MORE ADVANCED TIPS

You track the ball as if going to catch it: you may be holding the throat of the racquet with your non-playing hand during most of the tracking. Then you hit it. At the END of the swing you point the BUTT* of the racquet in the direction of where your shot lands on the other side of the net. Beware of taking the unit-turn* early. Just like an early backswing, it can throw your timing off. Plus it can make your running stiffer and slower. It is nothing complicated, nothing rushed. Your lower body may be in an emergency, running fast. It will tend to look for efficiency to help you execute your primary intention, which is your stroke. Let your body teach you. Feel it and don’t force it in authoritarian ways.

Copy the Pros: The ultimate question is, should you copy the Pros? I say yes, why not, they are the best. Nadal and Serena, relishing the open stance. Federer, addressing the ball with the racket’s edge while serving. Djokovic, going from the ball to the shoulder on all ground-strokes. To play your best, copy the best.

Find the Ball: The most important thing in tennis is what I call “finding the ball”. And what is finding the ball? It’s your racket approaching the ball slowly, then accelerating. It is as if you touched the ball first, then you explode into it. In tennis, that’s what you need to do: find the ball first.

The Modern Finish: What is the difference between a club player and a pro? A club player has many different swings. A pro always looks the same. On the forehand, most of them finish over the opposite shoulder. On the one-handed backhand, they stretch all the way out. Two-handed backhand, they finish over the shoulder. The key, no matter what happens earlier, is to finish the stroke the same way.

Take Your Time: Rhythm, balance, coordination and timing are better when you wait for the ball. Take your time, don’t rush. On your ground-strokes, you can even count to five, one at the bounce, then two, three, four, and five when you hit, finishing all the way. Take your time, that is the best way to play.

Center Hits: It’s often taught that hitting in the center of the string bed is the key to the game. But the top pros don’t do that. They hit towards the bottom of the string bed for topspin, and towards the top of the racket for volleys and slice. The racket will have much more stability this way, with the force only in one side. Topspin forehand, bottom of the racket. Backhand slice, top of the racket. That’s the way to play.

Racket Angle: A lot of people think that the position of the feet determines the direction of the shot. But that doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the angle of the racket. You angle the racket face to the right and the ball goes down the line, you angle the racket the other way and it goes cross-court. Think about the angle of your racket and don’t worry about your feet at all.

Bad Bounces: Many players say: “I got a bad bounce and I missed the shot”. But the bad bounce doesn’t mean that you have to miss the shot. Personally, I don’t see any bad bounces because I play the ball after the bounce. I look at the ball casually in the beginning and then carefully after the bounce. That’s when I adjust and then I swing. No bad bounces, if you follow attentively the changes in the flight and bounce of the ball.

Approach across: When you hit the backhand slice, it is better to follow-through across the body rather than forward. When you follow-through forward the ball tends to fly and you lose control. Hitting across and with the left arm going back for balance, you’ll feel the shoulder blades get together. You may be going down-the-line, but the racket goes across the ball for more zip and control.

Loose Grip: I hit the ball hard, very hard, but I have a surprise for you. I keep my grip on the racket loose. That’s how the top pros control the tension of the body. They keep their grip loose until the moment they make contact with the ball. Remember, keep your grip loose and don’t get uptight.

Natural Stance: There is open stance, closed stance and then natural stance. In the natural stance you don’t think about your feet at all. In fact you already learned to move your feet perfectly when you were three years old. Just think about the ball and your feet will be fine. If you think about the position of your feet, you’ll be in deep trouble. You may even fall. Just be a natural. Do what is comfortable. That is the best way to play.