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See letters and responses to last week's editorial, "Change the Way We Measure, Change the Game, " by TennisOne Publisher Kim Shanley.
Platform on the Serve
You are at the baseline, two balls in your hand, addressing the court, and ready to serve. As you gently lift the toss into the air, my question is, "At this moment are your feet still, or are you about to shift your back foot forward?" And a related question, "As you release the toss, are you shifting forward (tossing arm pointing toward the net) or are you turning away from the net (tossing arm pointing to the right net post if not parallel to the baseline)?"
There are many ways to hit the ball, and many ways to play this game. And as regards the serve, this may be the first (but certainly not the last) thing that distinguishes servers. Some move their back foot forward, creating something called a pin point stance; others, at this same moment, will keep their feet still. Some start shifting their weight forward with the toss; others use that same tossing motion to coil or windup before the release.
To my mind players moving their back foot forward, as well as those who shift forward with the toss are readying to get their weight (forward) into the ball. And those who keep their weight still, as well as those who coil rather than shift with the toss, are more or less centering for an upward drive into the ball.
Often the finish of a serve relates to what occurred at the start. Meaning, and kids this is just an opinion, those with quiet feet tend to finish up and on balance, those with active feet tend to bend forward on the finish. Is one better than the other? Maybe, maybe not. But certainly it might make more sense to copy Sampras than Sharapova on this one. And unfortunately, there appear to be a legion of young female competitors copying just her high tossing, foot moving, over effortful, delivery.
Sharapova bends over after getting her weight “into” the hit.
Generally speaking, as in most things, simpler is better than complex, and less moving parts make a machine simpler than one with more moving parts. And timing a lower toss from a balanced platform will always, repeat always be easier than timing an overly high toss from a moving platform.
The Sampras Model
Study Sampras, the best server in the modern game, and certainly, the best second serve (the thing he credited for his seven Wimbledon titles). Feet quiet during the toss and the initial acceleration of the racquet. Tossing arm parallel to the baseline on release, emphasizing the coil or windup. Toss just a little higher than contact. Continuous rhythm, all done from a balanced position. Call it what you will, the motion appears balanced and simple.
Click photo to go to website: Sampras' weight up and into the hit.
Compare this with Sharapova. She moves the back foot forward. Her toss is overly high, meaning she shifts then waits for the ball to descend. And she finishes flexed forward and down at the follow through. Could she explore a simpler more balanced delivery? Perhaps, but it might it be “too late in the game” (so to speak)?
At the local level, if you are the move the back foot type of server, could you experiment with a more balanced delivery where the toss is more above you and less in front? Absolutely. Would it help? You only know if you try.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
In this week's edition, we're featuring a sampling of some of our best articles of the year by our talented staff of writers. Just a heads up about next year. We'll be introducing our TennisOne Writers' Store, and a great new way to see and understand the game. Throw in some great new contributors--and you have what I expect will be an extraordinary year. But before this year and decade ends (thankfully), let me express my gratitude--and the gratitude of our entire staff--for your support of TennisOne. Have a safe and Happy Holiday.
Kim Shanley, Publisher, TennisOne
The Compact Stroke
The game of tennis is getting faster, more aggressive, and “smaller,” and it is beginning to look more and more like table tennis. Doug King believes that the techniques of grip, footwork, swing paths, weight shift, and spin are essentially speeding up the game and making the racquet feel more like a ping pong paddle in the hand. The premise is that the more that you can get the racquet to move in the same timing and the same feel as the hand, the more speed and control you gain.
The Spring Loaded Service Motion
Pat Dougherty, aka the Serve Doctor at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is at it again, this time with what he calls the spring loaded service motion. It's simple and easy to learn in just a short period of time. Here Pat shows you how to wind your hips and shoulders to store and then release energy in order to get maximum power out of your service motion.
The Andy Murray Backhand
With the tennis hopes of Great Briton riding on the shoulders of Andy Murray, the tall, lanky Scotsman is riding a wave of hard court success. Andy's strokes are compact and efficient and the one stroke at the heart of Murray’s meteoric rise has to be his backhand. Dave Smith takes a close look at Andy Murray’s backhand and identifies the key position points and general features that he believes make it a great backhand for anyone to emulate.
Taking the Ball on the Rise
Ian Tiriac, one of the great tennis coaches of the past, once said that the most important thing in tennis is to get the ball over the net and that's how most people learn to play, by hitting the ball up and over the net. They stand well behind the baseline, let the ball drop below the net, and swing up. Watching Kim Clijsters' amazing run at the US Open, however, one couldn't help but notice how she seemed to take every ball on the rise, that is, she stepped in and took the ball at the top of the bounce. Jim McLennan has some definite ideas about this scenario.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Elena Dementieva's Serve
>Elena Dementieva turned pro in 1998, and has amassed impressive career statistics with 14 Sony Ericsson WTA tour singles titles: she's presently ranked 5th on the WTA tour rankings. Elena has improved her serve dramatically, it used to be a tricky sidespin serve which sometimes got her in trouble, though the skidding, low bouncing serve wide into the deuce court gave the girls fits. A solid baseliner with excellent hitting and moving skills, Elena is a perennial top tenner, though she has yet to capture her first Grand Slam title – Perhaps 2010 may be her year. New this issue, Dementieva's Serve.
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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