By the time you reach the Advanced Tennis stage, you should have covered all of
your basic techniques in the standard strokes.
To groove these strokes and hone your techniques, you will need to hit hundreds
or thousands of balls and spent hours out on the tennis court, practicing with your
coach or sparing partner.
You should also be aware of the power of muscle memory and the sub-conscious
mind, these play a huge part of what you do in a panic situation when playing a
serious match. It is at these stages that your worse traits come out, and to
overcome this situation you should work on the problem during practice.
Should you decide to change something in your game at this stage, you will have to
hit hundreds and hundreds of balls, using the new technique, in order to implant it
in your memory bank, otherwise you will revert back to the original style in a
The game of tennis is constantly changing and as regards techniques, these changes
are bought about due to necessity in many instances. For example, the semi-western
grip and subsequently the full western grip, were needed because of the ever higher
bounce of the ball, due to heavy top-spin from the opponent.
You will need to keep an eye on what the pros are doing, as in general, they lead the
evolution of tennis techniques.
In many instances, you can come up with the answers to particular requirements
by asking yourself simple questions and then putting them into practice – maybe
they will suit your game or maybe not.
For example what do you need to do to put more power into your serve?
Do you have a wrist snap? Do you bend the knees - I liken this to slightly sitting down. Are you using the full rotation of the trunk and shoulders?
Are you getting the most from your elastic energy?
I believe it is absolutely essential to regularly have your strokes videoed and if at all possible, shown on a big screen together with a good pause
system. In this way you can analyse every part of every stroke and it is often the only method to truly break down the components of that stroke
in order to effect improvement.
As the game changes, previous perceptions become out-dated and what a coach in the past might have said was unacceptable or not good
technique, has now become the modern way to play a stroke. Nothing can be set in stone and one has to have an open mind when viewing
each and every stroke.
If we look at John McEnroe’s serve, this would not have been a method taught to students, but look how effective it was. One point that has
to be remembered is that in general all players have the racket pointing in the right direction at the point of contact, what they do to achieve
this may differ considerably player to player.
Once you have attained the necessary techniques to play a good game of tennis, perhaps you can alter these slightly to suit yourself; this being
said, you should not do anything that will hinder your play in tennis.
Some points to consider in your search for a better stroke:
How big is your loop on the forehand? – can this be improved in any way.
In the modern game, many players take the racket back with the elbow leading the back swing.
Are you using butt-end leverage? i.e. do you point the butt at the on coming ball!
Do you use a variety of grips depending on the type of ball approaching?
Do you have good biomechanics? Analyse your trunk and shoulder rotation to get maximum power.
Are you getting the most from your elastic energy – i.e. from the shoulder turn and take back of the racket, without any pause in the swing
through to contact and follow through!
Have you tried different elements of stance from semi-open to open, to see if this improves your hitting?
With modern hitting the racket goes across the top of the body after contact and ends with the thumb pointing to the ground and the elbow
points roughly in the direction the ball has been hit, although this will depend on how much body rotation you use.
Do you practice running round your backhand and hitting a winning inside out shot or at least to set up an opportunity to create openings.
What about your running!
Do you use a mogul step to recover from a wide run?
Do you kick back from the outside foot?
Can you use a power step if you need to go for a winner?
There are so many variations to the double handed grip, that I am not going to comment on all of these. It really is a matter of finding the best
grip to suit you.
Have you tried an extreme grip on the single handed backhand. This can be quite effective if you want to hit the ball harder and it also helps
with the ball that bounces higher.
Some top players are now hitting their single handed backhand from an open stance.
I have already mentioned some of the points on the serve, above.
One important point is whether you use the pro drop, this is where the racketdrops behind your back with the racket level with your right
shoulder, if you are right handed and left shoulder for left handers.
Have you developed a good top-spin second serve? essential for leading players.
The normal volley should be your best shot when at the net and you should be efficient at this stage.
I am however, surprised that so few players up to top club standard, fail to use the drive volley – I like to call it The Attack Volley. Make
sure you are proficient with this shot, it should be a winner every time. it does require correct technique and excellent reactions to use it
whenever the opportunity arises.
You should take plenty of time to practice each of the different volleys:
The Low Volley - you must get down low to this and the head should be as near to the ball as possible.
The High Volley - put it away.
The Stop/Drop Volley
The Half-Volley - Tim Henman is a great exponent of this shot
The Lob Volley - Requires a good feel.
The last comment I am making on strokes is the Topspin Lob.
This is becoming more prevalent now but again I am surprised it is not more used. In this stroke, heavy topspin is achieved by bringing the
hitting arm up over the shoulder on the hitting side.
Any correction to technique should, in general, be minor and should be gradually adjusted and should be done at the beginning of the
season. Careful analysis should be undertaken before any changes are made, to ensure the changes are going to be beneficial. These
should be undertaken in conjunction with a good coach.