The tennis strokes technique can be divided into 3 major elements: the preparation, contact with the ball and… finish (follow-through).
The last part (the finish) can give me a lot of clues about somebody’s stroke: spin imparted on the ball, acceleration (power), tension in the arm, direction of the ball etc.
Coaches tell you to finish in a certain way for deeper ball penetration, cleaner contact or relaxing the arm through the stroke. But what is the stroke finish all about?
In my teaching lessons I have noticed that many consistency related issues can be solved just by fixing the finish on the stroke.
You see… so often coaches or players look at contact or body movement for solving the tennis problems but according to my observations tennis can be a lot easier if we fix one very simple area of our strokes: the way we finish!
Here are my arguments for this statement:
1. Since the contact with the ball is done in such a short period of time our mind is not capable to control the body and racquet during that time (it is our ingrained muscle memory or subconscious mind that takes over the contact). What we can control is the way we finish the stroke: “holding the finish”.
There is a strong connection between the contact and follow-through – if contact is done right the proper finish follows or the opposite is true too: if we focus on a long, relaxed follow-through (the part we can control) then we’ll have a clean, smooth contact before it happens.
2. A long follow-through shows me, as a coach, a relaxed arm that my student has during the contact with the ball. A relaxed arm during the swing translates into power and control on the ball.
We all know that we play our best tennis when we are relaxed.
So focusing on a long follow-through on the strokes will help us loosen up through the stroke.
3. When playing a match and feeling tense and we have “one of those days” that nothing good comes out of our strokes there is a very easy fix to those symptoms: exhale at contact and finish your strokes.
When we are mentally tense (e.g. fear of losing the match, somebody important to us is watching the match, egos etc.) our body muscles contract too; that makes our stroke swing shorter which as a result slows down the racquet head speed and affects the ball depth.
I have noticed a remarkable progress in my students’ strokes only when I adjusted their follow-through:
– a kick serve cannot be done without taking in consideration the racquet path on the same side of the body with the dominant arm after contact, or…
– the slice serve having the hitting face more or less facing the opposite court after the contact adds to the spin effect even after the impact has been made;
– a forehand ground-stroke finish with the hand knuckles close to the non-dominant side’s ear can make the contact a lot smoother and cleaner when teaching young or beginning players. (see the My Daddy / My Coach section where we post live lessons with little kids – tips to teach your own kids the sport of tennis and valuable information to use for fixing tennis problems – grips, swing path, stroke check points, correct technique etc.)
Take these tips with you next time you go on the tennis court to practice, or use them to relax in a tennis match.