Serena Williams Serve - ProStrokes 2.0 Feature This Week
Does she have the best serve in the women's game? Decide for yourself. See sample of Serena Williams' serve in ProStrokes 2.0 Slow-Motion in this week's edition.
Creating Balance in Your Strokes
David W. Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
One major problem that players of all abilities tend to experience is hitting shots off-balance. An imbalance can be caused by many elements of a stroke: using poor footwork, reaching for the ball with the racquet, (instead of moving the feet to the ball), or simply not having full control of oneís body while in the complex movements of moving to and interacting with a moving tennis ball.
Click photo: Pro players can maintain good balance even forced to hit from awkward positions.
Can a player gain better control of this elusive thing called balance? Are there ways to practice that can help a player improve balance? Can improvements in balance make for a better tennis player?
Yes, yes, and yes!
But before we talk about the way a player can improve balance, it is important to understand the things that cause imbalances in the first place.
Reaching With the Hands Instead of the Feet
Reaching with the hands instead of moving the feet to the ball is one of the biggest impediments to good balance and a habit that often prevents players from making a move to the next level. I've see hundreds of players with adequate strokes and adequate physical means allow themselves to move only the minimal amount necessary to make contact with the ball. I call this action ďlazy feetĒ and itís really part of our human nature. Next time youíre at pro match, watch closely and count the number of steps the pros take between hits. Often it is as many as twelve or more! This is one of the biggest differences between high level and recreational players. Pros are in continuous movement throughout the point.
Understand, most shots can be “hit” with minimal footwork. And, those who are more proficient at executing shots seem to become even lazier. This is because players who have hit successful shots from unbalanced, less-than-perfect positions on the court, tend to believe they can do it over and over again. Even after missing a number of poorly-positioned shots, such players can make just one shot again at some point and reinforce this poor habit.
Poor stroke technique is another element that usually leads to hitting shots off-balance. While a lot of stroke failure can be directly attributed to the stroke technique itself, (everything from using wrist, over-swinging, poor racquet preparation, etc.), many times poor swing patterns create situations where it becomes necessary to be in a relatively poor position just to hit the ball. For example, a player who opens his body up too early ends up having to hit the ball using a pushing motion with a swing that moves more away from instead of around the body. This movement forces the player to have more weight out in front of the body which then results in an off-balance finish.
The human body is a very astute machine. When a player swings early or late, the body will recognize this even before player-recognition occurs. The body then tries to compensate by slowing down or speeding up the stroke, regardless of the balance of the player. In many cases, this mistiming of the stroke changes the contact zone, moving it either more in front or behind the optimal zone. To adjust for this, the body will tend to lean back when late or lean forward when swinging early. In both instances, the player is going to swing off-balance.
There are many training exercises a player can employ to improve balance on the court.
Some of the best drills Iíve found to train this aspect of the game are one foot drills. These drills can greatly improve balance whether working with relative beginners or even world class players. In fact, nearly all shots in tennis can be hit while standing on one foot and with great results. For right-handed players, stand on the left foot for forehand volleys, groundstrokes and serves, and the right foot for backhand volleys and backhand groundstrokes.
What is interesting is how players learn to generate more and better control while standing on one foot. The reason is that it is far more difficult to over-hit while standing on one foot. (Most players who try that will likely fall down!) When players learn to swing with balance, they increase the efficiency of their strokes, and learn to hit with less effort yet achieve better results.
It has been revealing to see player after player serve better after practicing on one foot. Often they discover more power because they learn to swing within a balanced foundation. The transfer of power through the kinetic chain is maximized when players swing balanced. And again, because they are standing on one foot, they swing within themselves. Try it for about thirty serves or so and see if you donít discover how to improve your balance for more effective serves.
Here are two drills I use within various clinics to incorporate one-footed groundstrokes: first, I have players standing in place and on one foot and simply feed them balls. (A right-handed player would stand on the left foot for forehands and the right foot for backhands.) In the second drill I introduce movement by having players hop from left to right across the service and I feed them three balls to hit. For example, moving from the deuce court to the ad, right-handed players hop on their right foot hitting backhands. More advanced players can hit from near or behind the baseline. These two drills accent not only balance but also help players learn to hold the finish, a factor in almost all skilled strokes. Again, players who swing too hard will not be able to maintain their balance.
Finally, the same movement drills and foot patterns used in the previous groundstroke drills can be used to hit volleys. Players learn to get sideways, limit their swing, and gain control because they are forced to hit while standing on one foot.
A final point of standing on one leg: such practice builds strength in each leg and is a great way for pros and coaches to change up the same old drills with one simple exercise.
Caution: As with any drill or practice that uses balancing on one foot, pros and coaches will want to watch closely (especially older players who might want to try these drills). Turning an ankle, twisting a knee, or simply straining muscles because of using unfamiliar movements and balance points can occur. Take extra care looking for that potential and build up slowly to any more demanding drills that use this type of exercise.
These one-footed drills can really improve a player’s balance and perception of balance. For pros out there, these drills can make the difference between “good” players and “great” players. If, for no other reason, the use of these drills and exercises can add to any practice session. Try it for a few weeks and see if you don’t recognize improvement in yourself or your students.
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Positioning for the ball
In tennis, somehow footwork is equated with court speed and with the willingness to run and cover the court, but less obviously with the precision required to place and move the feet for ground strokes and volleys. In other words, with the willingness and ability to get into just the right position to strike the ball. Are you one of those who move well but are rarely in position or on time to contact the ball in the optimum strike zone? If so, Jim McLennan offers some help.
Meet the Approach Shot
There’s an old singles saying that tells us that “the point doesn’t begin until someone hits a short ball. As with most old sayings, there’s an element of truth to this. In today’s power obsessed game, many players view this short ball as an opportunity to flex their tennis muscles. They move forward, take a huge swing at the ball and frequently deposit it into the net, or the next court. The next time you’re faced with that mouth watering short ball, consider a different strategy. Greg Moran
The Wall and One-handed Backhand Volley
Most juniors today are taught a two-handed backhand and that makes the transition to a one-handed backhand volley more difficult. The one-handed backhand volley requires two things, strength and technique. Monty Basnyat, along with his student J. J., outlines a program to help two-handers develop the strength and technique to master the one-handed backhand volley.
ProStrokes 2.0 - Serena Williams' Serve
Serena Williams has answered many questions this year about her motivation, her fitness, and her commitment to another run to the top of the game. If the two most important shots in the game are the serve and the return, then Serena is at or near the head of the class. Her service motion is a model of efficiency, where the toss is not overly high (read Maria or Venus), the rhythm is flowing without any unnecessary service hitches, and she serves with confidence on both first and second deliveries.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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