Welcome everybody! Thanks for visiting the Essential Tennis Blog. Before we get started I just wanted to remind you all of the Essential Tennis Podcast which is available on the iTunes music store. This week I discuss singles strategy and hitting cross court, basic serve technique, and doubles positioning for the serving player. Simply click the link on the right side of this page.

To start off todays blog I would like to thank Tomas in FL who submitted a great question to me last week. Tomas says:

“I am an average player myself always
trying to improve my game. Sometimes, and almost by pure luck, I make
a self-discovery and those are the things that stays in my mind more
permanently. Like last weekend when I played and suddenly I had a
perfect hit in the sweetspot – ah that feeling! How did that happened
I asked myself the second after I hit. It was the simple thing that I
caught the racket after in my left arm after the swing. And then I
tried again and again, and it worked for me. The swing improved
rapidly because I was forced to end up the swing at the same position.”

Tomas I would like to encourage you on your quest to improve your tennis! You may be an “average” player right now, but I guarantee that if you continue to practice with such great attention to feeling and detail great strides will continue to happen in your game.

Tomas’ discovery of the correlation between a certain feeling and a certain swing technique boil down to an essential athletic quality that all top performers have: awareness. Awareness means that you’re conscious of many things at the same time whether you’re actually focusing on them or not. These things include your position on the court, your eye hand coordination and knowing where your racket is facing, where your opponent is, the technique you’re using, and how good of balance your body is in. These are all factors that play a huge part in the goings on of every point, and even every individual stroke.

Since the question had to do with technique specifically, I will list what I believe the main four things to be aware of are as you are all trying to improve your tennis strokes. If you’re aware of these things as you practice and play, then learning what works and what doesn’t becomes second nature, and continuing to improve follows close behind.

Quality of Contact:

Beginning and intermediate club level players just aren’t very aware of how cleanly they’re hitting the ball. This is a generality of course, I’ve taught beginners before who have known right away that a missed shot was the result of hitting off center on their string face, but for the most part lower level players just aren’t conscious of their quality of contact. Realize that it isn’t all or nothing, there are different degrees of contact quality, it isn’t simply either strings or frame. When the ball hits your racket three inches off the center of the strings you will not get your full potential from the stroke, and the resulting shot is affected. I often tell students that technique is 100% irrelevant if you can’t hit the middle of the racket, and it’s true. If you’re not already conscious of your quality of contact start paying attention to it right away. You’ll be able to tell how clean of a hit it was by the sound, the feel, and the resulting shot. I wrote a whole article on this a few months ago, check the archives.

Tension of Muscles:

In any technique drive sport or skill staying relaxed is extremely important. When your muscles tense up it takes work to move them, and the more work it takes to move your muscles and body the less you’re going to get out of your efforts in terms of the resulting tennis shot. Tension for the upper level player is an indicator that something with technique was incorrect, because correct technique should make hitting the ball over the net easy. If technique is poor, then more effort is required to make up for the lack of a quality swing. Next time you go out to hit be aware of how tense or loose your muscles are, chances are you have room to improve how relaxed you are as your swings are executed. Check the archives for a full article on this as well.

Path of the Racket:

Pay close attention to where your swing starts and where it finishes if you’re trying to improve your stroke or resulting shots. This is how Tomas improved his forehand, he was aware enough of his movements to notice finishing up higher gave a better quality shot, and so now his game has improved. Where does your racket finish in general when you hit a poor backhand? When you hit a great backhand? It’s not by chance or luck when you hit either of these shots, the direction that you moved the racket is going to determine the direction that the ball travels.

Path of the Ball:

This is a direct reflection of the path of your racket, its pure physics. Want the ball to go higher? Start lower and swing up. Want the ball to go straighter? Swing forwards more and less vertically. Want spin on your serve? Hit past the side of the ball, make it rotate. Every resulting shot is caused by the direction and acceleration of the racket at contact, as well as where the strings were facing. I love technique, its my job to study it. I’m quite sure that I could improve somebodies swing simply by watching the ball that they hit into the court, and not even seeing their technique. The resulting path of the ball will tell you all you need to know about what the racket was doing at contact, the ball can’t lie.

So there you have it. Whoever says tennis is easy has clearly never tried to become a competent player, haha. Is this a simple thing? Clearly not. However, if you start paying closer attention to the four things above you can improve your strokes and game through your awareness. Keep what produces quality shots, and get rid of what doesn’t.

As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me at ian@essentialtennis.com. Take care!