Stunt Pilot, Kaizen, and Topspin Forehands
Our game has evolved and will continue to evolve. In the 1970's I
received (and have saved) a tennis teaching proposal from an old friend and
college coach Wayne Dawson, in which he essentially advocated teaching the
game as though it were ping pong. No shoulder turns, no backswings, no
real emphasis on "stroke production" but rather a way to play simply with
one's hand. Wayne felt the traditional teaching methods obscured a natural
feel for the game, as the jargon of teachers is often over laden with
technical and technique-oriented phrases. As I work through submissions to
our site, I wonder why we have made this game so darn hard.
Well, at the professional level, these days, the game does appear like ping
pong–racquets are lighter and last second acceleration of the racquet
(paddle) at impact appears to be the norm. Where once we were trained
to hit smoothly through the ball, imagining there were 10 beer bottles that
must be swept from the table, now it is about waiting until the last moment
and then accelerating at impact.
If you still reside within the old school, the following material may be
unsuitable. On the other hand, if you are working on some of the "new
stuff," then read on, there may be a hunch or two that will give you a yet
Stunt pilots can pull two or three G's when coming abruptly out of a steep
dive. The acceleration force created from swooping up swiftly from a steep
dive appears remarkably similar to the arc shown by Vic Braden on the
Ivanovic forehand. And my hunch is that just as the pilot becomes heavier
at this moment, something similar occurs with the hand and racquet as it
accelerates up from its downward swooping arc.
And what about Kaizen (had you been keenly reading up to this point)?
In the Kaizen (Japanese for the process of continuous improvement), factories commonly speed up the production line to see what aspect of the interrelated assembly breaks down. This speeding up identifies weaknesses, and when addressed and remedied, the process becomes improved. Tom Stow (the legendary coach and my coach for a while) used a similar method years ago, asking the student to hit the ball much, much harder. So much harder that I would truly lose control. But then under his watchful eye, he would glean which aspect of the
technique (mine in this case) contributed to the loss of control, and we
would return yet again to the drawing board to tinker, tinker, and tinker
Your Topspin Forehand Experiment
So in this article I propose you select the topspin forehand, and
experiment with the application of significantly more racquet head
acceleration, such that you cannot always control the shot. But in this process carefully feel and observe how your body is working. Further,
this acceleration must come from the ground up, meaning you must use your
legs and hips.
Direct your eyes to a few important features. Nadal plays from a crouch
and gets a lot of initial work from his legs and hips (power always comes
from the ground up–push on the ground and the ground pushes back).
Relatively simple and short preparation, but note the racquet starts quite
high to enable a big swooping arc.
His grip is semi-western which helps
this topspin effort, but truly there is a significant upward acceleration
as the racquet meets the ball. Light racquets, poly string, a lifetime of
topspin–whether Nadal or the new breed of junior player–everyone on the tour
appears to have this stroke. Now it's time to experiment to incorporate a version of this stroke into your game.
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The Windshield Wiper Forehand
The windshield wiper forehand is one of the safest, most reliable, yet most effective groundstrokes in the modern game and is used by just about every pro on the circuit. Here, former world number one doubles player, Ken Flach, clears up some misconceptions about the stroke and shows you some of the specifics that are key to hitting this shot consistently and effectively.
Brad Gilbert is Wrong
Brad Gilbert's fabulous book "Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis" is truly one of the finest books ever written on the sport, however, in it he wrote that "Most weekend and club players are brain-dead on the tennis court. They go out and run around with no plan, no thought, no nothing. They give it as much study and consideration as jumping rope. And that's why they can be had." But Greg Moran disagrees! He prefers to say these players are in a "tennis coma" because, when you're in a coma, there's still some brain function and hope for recovery. See how!
ProStrokes 2.0 – Andy Roddick's Forehand
Andy Roddick has been the top american player since the glory days of Sampras and Agassi. In his “Hall of Fame” career (for certainly he will be inducted one day) he has held the Number 1 ranking and has led the American Davis Cup to victory in 2008. Andy won the US Open in 2003 and came within inches and truly one swing of a 2009 Wimbledon title. It seems, however, there will always be this but to his name – could he have done more with his game were he to have become more fluent in the moving forward skill set? We may never know – but you can be sure he will give each and every match his all. After All, Andy is a gamer with a fighter's heart.
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