Players must master a myriad of skills when learning the game. Tracking the ball, judging the bounce, moving to the ball, positioning for the hit, stroking the ball, following through, recovering for the opponent’s reply – and that is just the short list. When asked what is the key, what aspect do they focus most keenly upon, most reply, “Getting ready early.” And indeed, most players are very keen to prepare the racquet so as not to hit the ball late. But somehow there is a world of difference between preparing early and preparing the racquet. To my eye, most players emphasize the latter, and are early with the racquet and early with the step and swing; whereas the better players turn to the side very quickly, but wait to initiate the racquet and wait to begin their step and turn.
Further, with the constant improvement in racquet technology, and the emphasis
from tennis coaches on the nature of the swing, the simple aspects of turning
early and keeping the weight back as long as possible are often overlooked. Said
another way, when you play, does it feel like your arm is swinging the racquet, or
does it feel like your body is swinging your arm? What follows concerns Plan B – getting the body thoroughly involved in the hit, and the secret is in the waiting.
Tom Stow prescribed the following drill: Arms folded in front of
you, initiate a dance to the forehand and to the backhand, with total emphasis
on the turns and the feet. Turn to the forehand, over to the ball, waiting on
the back foot, then step and turn into the hit. Turn to the backhand, over to
the ball, waiting on the back foot, then step and turn into the hit. With
repeated practice, the opening turn is done more quickly, but equally with total
simplicity. The steps over to the ball are small and rhythmic, and the final
step and turn are again small and rhythmic.
The common short court warm-up provides an excellent opportunity to practice the
turns, the waiting, and the step and turn back into the hit. I have watched
Martina Navratilova in short court practice, where Billie Jean and Craig Kardon
were totally on Martina to move her feet, to stay in balance, and to execute
each and every stroke perfectly. Similarly, I have seen Martina Hingis work very
hard to execute the short court warm-up with total attention to her turns, her
footwork, and her timing. But unfortunately most players treat the short court
warm-up as an exercise for the hands and racquet. In this instance, it appears
the racquet goes back and forth without reference to the body, that is, the arm
swings the racquet. If practice makes perfect only when practicing perfectly,
then I suggest that this short court warm-up is the ideal opportunity to perfect
Click photo: Martina Hingis turns well before the bounce, but the step and turn occur after the bounce
The bounce hit drill provides another reference to the turn and the waiting.
Players silently whisper “bounce” when the ball bounces on their side of the court, and they whisper “hit” at the moment of contact. Initially the task involves saying “bounce” and “hit” at the precise moments of the bounce and hit. But once mastered, the timing is as follows. Turn to the side well before the bounce, but wait until after the bounce to initiate the step and turn into the hit. In most recreational instances the racquet is back and the step has occurred before the bounce – all in the service of not being late. But with this method, the swing will only be about the arm and racquet rather than the body.
The slo-mo sequence of Martina Hingis shows just the same – turn well before the bounce, but the step and turn occur after the bounce. And though this article, as well as most everything I do for TennisOne dates me, the same look occurred with Chris Evert way back in the 1970’s. I can see in my mind's eye, as well as hear the commentators observing that Chris would be in the forehand or backhand corner, “Waiting on the ball.” Not much different than waiting on the pitch in baseball. And at that moment Chrissie’s weight was back with her arms and racquet still at her side.
(Click link to purchase Jim's McLennan's Secrets of World Class Footwork Video.)
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The Dementieva Serve or Arm Action Breakdown
Elena Dementieva is one of the finest ball strikers on the women’s tour. She has classic technique on her groundstrokes and has been one of the more consistent performers, finishing in the Top 10 the last four years. She hits a clean, fairly flat ball off both sides, takes the ball early, moves very well, and has a strong competitive spirit. But perhaps she is best known not for one of her assets but for her liability - and that is her serve. Doug King examines her this often faulty stroke.
Tactical Lessons You Can Learn From WTA Doubles
In a couple recent articles, Doug Eng made a quantitative analysis of what is happening in doubles on the WTA Tour. In this article, he summarizes a few important tactical lessons that you can learn from the pros and apply to your recreational or league tennis matches. Doug discusses the one-up and one-back formation, when to serve and volley, where to place the serve and why, and much more.
Crosscourt with Matt Cronin and Samantha Stosur
Samantha Stosur is currently ranked second on the Sony Ericsson WTA tour in doubles and 27 in singles, making her one of only a handful of women to maintain a high ranking in both. Here, she sits down with Crosscourt host, Matt Cronin, to discuss her career, the stress of playing two events in every tournament, the new doubles rules, on-court coaching, the top women on the tour, and the race for number one.
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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