Doug King's New Forehand DVD
TennisOne Senior Writer Doug King has just brought out a great new instructional DVD, "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: Topspin Forehand."
In "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin Forehand," Doug King continues his in-depth examination of the modern game, this time focusing on how to develop the kind of powerful, effortless topspin forehands you see at the professional level. This DVD, which runs nearly 2 hours, more than twice the average instructional DVD, will cover every aspect of transforming your forehand into a powerful weapon.
20% Discount for TennisOne Members
The US Open – Wind and Simplicity
Many players in the early rounds of the US Open were bedeviled by the wind. And before going further, my first coach Blackie Jones insisted that we both practice in the wind, and learn truly to love playing in the wind. Why? Because, as he clearly and so often stated, most players either hate the wind or are unable to adjust their games accordingly; so Blackie thought we would have an undeniable advantage in windy conditions. And in fact as a green college sophomore I had such a win against Teddy Jackson, who had just beaten a college top 10er the previous day in Berkeley.
Click photo: Soderling uses an overly high toss–they serve with pretty good rhythm, but the toss does linger up there quite some time.
But Blackie had another reason as well–because the ball in windy conditions is prone to change course, bounce unpredictably, or float to either wide or long–he advised constant small steps, simpler racquet work, and safer shot selection. And, those same things will work quite well for you in nearly all conditions.
Now to the Toss
There are many ways to hit the ball, and many ways to play the game. Rafa and Fed use relatively low tosses, just slightly above the contact point. Djokovic, Berdych and Soderling use overly high tosses–they serve with pretty good rhythm, but the toss does linger up there quite some time.
When it comes to the women, Kim has a low toss; Venus, Maria, and Dinara have overly high tosses. To my eye, the high toss challenges one’s rhythm, and in tight situations may lead to, or at least be associated with, a plague of double faults.
So I went online to look at Steffi Graf, who had truly an incredibly high toss. In fact at one particular clip from a US Open, the announcers marveled both at how high (read bad) the toss was, but that somehow Steffi seemed to serve just fine. But my own hunch here is that many of our leading ladies were children when Steffi ruled the tennis world, and they may have inadvertently copied Steffi but none of them (Venus, Maria, Dinara, et al) serve with nearly the confidence or consistency.
Look at the high tossers (right) who have pulled down (presumably from waiting so darn long for the ball to enter the hitting zone).
Compare this with servers who lower the toss, but not the contact point. Repeat, lowered toss but not a lowered contact point–and besides Rafa and Fed you can include Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase, and Pete Sampras.
And this photo of Fed looks so darn different than the ladies above.
In post match comments by Roger after his straight set dismissal of Robin Soderling, he explained how he approaches such gusty conditions. “I see it as a challenge and as an opportunity to play differently. I used to dislike it so much and now I’m on the other side. I take enjoyment out of it, actually."
Soderling, on the other hand sounded (and in fact was) beaten by the conditions, “Everybody who has tried to play tennis knows it is difficult in the wind. But there is nothing you can do about it. I cannot change the weather.”
Unfortunately, there are many things that can in fact be changed, but perhaps not at this stage of his career. Soderling grew up playing indoors in Sweden, and there must have been a coach somewhere along the line who had questions about this particular toss, but somehow it captured a life of its own (that is what happens with habits). Robin had particular difficulty with the high toss on his serve, which the gusts of winds disrupted time and time again.
But there is more to the simplicity, and for this we look to Kim and Rafa. Both play evenly balanced games. Meaning, neither suffers from a glaring weakness, and truly neither play "one note tennis" where their entire game revolves around just one shot.
Both serve with simple and reliable service motions, nothing about excessive knee bends, overarched backs (think Novak), and neither suffers from bouts of double faults. Further, both move their feet extremely well.
We all know about Rafa, but the more you watch Kim, the more you appreciate her quickness to the ball, not explosive powerful running, but economical and effortless quickness. And yes, for those doubters out there, she consistently employs a gravity turn when starting to nearly all running shots.
Rafa is the master of footwork, but from his side of the street I am hoping one day he will adopt the tactics Agassi used in the Renaissance of his career–where he stopped running around his forehand, held his ground on the baseline and hit backhands when the ball went to that side and forehands when the ball went to the other side.
