponent well behind the baseline your second reply can be up the middle BUT necessary deep with a nice “net clearance”. By doing this you jam the opponent and somehow you force him to create angles. At a club level this “shot selection” can bring good results, because usually the player who creates anlges and changes the direction of the ball is more likely to do an error. Keep up the good work …. Jim

  • Fred

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    Great forehand!
    Great video!

    Your forehand shots went EXACTLY where you want.

    Makes complete sense to hit Forehand drive with eastern grip
    and racket to the back fence take back, when trying to hit the ball straight and deep.

    Was amazed you said that about your forehand, because I’d love to hit as well as you do.

  • Rob

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    I like how you emphasize the essentials and make things clear. Thanks and happy holidays.

  • Michael

    Reply Reply December 18, 2012

    I liked the video = simple and “doable ” instruction .
    Now , if you could teach me how to hit a high forehand volley , I’ll include you in my will !:)

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