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Tennis Anyone?

Strengthen your weaknesses



Objective: Set up your strengths and practice hitting to locations.


The stroke that players obsess over most is the serve. And the thing everyone wants to do is hit it harder. But I don’t care how fast or slow you serve, you’ve got to get it in the box and hit your targets If all you think about is raising the m.p.h. on your serve, but your ball is always heading right at your opponent, it isn’t going to help you. You’ve got to move your opponents. Roger Federer doesn’t light up the radar gun like many of his peers, but he can place his serves so accurately that he gets plenty of free points. One thing I do as a coach is tell students to envision the point they want to play before they serve. This gets them in the mind-set of using the serve as a setup rather than a finishing stroke. For instance, I picture hitting the serve out wide, anticipating where the return will land, and playing the next ball with my favorite stroke. After all, it’s difficult to hit aces, and simply stepping up to the line and thinking only about hitting the ball hard usually leads to errors.
A hard serve down the center is tough for your opponent to pull down the line. This will set up your forehand.


Much of your success will revolve around hitting spots with your serve. If you can’t do that at this level, your opponents are going to zero in on your serves and take advantage of your inconsistency. Practicing your location by setting up targets wide, into the body, and down the T is a reliable method for improving the accuracy of your serves. Make sure you can hit different spins to each location, too. Just like a pitcher in baseball, you want to be able to spot the ball with each of your serves to keep the returner guessing.

Ironically, sometimes serving at advanced levels can require less thought than serving at other stages of development. If you’re a pure server with a huge delivery, many times you can rely on that skill to overpower your opponents. They know what’s coming, but it’s tough for them to do anything about it. Still, there aren’t many rec players with this ability, so I think it’s important to structure a strategy that plays to your strengths.

For instance, let’s say you have a formidable forehand that you like to use to control rallies. A good, hard serve up the middle or into the body in the deuce court is a difficult shot for your opponent to pull back toward your backhand. You now have an opportunity to step around the ball and hit your favorite shot.
Using a high-bouncing kick out wide in the ad court is another way to set up the forehand. But beware of your location on wide serves. Whereas beginners often have trouble with this serve, if you give advanced players a lot of angle and don’t put them on the defensive, they’ll hurt you with the return. In other words, placement, more than pace, is key.