Click photo: The more you watch Kim, the more you appreciate her quickness to the ball and she has no weaknesses on the backhand wing.
Some years ago in an interview Fed was asked about keeping the ball away from Rafa’s forehand and he mused that most had no idea how incredibly good Rafa’s backhand was. And whether Kim or Rafa, there are no weaknesses on the backhand wing (wish this was the case with our friend Andy).
Finally, as regards simplicity, consider court positioning. The game becomes more complicated when playing well behind the baseline. The opponent gains more time to move to their shots, and the hitter from that overly deep position plays to a smaller hitting angle with less options to open the court. Both Kim and Rafa are confident to move forward, they make this tactic appear simple, and in the end neither gives the opponent any real opportunities.
PS – Rafa is at the top of the heap, and it appears that he will stay in that position for quite some time. But consider how the challenger upends the champ with a different style of play, and becomes the champ until the next challenger comes along.
Borg was unbeatable from the baseline, 5 Wimbledon’s and 6 French Opens, and no one could match groundies much less court coverage or resting heart rate with the indefatigable Swede. McEnroe took it away from him with relentless net rushing, and in the end Borg had no answer. Then it was Lendl who overcame Mac with our first glimpse of the power game – in fact Mac lamented that it was impossible to return serve and keep the ball away from Lendl’s monstrous forehand. Then along came Sampras with his overwhelming serve and volley tennis, and few had the answer and they simply waited for him to retire.
So how to play Nadal? My guess is to combine elements of Agassi and Sampras, and if that player is out there and under construction, Rafa might be in trouble (even though I suspect the serve and volley will become his next project). Agassi hugged the baseline, took all balls early and on the rise before the ball could get up to his shoulders. Further, no one can match Nadal’s physicality, and truly that is required when running extra distances to hit forehands from the backhand corner as all the players do these days. But an Agassi type player, who does not run around the backhand, would play with an economy that would challenge our man Rafa.And the Sampras model would be constant serve and volley, for with Rafa returning from so deep in the court, an adept and punishing serve and volleyer would have many opportunities to volley to the open court.
That said, at this point I am not aware of any Sampras/Agassi hybrids out there–but wouldn’t it be fun when one finally arrives.
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Watching professional tennis players and one can't help but wonder how they make everything look so easy and fluid, even when hitting the most difficult shots. Yet when we get out there, it's always a struggle with extraneous movements and herky-jerky starts and stops. So, how does the club player introduce more rhythm and fluidity into the game? Doug King has an idea, and it's called "The Waggle." See how this concept can help your game.
Hitting the High Backhand
One of the most troublesome shots for the club player to hit is the high backhand groundstroke. Yet we don’t see professionals having to resort to hitting this balls that often. Professionals quickly recognize balls that would end up being high to the backhand and either back up and let the ball come down into the optimal strike zone, or, move in quickly and take the ball early, before it bounces up out of the strike zone. So, how should one hit this shot effectively? Dave Smith has some definite ideas.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Ernests Gulbis' Backhand
Ernests Gulbis has had a breakout season, with wins over Baghdatis, Youzhny, and a stunning upset of Roger Federer at this year's Masters in Rome. Gulbis turned pro in 2004 and achieved a very steady, yet fairly unnoticed, rise in the rankings and this year he is showing the makings of a top-ten player. Gulbis has one of the best return games and his backhand is also one of the best. He attacks the ball, sometimes taking the ball flatter on the rise and other times slicing and dicing from the baseline. His forehand and serve weapons, are on par with the best players on tour today also. New this issue, the Gulbis backhand.
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One of your many new benefits as a TennisOne membership is your ability to purchase selected instructional DVDs at 20% off ($7.50 off each) in our new TennisOne Writers Store (login in first to access members links):
- "Building Your Serve from the Ground Up," Jim McLennan Members Public
- "Building Your Ground Game," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Building a Kick Serve," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Achieving Peak Performance the Wholistic Way: The Mental Game," Happy Bhalla Members – Public
- "Building a World Class Serve," Phil Dent Members – Public
- "Building a World-class Volley," Dave Smith Members – Public
- "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin," Doug King Members Public
- "Best of Ken DeHart," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Corrective Techniques & Myths," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Defeating the Monsters in Your Mind," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Skills, Drills, and Games for Beginning Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- "Drills for Intermediate Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public
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