Chapter 3: New Modern Basics

A significant part of this book reinforces principles that I laid out in my first book of 1989, “Tennis in 2 Hours”, which caused such incredible results first for Eastern Europe and, eventually, the rest of the world.

 

Novak Djokovic, a new era #1

Though rejected for decades in the USA as violating century old principles supposedly based on a special tennis kinetic chain resembling cricket, baseball and golf, my techniques are making inroads. Coaches are now aware that modern tennis is significantly different and apply many of my techniques, whether they recognize or acknowledge the source. But one principle has not fully hit home: the premise that top tennis players thrive on extreme simplicity! The human body-mind-spirit composite performs naturally in ways that are aligned with realities much deeper that the visual ones, and shies away from unnatural considerations and tenets that make tennis a difficult sport to learn and perform.

First of those barriers is the idea that the basic tennis movements are intrinsically linear, when something very different takes place at the high level: tennis strokes and movement efficiency are deeply dependent upon rotation. Muscular contraction, rather than elongation, is the basis of a body’s strengths. Stretching and elongation are part of physical health preservation and of extending the body’s range, but not the basis of the modern tennis game’s way of operating.

Perhaps the most pervasive idea is that by adding greater and greater components onto their mechanical basis players can get greater performance, while the opposite is true. Simplicity is the key that has guided some of the best tennis players of all time.

Several new basics:

1) A player’s timing is enhanced by keeping the racquet in front while tracking the ball, rather than taking the racquet back early. Perceptively, mentally waiting and stalking it makes the incoming ball look much slower than usual and makes the player feel as if they have more time. Calmness, rather than rushing, is a key for success.

2) Modern tennis is a rotational sport rather than linear, both for the body and the ball. The open stance, loading on the outside foot and permitting the inside foot to lift off the ground even in most extreme situations, facilitates such, including the turn to recover open ground.

3) Tennis ground-strokes are much more upward and vertical than what is conceived visually. Gravity, always present, is not viewed but felt. Not only your arm effort reflects that, but pulling up with your body will maximize this feel of pulling up. Staying down or low, on the contrary, traps your topspin strokes.

 
Kim Clijsters, US Open Champion and #1 in the World

4) Contact length and control is exponentially augmented brushing not only upwards but also across the intended direction of the shot. Those actions, for intended ball rotation and spins thereof, considerably magnify feel and ball-string contact time.

6) Dragging the racquet head behind the hand is quickly more effective. Shot direction, spin and shot height can be controlled much more easily this way. But rather than change the direction of effort while impacting the ball, which is the more effective way, the tendency is to “break” the wrist forward, compromising the modern “windshield wiper” stroke. Conventional techniques necessitates tightening up the wrist and the arm, while the modern ones I propose to hold the racquet loose and use off-center contact, closer to the frame, to magnify spin, feel and control.

7) Pulling from the racquet at contact enhances all of the above, while pushing forward decreases the efficiency of the stroke. The change of stroke direction is a major component of racquet head acceleration and impact force.

8) Extreme groundstroke grips, such as the Western forehand, magnify these basics, making them a necessity. Young students, in particular, find the most efficient grips on their own and change them only, unless influenced by others, to increase their feel and control of their strokes. Coaching the young is a delicate undertaking which when violated can limit their future in this beautiful sport.