AP Belt Training - Breakthrough development program for tennis players!
In 30 days or less, AP Belt Training will develop increased power,
control and precision in all strokes and volleys. Designed to develop a
stronger core and lower body strength, AP Belt Training will
acceleration your reaction time and increase your court coverage. The
AP Belt Training system was developed by Pat Dougherty, a stroke and
movement specialist who is based at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy. The
AP Belt Training system is used by many top NCAA teams.
Click here to learn more about AP Belt Training.
Singles Strategy - Reconsider the Paradigm
I have had the opportunity to work with both competitive and recreational players of
every age and stripe - adults, juniors, novices, and nationally ranked
players. In drills, practice sessions, league and tournament play, my
observations generally concern the relationship between their practice habits
and actual competitive play. Unfortunately, I believe there occurs an unfortunate
disconnect between the two. That is, many players practice far better
than they play and many players actually practice a form of tennis that
is entirely different than what occurs in actual match
Click photo: Practices at nearly any
level revolves most around rallying back and forth from the
The professional game influences all of us, with its power topspins, big forehands from
the backhand corner, and an emphasis on hitting the ball more than
understanding the court. But more than that, the practices at nearly any
level revolves most around hitting, that is, rallying back and forth from the
backcourt. And certainly, with our highest level junior players, this
hitting is generally ferocious.
In nearly every instance, when asked about
the best part of their games, these juniors unanimously answer, “My forehand.” But
to my mind, the answer really is, “If I get my serve (or return) in play and can
move comfortably to the center of the baseline, then my forehand is my best
shot.” Unfortunately, that assumption overlooks the two most critical
shots in the game of tennis – the serve and the return.
So, the tactics and strategy of this model implies a winning strategy based on
offensive forehand play from the backcourt. But what if the serve
misfires? What if the opponent consistently serves to the weaker backhand
side? What if the return of serve is so inconsistent that the
opportunities to attack from the backcourt are few and far between? How
can the big forehand overcome these concerns? Answer: The big
forehand will not solve this problem.
Improve the Serve and Return
Want to win more matches?
Improve the consistency and
reliability of your serve and your return. Get to the point that the two
best areas of your game are the serve and the return. Consistently putting
the ball in play, as server or receiver, places enormous pressure on the
opponent. Not from aces and return winners, but rather from the hard to
measure but steadily accumulating aspect of no free points given, no double
faults, and no return of serve errors.
Interestingly, at the conclusion of any of our tournament matches, players
routinely recall their incredible winners or unfortunate errors on the so
called “big points,” but rarely do they ever consider (if even recall) the ebb and flow
of momentum that swings due to poor service games or poor return
games. So the simple concept of successfully converting the first
swing in any point (serve or return) gets undue short shrift.
So much so that if you have read this far you may think to yourself, is this all
there is to this? Reader, yes this is all there is, but read on, if just
for a little more.
Consider the phrase, sometimes heard around the courts, and more often after a
particularly disappointing match, “I have never played worse!” If a good
server plays a poor returner, if a net rusher plays someone with poor defensive
skills, if a player with a good backhand crosscourt plays an opponent with an
inferior backhand, these and many more situations would lead to the “never
played worse” comment. But, if a deadly consistent server/returner plays
someone who relies on a steady stream of free points, unforced errors, and
erratic play, then the absence of those free points (though this player may
have never really conceptualized his own reliance on these freebies) will
actually lead to the same phrase, “I have never played worse.”
First serve to the ad court, Nikolay Davydenko puts the ball in
play, note his neutral court positioning after the service hit – nothing fancy
here, getting the ball in play.
Just that a few days ago at our club one of our players significantly
improved her percentage of first serves and returns, against an opponent of
similar skill but with less appreciation of this strategic paradigm. As
the match wore on, the more consistent player got into each point without the undue
stress reliance on pressure filled second serves. Consequently, the other became forced to play
nearly every point on maximum offense. She had to win points because so few were
being given away on the other side of the net.
The current “factory” tennis model places between four to eight (if not ten)
players on a court drilling groundstrokes from a pro who
feeds them balls corner to corner. The juniors (or adults) wait in line to bang the ball then diligently move and
hit. Sometimes, with four to a court, they endlessly
hammer groundies from the back court. Perhaps this is a good way to get
a lot of players practicing together, sometimes known as a competitive
cluster. But in the final analysis, because of this training paradigm,
there is no way to really focus on the nuts and bolts of the game – the serve
and return. Consider Bill Tilden, world champion in the 1920’s, who
advised simply playing five sets a day to practice for an upcoming event.
