Waiting and Using Your Weight?
I think we may have all experienced the following disconnect. When watching the professionals they rarely, if ever, appear to hurry when playing. But when you and I go back on court, often we feel rushed. The professionals do not exactly “get the racquet back early,” but rather quickly turn to the side with their weight balanced on the back foot, and truly make this thing look so darn easy. But we, in order to resolve this hurriedness thing, prepare too soon, and in this attempt, also wind up stepping way too soon.
I suspect were 20 people asked to describe the single most important aspect of their games, the typical answer would be, “I try to prepare early.” But to my eye that thought is translated physically into stepping early. Interestingly, it is just the opposite that will give you more dividends. Turn early, then wait for the ball, and when starting the swing, then and only then get your weight into the shot.
As a student with Tom Stow (and I was learning both as a player and as a
teacher) he often began a series of lessons with a new student by asking, “Show me your turn. What is your first move to the forehand (or backhand) side? No matter what was performed, he could, and in fact always did, find fault. He expected the simplest of turns to the side, but, with an uncanny attention to detail, he expected all the weight to shift on balance to the back foot. He expected that the backswing had not really begun, posture perfect, head and eyes still and still looking forward. And whatever flaw occurred within this initial demonstration became the focus of the first few lessons.
As a teacher carrying on with my version of Tom’s material, I find myself often spelling “wait” and “weight.” Meaning, the preparatory turn must be early, but then, for rhythm, the player must wait to start the swing. Then and only then does the player shift the “weight” to initiate the swing. The same is done when throwing, where the pitcher places the back foot on the rubber, and the shift towards the plate initiates the throwing motion (see The Dynamics of throwing a ball and hitting the serve and forehand).
Click Photo: Monica Seles – After an early turn to the side, waits for the ball. Then with a rhythmic one two, the racquet moves back ever so slightly, she shifts her weight, then the ball.
Consider the varying speeds you face with differing opponents. Generally we all
like to play against “hitters” who give us pace (though not too much pace). But the trouble occurs when playing “pushers” who float the ball. In the latter scenario, the difficulty occurs when we are unable to wait. The ball crosses the net in a lazy arc, we prepare way too early, racquet back too far and too soon, we step in way too early, then wait in this awkward position for the ball to arrive. Across nearly all recreational levels, players with an inability to wait are driven crazy by pushers. There is a solution.
The following footwork drill helps in discovering the feel of the waiting and
weighting rhythm. Initially, with arms folded and facing the net, turn to the
backhand, take a few small, quick steps, and then stop precisely on the back foot (left foot for a right hander moving to the backhand), then hesitate the slightest amount to achieve the waiting. Next step exactly forward and finish with a simple turn into the hit.
Now to the forehand. Again, with arms folded and facing the net, turn to the
forehand side, take a few small and quick steps, then stop precisely on the back foot (in this case the right foot), hesitate the slightest amount to again achieve the waiting, then step exactly forward and finish with a simple turn into the hit.
Click photo: Sania Mirza displays classic form. She waits to the side, her swing begins as the ball enters the picture and her shift of weight precedes the racquets movement toward the ball. The backhand appears the same - waiting on the back foot, shifting the weigh, then moving the racquet into the ball.
But in practice with adults and juniors alike, I find this dance step actually
quite hard to achieve. Some players begin with a hopping step to the side,
shuffling, meaning they do not habitually feel the initial turn of the hips
toward the ball. Others move relatively well but routinely stop on the front
foot, and in this scenario we see players who do not feel the waiting or the
weight of the shot. With repetition, as little as five minutes a day in the
backyard or on court before or after your game, I guarantee you will feel a
Tom Stow encouraged me and many others to practice this routine, and over
time the steps became simple. And I can still see him admonishing me, “Jim, if you can’t make this look graceful without a ball, how in the devil can you expect to do it when the ball is in play.” And as usual, there was no useful reply. Thanks Tom.
(Click link to purchase Jim's McLennan's Secrets of World Class Footwork Video.)
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In his recent win in Hamburg over Rafael Nadal, Federer was quoted that he, “dictated play.” It must be said, Roger did not dictate all the points, but both in his mind and in the main he did have control over the feel, the length, and the tempo of the points, and played on or inside the baseline much more often. But there is more to this phrase, “dictating play” than meets the eye. And this is true at both the professional and recreational levels. Jim McLennan explains.
One of the most important attributes -- and I’m sure the same is true for many pros -- is the development of good, soft hands. Good, soft hands give a player a feel for the ball and the game. Tennis is most like creative artistry or child’s play when you practice the feel of the game. The shots that use soft hands and accurate placement are often the shots that elicit jaw-dropping awes from spectators. In short, good, soft hands make tennis fun! Doug Eng
ProStrokes Gallery - Nikolay Davydenko's Serve
Nikolay Davydenko is the number one Russian for the second straight year with five ATP titles. He is currently ranked number four in the world and holds wins over nearly all the players in the top ten. Although he is yet to notch a win over Federer, Nadal, or Roddick, his consistency and big game from the baseline makes him a threat in any major tournament. Fit, big topspin off both wings, definitely a baseliner, he may lack the guile of Federer, the huge serve of Roddick, or the baseline smarts of Murray, but he will run and hit with anyone. Check out Davydenko's strokes in the TennisOne Prostrokes Gallery. New this issue - DavyDenko'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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