In order to improve the Return of Serve, there are certain aspects that a tennis player should consider:
– the kind of grips to wait for the serve with: eastern, semi-western (forehand grips), continental/hammer, or backhand grip; either one has a role according to player’s strengths – court position for the first and second serves – the best footwork to return serve – the technique (to control a fast incoming ball) – what type of serve the player usually has problems with: flat and fast, kick or slice?
The Serve Return, even though a player has less time to react to, can be trained and improved at any level.
Players must learn the proper grips, footwork, how to read the opponent’s serve and where to tactically place the return.
Tennis is a fun sport and great for meeting people.
In the beginning, players discover the game, fall in love with the idea of hitting the ball over the net, exercising, winning points and competing.
But after awhile we all want to take it to the next level: better technique, more consistency, more power, win matches and tournaments…
I have this friend who, after playing tennis for 3 years, has made a lot of progress. He can rally with an advanced player but when it comes to playing an actual match, you can see his obvious struggle. So what does it take for my friend and any player, whose level has been stalling, to move up in rankings? Below I’ll highlight a few differences between the average player and a top player:
1. Top players create opportunities While average players wait for things to happen, the top players are proactive in controlling the point and looking for opportunities to win. They have a good knowledge of tactics and strategies that they can implement according to their opponents’ style of play.
3. Top players are aware of their strengths and weaknesses One of the aspects that I’ve constantly seen at average players is their lack of patience to develop their game from the ground up. They want to compete but not take the time to develop a solid foundation. Top players constantly assess their strengths and weaknesses and build their game around that. They understand that any technical flaw must be corrected…and they do it. Average players tend to ignore their weaknesses relying on one or two strokes they feel comfortable with.
4. Top players practice to improve Most of the average players just want to play matches. Their satisfaction lies in winning matches even if that means competing against less gifted players. Top players want to practice their tactics, consistency and strategic strokes placement more than they want to play actual matches. You can see top players spending a lot of time working on one single shot until they get it right.
5. Top players prepare for their matches Proper food before, during and after a match is one of the aspects top players are aware of in order to perform at their best. They pay attention to a proper warm-up before the match, and stretching, recovery exercises after it.
6. Top players respect their opponents Once a player reaches a certain level of excellence he/she will develop a compassion for their fellow tennis players knowing the dedication and effort that it takes to perform at high levels. That’s why the top players have respect for their opponents, compassion for the ones who lose matches, and they share the excitement of their wins with the ones who helped them get there.
Knowing the above qualities of top players, would you say you are among them? If not, would you be willing to work towards achieving that level?
Certified Tennis Teaching Professional
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This appears to be an ardent subject that tennis coaches want to know when teaching beginning players.
It is true that some young players (beginners) have difficulties achieving an optimal contact with the ball – getting either too close or too far from it. Therefore coaches try to find solutions to help their players hit the ball more in balance and naturally.
Unfortunately there is no quick or easy solution to this and, if you ask me, I consider this will get fixed naturally, through repetition. The only way a beginning player realises to “feel” the optimal contact point and space to the ball is through lots of practice. Eventually, the player will develop the proper timing, hand-eye coordination and footwork to position the body and racquet in the most comfortable and natural way.
BUT if you really want to speed up the process, I dare to suggest a couple of drills that you and your student can do to get a clear understanding of where the contact with the ball should be and improve the timing to achieve that:
1. Have your student (or partner) position in a open stance (feet parallel to the net) or square stance (feet sideways to the net) and racquet held at “contact point” position: racquet face towards the net, proper grip, arm slightly bent (see picture below). By the way, this can be applied when practicing either forehand or backhand ground-strokes.
From the “contact point” position, hand-feed a few balls towards the player’s racquet. After the ball bounce, the player should push the ball and swing from that point on and follow-through. Practice contact and follow-through without backswing.
This drill will teach the player where the contact with the ball should be (spacing and body position) and eventually he will register that and, with proper timing and footwork developed through repetition, this will become a habit.
2. Repeat the previous drill with a slight adjustment: instead of tossing balls for your student, this time you will rally with him. Your student will begin every stroke from the contact point position (no backswing) while pushing and following-through after each contact.
