Written by Ian Westermann
Ground Strokes — 25 March 2014
Late Groundstroke Cure

Do you struggle with catching your forehand or backhand groundstroke late?

For many tennis players this is a chronic problem and breaking free of it can be very difficult.

That’s exactly why I designed the drill in today’s video tennis lesson – to help players get out of their rut of late contact and finally start meeting the ball out in front!

Comments? Questions? Leave them down below. Thanks for watching!

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  1. Hi Ian!
    Great topic to cover. This would be so much more beneficial for me if your camera man can focus more on the angle of your shots in reference to the different timing with ball contact as oppose to just an image of you hitting the ball. Also, playing it slow motion would really solidify your lesson and simplify your illustration so it is actually duplicatable for your viewing students. I am a happy subscriber to your on line lessons and absolutely find them very helpful. However, is there a way for you to incorporate slow motion framing in your video lessons?
    Thank you Ian.
    ~ Irene

  2. Hi Ian…

    I got this link today off of Facebook…just so you know that's showing up and working.

    I saw this tip before. Good advice. Well done.

    I also think it's important to remind players – especially those less experienced – not to freak out if they come up against someone who just plain hits with more pace than they're used to. In my view, you can have some games where you're chronically "late." But pace is just a matter of getting used to it. Being aware. Recognizing you have to react quicker than you're used to. And then just plain practicing it.

    Seems there's no substitute for practice. And playing/practicing with as many different players and types of player as you can find who are willing to play with you.

    Thanks, again, Ian. Good stuff.

  3. Some tennis crazy people will find this helpful. I normally play football and I guess this will not work on me! But I will try it!

  4. I am struggling with tennis elbow. Is the result of bad mechanics?

  5. hi Ian , This is my first time to send any massege
    And I thank you so mutch
    I am strugle with my reaction after I hit big serve or fast forehand
    Can you help me to be faster and synchroize the split step.

    Thank you in advance.

  6. I find myself sometimes late due to not accounting for topspin. This happens most frequently early in a mixed doubles match against the player with the higher topspin.

    That said, you *can* be late and still hit the ball in the desired direction with a wrist snap – gets the stringbed facing the right direction. I have seen plenty of older women players who are always "late" but get the ball back with that compensation. I have not, however, seen even one who could, with that technique hit with topspin.

    Of course, we also do that, or hope to, when arriving at a hitting position too late.

  7. Hi Ian, I am a little confused over the definitions of 'early' and 'late' contact. One of your earlier videos used a relationship to ball height.. hitting the ball on the rise defined 'early', after the top of the bounce was 'late'. Your latest video uses the early and late definitions related to racket position, forward in front of the body (early) and back (late). Can you please clarify.

  8. Ian,
    I'm having problems returning hard hit topspin groundstrokes.
    All my returns end up being a "blocking" shot that is easily hit
    for a passing shot. When there is not a lot of time to setup for a shot,
    only a reflexive return, how do you drill for that "flip" that will
    topspin the ball on return???

  9. Thanks Ian,

    I have the opposite problem; my coach tells me I sometimes hit too early, reducing power and spin potential, as well as pulling the ball too wide to the right. I'm guessing the analogous technique works for this, i.e. instead just try to hit MUCH later and adjust ?

  10. Your outlooks on tennis are very informative , helpful and much appreciative. Try to provide some help to 4.5 to 5.5 NTRP . Thanks Fio.

  11. I have been struggling with my baseline strokes either hitting the net or not going where I want. I will practice the ideas in this video.



  12. Ian, great video as always. However, it would have been really helpful if you could have showed at least of one of your forehands using a wide-shot (on the camera) for the entire stroke. I'm not getting a sense of what moment you are making the forehand stroke with the medium camera shot. Can you please clarify?

  13. I find that the reason is late on a shot is that they take the racquet back too late. Earlier backswing is the fix.

  14. Thank you. I will try to hit the ball early.

  15. A down the line or inside out shot is just "really late"?? So here's what I don't get: It seems that hitting relatively late (or early) is bad for control and power. Yes, you can adjust your timing to get more crosscourt with an early contact and get more down the line or inside out with late contact, but I'm pretty sure you're losing power by hitting too far in front or too far behind you (with most players tending to hit late/behind). And you're adding risk/variability in your shot by depending on the timing to control direction.

    As your "rolling over the ball" mythbuster video attempted to show (though i have some criticisms on that), you say that any effort to time the rolling over would be 1. hard to get just right and often ill-timed and 2. bad for power, bio-mechanically. Doesn't timing your contact point (late or early) as a way to control direction run similar risks in getting the timing just right, and weaken your shot by hitting in front or behind your ideal strike zone?

    I like the idea of this drill to exaggerate and feel the difference of early and late, but think you could modify it to feel the different of turning footwork slightly more open to get crosscourt or slightly more closed to get more down the line, so that you can maintain the same "sweetspot" contact point at the same distance in front of your body. (note: i'm not saying crosscourt shots should come from open stance, or DTL from closed. But that once in your loaded position (open, closed or somewhere in the middle), your control of direction is best made from a SLIGHT opening or closing of that position. I.e. you maintain your ideal swingpath and contact point as much as you can, while using your positioning, footwork and preparation to hit solid shots where you want them to go.

    I think the idea to change the timing (spacing front or back) of where you hit the ball will lead to inconsistency in placement and power.

  16. thanks for the lesson on just where to hit the forehand for cross court. Now to practise!

