Are you struggling to improve your tennis game? We all know the phrase “practice makes perfect”, but even if you are playing tennis 2-3 times a week, it doesn’t mean you are getting better. This is possibly because you are practicing the wrong technique and therefore staying on a plateau.
In this article, UFIT Head of Sports and experienced coach, Frank, dives into nine key topics that will help you categorize possible errors in your technique and provides tips on how to correct them. This will not only help you improve your tennis but also prevent injuries, such as tennis elbow.
Let’s start with your groundstrokes, forehand and backhand. Throughout the article, we’ll cover movement, positioning, balance, grip, contact point, backswing, follow through, and gravity and spin. We hope you find it useful!
“Move your feet!” This is probably the most common command you will get from your coach, and they are right! However, it is important to understand the key fundamentals of footwork and movement on a tennis court.
The very first move you should make is the “split step”. This is when you lift your heels up and hop onto the balls of your feet just behind the toes. This should be done every single time your opponent makes contact to the ball. The split step will help you take off to move to the ball. Run if you need to, but many times you only need to move in a small area. The movement now is called “shuffle steps”. You shuffle your feet quickly along the ground to get into the perfect positioning. I call this fine tuning. Avoid taking big steps at this stage as you are likely to get too close to the ball, or not close enough.
Now that you have made it to the ball, the key is to be in the right position to have a good contact point (we will get to that shortly). You should try to position yourself behind the oncoming ball so that you are already there by the time the balls arrives. This is not easy and most of the time you will need to be quick, so start the process early – as soon as the opponent hits the ball!
Right, you are about to hit the ball! 80% of errors on groundstrokes are made by being off balance. Your centre of gravity should be slightly in front of you and your base (space between your feet) should be slightly more than shoulder width apart with your knees bent. Imagine yourself surfing or standing like a goalkeeper.
The most common issue players have is getting too close to the ball. Then as you hit, your body falls backwards, which causes the ball to fly and hit the back fence.
Ok, you’re hitting the ball! Are you using the correct grip for the stroke you are about to hit? For a forehand, lay your racket on the ground and pick it up without changing your grip. This will put you in a “semi western” grip that you will be able to use for most shots. The way to “change your grip” is by twisting the grip using your non-dominant hand when you are in the “ready position”. This position is while you are waiting for the ball and have your non-dominant hand on the throat of the racket with the racket pointing out in front of you.
Grab your racket now and try it out. Practice twisting your racket around using the non-dominant hand. And lay your racket on the floor and pick it up for a semi western grip. Careful swinging around, you may break something!
So, on contact with ball, your racket face (the strings) should be perpendicular to the ground, straight up and down with the strings facing the net. This is known as “closed”. If your racket is “open” with the strings facing up, then the ball will fly and hit the back fence! Sound familiar?
Your contact point should be comfortably in front of you around waist height. Simple! Not really, but if you have done everything above, then there is a good chance you will get this right.
This is where your power comes from. Start by using a shorter, compact backswing with a small, smooth loop behind. The racket should be coming slightly up into the contact point but keeping the racket “closed”. This will give the ball plenty of lift to get it over the net.
This is where control comes from. The follow through is the natural way for your racket to slow down and stop after making contact. The racket should continue up and over the shoulder with the racket face pointing out and away from you when it stops.
Grab your racket again and try this. Hold your racket in the contact point. Place your other hand on the strings where the ball will be hitting. Now slowly bring your racket up across your body and over your shoulder, keeping your other hand on the strings. The back of that hand should now be facing away from you and the movement should feel natural, without your wrists making any strange movements.
Gravity vs Spin
You’ve hit the ball! What is happening? Is it flying through the air and waiting for gravity to bring it down on time before it flies over the line, or is the ball traveling through the air with a curved trajectory wanting to come down? If you have the latter…awesome!
Spin is how we control the ball. The most common spin and one you should master to rapidly improve is “top spin”. This is when the ball travels through the air spinning “over”. Hold your finger out and rotate it over and over forwards…this is top spin.
You will have seen professional players who hit the ball very hard and aggressively, and it rarely goes out! That’s because of top spin. Everyone at any level can learn this and if you follow ALL of what you have just read, then it will happen naturally.
So, next time you go out and play, try and pinpoint some of the possible errors you are making and follow these simple guidelines to correct them. If self-correction is too difficult, which we know it can be, then come and join our Adults Tennis Clinic or take a few private lessons and let our professionals sort you out.
Good luck and enjoy your tennis!
ABOUT UFIT TENNIS
Whether you’re new to tennis or an intermediate player looking to improve, we offer a range of different programs for people of all ages and abilities. Led by an experienced team of coaches at Fairmont Hotel, choose from adult tennis clinics, private group lessons, 1-1 lessons, ladies team training sessions, or our new tennis burn class – a dynamic session designed to enhance your endurance, speed, and power through a variety of drills, games, and skills.