In the five sets a day model, one would certainly come to understand the
importance of a reliable serve and return.
Nikolay simply returns the ball on the backhand side
from the deuce court and quickly recovers – no particular offense, but surely
getting the ball in play.
The following are simple drills that may “hammer” home the simplicity of this
When practicing the serve, remember that all serves are hit
with spin, that one is only as good as one’s second serve, and that first and
second serves should be more similar in pace and spin than dissimilar.
aside ten balls and count how many go into the court. Repeat this process
again and again. Once your percentages improve, mark off the corners of
the service box – out wide and up the middle in the deuce, and up the middle and
out wide in the ad court – and once again count your percentages in every ten
Second, find a practice partner who will serve to you, and
repeat this process counting your percentage of returns in every ten shot
sequence. Third, keep a 3 x 5 card in your tennis bag, and on changeovers
note how many times you went in your pocket on the service game, meaning you had
to reach for the ball in your pocket on the second serve, and equally note on
that card whether holding or dropping serve.
Interestingly you will find
far more drops of serve when too many second serves had been hit, and more often
than not, more holds of serves when few if any seconds or doubles were hit.
Finally, use the same card to track your percentage of returns in any game. It is not surprising that your breaks of the opponent's serve generally occur when your returns were error
Certainly, at the professional level all the men and women have reliable serves
and returns, so this concept, though still applicable, becomes a little harder
to measure. But watch closely as any set tightens to 5-4 or 6-5 and more
often than not the break occurs from poor serving, and the hold occurs from poor
returning. Simple as that.
Note – Davydenko has lost eleven times to Federer, and twice to Nadal, but this consistent top five player rarely if ever loses to players outside of the top ten. His consistency on first serve, 71% places him tied in fifth place overall in the Ricoh ATP match facts (the leaders serve at 73%) and his winning percentage on return of first serve of 36% (second place) and winning percentage on return of second serve of 56% (fourth place) clearly indicate to me that Nikolay values the importance of the first swing – he gets the serve and he gets the return in play. Might not be enough to beat Fed or Rafa regularly, but works pretty darn well for all the rest. (I should mention that Davydenko did make a breakthrough last week, beating Rafa Nadal for the Sony Ericsson Open title in Miami.)
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.
Rounding Out For More Fluid Play
While pro the matches are filled with drama and spectacle their practice sessions better reveal the inner rhythms of the game. As you watch players methodically rally twenty or thirty shots with power and grace you cannot help but be mesmerized by the fluidity of their movements. Everything seems to flow in such harmony - nothing rushed, nothing disjointed, and everything in perpetual motion. The pros understand that with fluidity comes a natural synthesis of power without effort, speed without rushing, focus without tension. Doug King
Athletic Foundation Intensity
In the first of a series of TennisOne instructional videos, widely respected teaching professional and tennis writer Pat Dougherty discusses "Athletic Foundation Intensity." Pat outlines the posture, hip position, bent knees and weight distribution that are key elements to a game like the pros. Pat Dougherty patented the A.P. Belt Training System, a breakthrough athletic development program for tennis players used by many top NCAA teams. Pat is based at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
Relaxed Hands and Good Technique
Exploring the relationship between keeping your hands relaxed and using good technique will help you reach your tennis potential. Poor technique limits how easily and efficiently a player can handle and generate power. If you have hit a shot while keeping your hands relaxed, then there is a very good likelihood that you used good technique for that shot. With few exceptions, to be able to keep your hands relaxed while hitting a stroke is a good verification that you did a long list of things correctly. Daryl Fisher
ProStrokes Gallery - Shahar Peer - Serve
This 21 year old Israeli woman continues to march up the rankings since her professional debut in 2004. Peer has reached the quarterfinals of the Australian and US Open, but still looks for a break out performance at one of the big four. In 2007 she held wins over Ivanovic, Kuznetsova, and Vaidisova. She favors a grinding baseline style of game, drives a heavy two fisted backhand, retrieves exceedingly well off both wings, and she can finish a point when the court is open. Check out Shahar Peer's strokes the TennisOne ProStrokes Gallery. New this issue, Shahar Peer'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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