Player to Player:
This week's question from Kathy:
Competing in temperatures over 100 degrees, I have suffered heat exhaustion twice. I seem to also be more prone to dehydration, and I'm a bit nervous to compete in the heat since then. Does anyone have advice on what I can do 3-4 days prior to competition other than major hydration?
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Last week's question from Joe:
(Please note: There's no need to send additional responses to this question.)
I've just been bumped up to 3.5 league play, and I'm seeing serves that have a lot of kick. HELP!
Easy solution. As soon as the other guy tosses the ball to serve, move in 3 or 4 steps and take the ball on the rise and knock it back at him so fast he doesn’t have time to get ready to react!!! Sounds hard, it's but really easy and makes you look like a 4.5!!!!!
From Coach Poppie, Palm Bay, Fla.:
OK, Joe, "help" is a big word. Here is help on the return, since it is quicker and easier to adjust to than learning to kick service over your opponents wheelhouse.
Remember, the swing pattern for groundstrokes is three beats, while the return of service should be two beats. Groundstrokes are: 1) pivot and turn; 2) adjust your feet - either take the racket back and down or make the letter C on the backswing; 3) hit through the ball. However, the serve is two beats the moment the hitter strikes the ball: 1) turn and take the racket back; 2) step and swing. If the serves you are receiving still allow for three beats, then there is not much on them. If your problem is the kick, then you must learn to either step in and take the ball on the rise, or step back and let it drop. Not many 3.5 players have a two contact serve. First being the court and second being your racket or the fence. Hence, adjusting where to receive the serve would be my suggestion.
Practice this with a partner. Start by receiving at the baseline while your partner tosses an underhand single-bounce ball from half way to the service line. As soon as the ball leaves the hand, say, "One," turn and take the racket back. After the bounce, say, "Two," as you step in and strike the ball. Start off easy and increase the speed of your return as you go along. After about 20 balls, have the feeder step closer and, of course, slightly to the side and send an underhand NO BOUNCE ball and repeat for another 20 balls. Then have your partner start from the other side of the net, send an easy serve and increase the speed slowly for another 20 balls. By the time you have hit 60 balls, you should be ready for the return full court.
In closing, years ago I learned the magic tennis words, "bounce - hit" while rallying. If you focus on what the ball is doing, you will do well. There is no time for mental distractions. Here are the magic words and rhythm for the return of serve. "Hit... bounce... hit." Joe, trust me here. Say the words and be successful or don't and continue to wonder WHAT JUST HAPPENED. Learn Practice Play.
From Coach Ken, Evanston, Ill.:
There are several things you can do to upgrade your consistency during rallies. It especially starts with a proper ready position, keeping your eyes on the ball as the server begins to toss the ball till it reaches your racket. Footwork is so key, and the change of pace you will see calls for you to catch the ball early or back up a little and/or hit it or block it back. Blocking a fast serve is the best way, very little swing. Watching the toss and the direction of the racket and ball is also key.
I understand that at your new level of play you are running into players with kick serves. First, I assume you mean a serve in which the ball, after striking the ground, kicks to your left or right, rather than coming straight toward you. If so, this is unusual for a player at the 3.5 level to be able to hit a kick serve, and I wonder if they or this league is mis-rated. I have played at the 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 levels and typically only regularly saw true kick serves at the 4.5 level and never at 3.5.
However, if these are truly 3.5 players with kick serves, your best play is to stand in a bit closer than normal so you can strike the return on the rise before the kick takes effect. This takes good hand-eye coordination, of course. Otherwise, if the kick always goes in the same direction, you can back up to where you anticipate the kick to go and strike it after the kick effect. The downside to the latter is you are vulnerable to a flat serve up the middle or wide. The first tactic is preferred, but if you can't (with practice) get the hang of it, try the second tactic.