Attack the ball before it attacks you by Tracey Townsend
The game of tennis keeps getting faster. Racket and string technologies advance year after year. With each new generation, athletes in general are becoming stronger and faster. Tennis players are no exception, and the size of professional tennis players continues to grow. We average humans have but one defense: lean in.
You need to realize that the ball is the thing pushing you around the tennis court, and you are bigger than the ball. I’ve adopted the attitude of “no way that little ball is going to push me back.” You should, too. Leaning in to the ball seems like a simple solution, but so many players have a difficult time doing it. Let’s look at some tips to help you lean in.
Start with your attitude. Really get stubborn and realize that getting pushed back is just wrong. It is so hard to hit any kind of shot while moving backwards on the court, especially an offensive one. Mentally, think of attacking the ball before it attacks you. Plan to move into the shot rather than just react to it.
Second, make a great split step, every shot. I make a split step as my opponent is making contact with the ball. I make my body go forward into the court. This movement enables me to change direction and helps me push forward into the shot. I move diagonally forward so that I can cut off the ball instead of being pushed back by it. The spilt-step sets you up to be offensive when hitting the ball instead of being defensive. It also adds power and depth to your shots.
Third, shorten things up some. Everyone swings too big sometimes. The technology I spoke about earlier with rackets and strings allows you to shorten your swing and still get great power. A shorter backswing will get you started quicker and allow you to attack even a speeding incoming shot. Then, solid contact is all you need. You’ve all heard the term, “Use their power against them.” Shortening your backswing will help you do just that.
Fourth, follow through. Finishing the shot is more important than starting the shot. That short backswing I want you to take can be very effective if you just finish the shot with authority. A follow through adds spin and gives the ball speed and direction. Poking at the ball (like I see some of you do) just rebounds the ball wherever. Blocking the ball is too defensive and will get you nowhere. Finish what you start and let your follow through carry you forward through your shots.
Lastly, use simple commands to get yourself started: “Forward.” “Step In.” “Attack.” “Lean in!”
See you on the courts and watch out for the summer heat.
Tracy Townsend is a resort tennis expert and Director of Tennis at Seaside. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (850) 231-2214.
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