  17. hey Ian, I use a six one 90, and I'm wondering why you use your's. This may seem off the wall as a question but I have specific reasons and I'm curious as to your thinking. As for todays " lesson" I find preperation as the biggest problem esspecially with the bigger hitters on the backhand in particular, what would help to "read" the direction earlier?

  18. Great lesson, simple enough even for me. I would appreciate a guide to the prioritization among getting in position, triggering the stroke and possibly shortening the stroke. Your recent podcast on turning into position was excellent, but I still have problems deciding when to trigger a shot that will be made on the run. Is it tied to a step?

  19. Hi Ian,
    There is also a very easy verbal / audio cue you can use to hit the ball early, either on the forehand or backhand side. Repeat the words BA BOOM in your head at a regular cadence. The ball bounce is BA and the racket contact is BOOM. This means that hitting the ball early on either side does not necessarily have to be a cross court shot. It simply becomes a ball struck well in front of the body. Try it.

  20. I seem to be able to hit cross court with the position of my feet and the wrist.
    I asked you to refer to your last video, how to use the muscles correctly ( the best lesson I ever had in my life) now, how do we project to the back hand, volley and serve, so far, I did not hear from you, since it did for me more than all other lessons in the past, combined, its extremely important for me and may be to others to know how to implement the same to all strokes, with big thanks. Yuval Brontman

    • I'll try my best to do a backhand version of that lesson, Yuval. I've already done a serve version of the same basic concept, but explained differently:


      That concept doesn't really apply directly to good volley technique in my opinion.

  21. I think you should demo moving forward or leaning forward on your strokes. It appears in the video that you are moving backward or pedaling back before you hit, this can become a bad habit and it can more time correcting that actually improving someone's stroke.

  22. Hi Ian,
    Is there any value in pointing (with your non-dominant) hand to the spot where you want to make contact with the ball?

    • Not inherently in my opinion, Jerry. However, many players find it helpful to create a full unit turn with the upper body and also focus more on contact.

  23. Hey Ian, Why are all you internet tennis guys lefties? Will, Jeff and you. I think Brent is righty, but clearly the ones that fill up more email boxes than anyone with your solicitations are you, Jeff and Will and you all have the unfortunate (for your dominantly right handed viewers) of swinging from the other side of the plate.

    Without regard to the content (which I don't want to comment on for various reasons) let me just say you should adopt the ingenious trick that Jeff S. has been using in his video demonstrations that eliminates that left handed tennis teaching disadvantage: He reverses the video in post production, so everything he does naturally as a lefty now looks like he's one of us, and he doesn't have to do any explaining. Nike might not like it, since their swoosh on his clothing is backward, but I doubt any of you guys is getting any endorsement value from Nike or anyone else. Cheers! Coach.

    • I do swap my instructional videos when it's necessary so that students are able to view in "righty mode", but for the purposes of this video it was irrelevant. Early timing is early timing regardless of which hand is being used. Cheers and thanks for watching.

  24. Hi Ian,
    Finally I now better understand where a ball travels based on timing. So if instead I want to hit down the line, does that mean you hit the ball "late" or is it just a matter if body position?

    Thanks for the video…

    • As I said in the video there are many factors but the biggest one by far is timing! The longer you wait (later timing) the further back you'll make contact and the more down the line the ball will go. Eventually it will become an inside-out directed shot.

  25. Thanks! Excellent conceptual and practical information…I just wish – constructive "criticism" intended here – the filming showed it better, i.e., the second view of each example (down from above, and back) was so late one couldn't see the swing path except for the outcome of the ball in the side net. Slo-mo would have been much more useful, also. Still…I appreciate your work always, and find it ever so useful. I've very much enjoyed your recent course (Max Serve Acceleration). e.b.

    • Thanks so much for the feedback! Glad you've been enjoying my instruction and thanks for your support :-)

  26. Hi Ian,

    Your video on contact point and timing was very well done. I have never thought of this idea before, but as usual, your instruction was right on target. As I have said in the past I am a USPTA teaching pro and I continue to find your comments and instruction to be extremely valuable.

    Thanks again,

    Barry Parker

  27. Hi Ian, Thats is perfect for my game and yes chronically late swing is the problem, but not any more Thanks very much!!

    • You bet, Julie! Let me know how it works for you.

  28. What about if you want to hit the ball inside out to the opposite side of the court
    Do I turn my body to face that way than swing early or do I just swing late


    I am a new player; 2 years playing; 65 years old retired

    Thanks; watch your videos all the time

    • That's an excellent question, Vito! I'm going to add it to my list of topics to record a video on the next time I'm out on the court with my camera man. You'll see a video about it soon. Short answer: an inside out shot is nothing more than really "late" contact when it comes down to it. You have to allow the ball to travel much further back in your stance.

  29. Great tip. Would be great to see the same drill with a very heavy ball that kicks up high to the shoulder, as many player have good timing in the ideal strike zone, but become late only on balls that kick up high. That Playmate machine is certainly capable of producing a very nasty ball :)

    • Absolutely, I wanted to make sure that I could demonstrate effectively :-)

  30. Ian,
    When you are hitting the ball way out in front, you are still backing up when hitting it?
    if you want to hit early, why aren't you moving forward into ball?

    • Great question, Caroline. Swing timing and footwork are completely independent things! While it's true that in general players tend to swing late while being pushed back (they're rushed and pressured) there's absolutely no reason why you can't swing early instead. Your hands are not connected directly to your feet ;-)