Nike Men's Spring Apparel Sale - TW
Spring Trend Crew, Velocity Polo, Federer T-Shirt, UV Crew, Federer hats, accessories, medical aids, training devices and more - all from Tennis Warehouse!
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Six Degrees of Separation?
The concept of “Six degrees of separation” refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is no more than six "steps" away from each person on Earth. While statistical representation of the interaction of people on the planet is really just a theory in “social networking,” the title of this concept intrigued me and I thought it might be used to describe a stroke element in tennis.
One day in discussing the relative use of the non-hitting arm in hitting one-handed backhands (and more specifically, one-handed backhand slices), in a tennis clinic, I used the phrase “degree of separation” based on the pace of the desired slice.
Most players can see that the pros separate their arms significantly when hitting an aggressive one-handed backhand slice. The analogy many use to describe this movement is to imagine a demonstrative home plate umpire in baseball signaling a runner safe at home by yelling “safe” and spreading his arms emphatically apart to stress this call.
However, when players are hitting a softer slice backhand, as in a drop shot, a softer, shorter approach shot, or a volley, the arms may not separate quite as much. In fact, the degree in which the arms separate can be proportionate to the speed in which the shot is hit. That is, the separation may not have to be as significant nor as pronounced in terms of forcefulness of the separation on every shot.
Many players who hit one-handed backhands tend to neglect the non-hitting arm in the course of the stroke. Women especially tend to leave the off-arm fairly limp during the execution of a one-handed backhand. The resultant effect is that the upper body will tend to rotate around with the racquet during the stroke. This situation will greatly hinder the player’s ability to maintain what I call, “Upper Body Integrity” (UBI), through the important contact phase of the stroke.
Click photo: Note the off-arm extension on Djokovic's slice drive compared to that of his drop shot below.
The slice backhand is like the conventional backhand volley. Both shots are “Linear” in execution. This means that the majority of the stroke stays in line with the target. In other words, the racquet face stays on a linear path through a great deal of the contact zone. The way this is accomplished is to retain the UBI of the player through the course of the swing and more specifically, through the contact phase of the stroke.
The difference between the backhand slice groundstroke and the backhand slice volley is that the swing is typically abbreviated on the volley: a shorter backswing usually accompanied by a shorter follow-through compared to a much larger backswing and subsequent follow-through on the backhand slice drive.
However, with a drop shot or even a slice lob, the shot is hit much softer. What many players tend to do is take a big backswing but then decelerate or even stop the swing in a stabbing or jabbing type of motion. This type of swing is usually a result of too big a backswing causing the player to feel the need (consciously or otherwise) to quickly diminish the stroke speed.
Instead, players will want to take a backswing relative to the desired speed of the shot. The separation of the arms will follow suit: a short backswing as in a drop shot will include a limited—but still present—separation of the arms. A slice approach shot with a full swing or a backhand slice drive will include a full swing of the racquet arm with an equally full reactive backward swing of the opposite arm.
Although I doubt Sir Isaac Newton played much tennis, his third law of motion still applies: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we swing through a ball on the target line, we should include a reactive (actually almost simultaneously), similar action with our opposite arm. If we drive fairly hard on a slice, the separation of the arms should be more significant; a relatively soft shot, the separation won’t need to be as pronounced.
Remember that this is a general statement, with everyone having slight variations of this concept based on perception. The important thing to remember is that the separation is a key part of executing a skilled and accurate slice, (or topspin) one-handed backhand.
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Extreme Makeover: The Forehand
Of all the strokes, the forehand topspin groundstroke offers the most diversity within the parameters of an acceptable foundation or technique. However, there is another level of diversity we see among recreational players and this diversity is usually based on the need to compensate for a particular flaw (or flaws) in the stroke. These flaws are what keep players mired in lower levels for years. Dave Smith examines many of these flaws and offers some solutions.
Roger Federer and the Forehand Volley
Many people have commented that for Roger Federer to regain the number one spot, he must play at the net more. However, David Sammel suggest that, unless Roger sorts out his footwork at the net, especially the footwork behind the forehand volley, he will continue to struggle against the likes of Nadal and Andy Murray, Two players who seem to have all the answers for him. Here Sammel suggest ways for Federer (and you) to improve your footwork at the net.
ProStrokes 2.0 - David Ferrer's Backhand
David Ferrer plays the prototypical Spanish game – if such a thing exists now that Nadal and Verdasco play so much more offense. But that said, Ferrer, presently ranked 13th, but with a ranking high of 4th in February of 2008, is a dangerous performer on any surface. An indefatigable retriever, with a semi western forehand and reliable two-fisted backhand. Ferrer holds wins over nearly all the top players, and although his ranking has slipped a bit, this relatively young 27 year old still may have some big things in store.
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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