Again, this will teach the player proper spacing to the ball. One important tip is to rally with your student from the service line or just behind it in order to avoid a bigger swing and take the racquet back.
You can even use foam or any light junior tennis balls to keep things simple in the beginning.
Try these two drills and let me know if your student develops and gets a better feel for spacing to the ball.
One more tip: do not over-emphasise other technical aspects such as footwork or body position. In order to get the contact and timing right allow the student to focus only on the ball; let the other elements happen naturally… for now.
For players who want to learn the above technique by themselves I recommend either using a ball machine or asking a tennis partner to feed (by hand) some balls to them.
The following pieces of advice address mostly to coaches but players can also find some applicable uses:
As a tennis coach at WebTennis24 I often get emails in which players or coaches ask for my opinion on certain subjects. One of them was how to make a good impression if you are a coach in front of your new students.
In this regard, I made a video that will show you the first 10 – 15 minutes of what you can do with a new tennis student (beginner or even intermediate). In this video, you’ll find my “magic” formula how to interact with new students and how to make them feel welcome and excited to learn tennis. It has worked great for me throughout my over 15 years of teaching tennis, and it will (guaranteed) help you too.
Besides that… in preparation for the upcoming lesson (or a match if you are a tennis player) it is good to develop some “rituals” that prepare you mentally for what comes. I used to get quite nervous especially when meeting new students and/or their parents. So don’t worry: you are not the only one getting nervous; a lot of coaches are too… the students also. If it helps, you can only imagine that your students are more nervous to meet you than you are to meet them. Or if you are a player before a tennis match, your opponent might be more nervous to play against you than you are.
Here are some of my “rituals” that I do on the way to my lessons in order to ensure that I would be properly prepared and my students will find a true professional in me as their coach:
1. In the car, as I drive to the tennis court, I practice some breathing exercises: take a slow deep breath in – hold it for 4 seconds – release slowly; do this about 5 – 7 times.
2. Say positive things to yourself such as: “I can’t wait to meet my students”, “I love what I do”, “This is going to be fun!” etc.
3. Get on the tennis court at least 10 minutes before your students arrive; prepare all your teaching gear and be ready early.
4. As soon as you see your students coming towards the court, put a smile on your face and walk to them looking happy to see/meet them. Stretch your hand out and introduce yourself first, then ask for their name (memorise it).
5. As you can see in the video I mentioned above, it is important to ask your students questions, find out about them; that would make them feel welcome and important.
6. If you get nervous, smile; smiling is a great way to help you relax; also ask your student questions during the lesson: “what do you feel about what I just taught you? does it make sense? does if feel natural?” etc.
7. And last… actually this should have been first: make sure you have lesson plans ready (a general plan of drills and things you want to teach before you get on the court). I sometimes carry little pieces of paper with notes that I find important to say or do during the lessons. This helps me knowing that I do not leave things out and takes some of the pressure off considering that I don’t have to remember everything.
I hope all these tips are of help to you. Write in the comments box below and let me know your thoughts.
Every so often, my students surprise me with some rather simple yet challenging questions that I keep thinking of even after I consider I gave them the best answer…
One of such questions are: “Should I play singles or doubles?” Most of the players who ask this are beginners or intermediate level in search or their tennis identity: “am I a singles or doubles player?”
My answer is usually as follows:
“If you don’t mind running, then singles is for you. But if you enjoy the team sports and having an easy-going partner to work with, doubles is for you. The two are different in the sense that in singles you have more court to cover and you’ll have to be quite consistent with your ground-strokes while in doubles it is more about playing at the net, feeling comfortable with volleys and strategic placement of your shots. In my opinion the game of doubles is more complex and exciting than the singles one. Even if a player enjoys the one-on-one competition, he or she could benefit a lot from playing some doubles matches from time to time. If you ask me… I like the singles matches. Even though I enjoy a doubles match from time to time, the fact that when playing singles I am responsible for every shot and the effort I put in is mine 100% gives me the assurance that the match is totally up to me and the way I perform on that day.”