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Word Meanings

Q. In a match, the announcer will give the match statistics as aces, unforced errors and "winners." What is the definition of "winner" in that sense?

A. A winner is a ball that is hit cleanly past an opponent (who does not touch it) or when the ball bounces twice (such as a drop shot or angled volley).

Winner statistics can be misleading, though. Because players hit fewer backhand winners, it does not mean that their backhand is a weaker shot. It simply means that another shot (an easy volley or mid-court forehand, to use two examples) was responsible for the last ball hit in the rally.

Q. What is the difference between a "default" and a "walkover"?

A. A default occurs after the match has started, due to point penalties and/or aggravated behavior OR when a player does not show up for their match (as per the judgment of the referee, who would “start the clock” after the match is called). A walkover is when a player can not answer the bell, typically due to an injury.

Either way, the recipient of the default or walkover advances, while the other player goes home.

Q. What is a split step? My tennis instructor told me to try a split step and I had no idea what he was talking about.

A. The split-step is a timed jump-and-land. Ideally, you should land in an athletic posture (on the balls of your feet with your feet spread slightly wider than shoulder width apart, and with knees flexed) exactly as your opponent is about to begin his/her forward swing at the ball. This movement allows you get in the best position to react to the next ball.

Q. I am a beginner and have learned the basics of tennis but was never fully taught "how to play". I have been watching matches on TV and I don't understand how and what "break point" is?

A. A “break point” is when the returner has a game point against the server. If the returner wins this point, he/she will have “broken” serve.

Q. I like to check up on pro tennis a lot and many times I hear the expression, "he beat Lucky Loser, so and so" or, "he played Lucky Loser so and so". This term was used a lot when Andy Roddick played Danielle Bracciali in the second round at Wimbledon. So what exactly is a "Lucky Loser"?

A. A Lucky Loser is a player who has lost in the final round of the qualifying draw, but still gets into the main draw when another player withdrawals. The spot(s) go to the highest ranking loser from the final qualifying round who also signs in on-site. Typically, there are a few every week.

In fact, there have been some Lucky Losers who have gone on to win a

tournament on the Tour. Can anybody name one?

Q. Could you please describe what is meant by an "inside out forehand"?

A. An inside-out forehand is hit from the backhand side of your own court toward the opposite sideline or deep corner (toward a right-handers backhand). An inside-in forehand is when you move around your backhand and pull the ball up the near line.

Q. I have heard over and over, read, listen to coaches, view videos and CDs... exactly what are you instructors telling us when you say to "keep moving" out there? Also, on a serve, "hit UP on the ball." I did that and my neighbor is upset because I keep hitting the ball over the fence into her roses! Thanks from us "older guys..."

A. Don, hitting balls into a nearby rose garden is a great way of getting to know thy neighbor. If she gets too upset, ask her to join you on the court. You never know, as they say in New York.

What does it mean to keep your feet moving? It means to stay on the front half (the balls) of your feet and bounce so that you are not stationary. I believe that 90% of tennis is based on your ability to cover the court, presuming that your strokes are proficient. If you get to more balls, and arrive on balance, than your opponent, then you will have a tremendous edge.

Hitting up on the serve is necessary unless you are a certain height (this is debatable, but let’s just say 6’ 6” tall) AND hit the serve with enough power (again, for arguments sake, let’s say 100 mph). Now if you are not that tall AND capable of hitting that hard, then the ball must travel up (by a few feet anyway) before it begins the descent into the service box.

Good luck with your game and thanks for reading the column.

Q. Commentators talk about playing percentage tennis. What is this?

A. Percentage tennis is when players hit shots that they can make consistently while putting their opponent under pressure. This can include simple, cross-court rallies against an impatient baseliner or it might entail rushing the net against a consistent player who prefers to have more time.

Every player will have their own range of high percentage shots and an enormous key to success is for a player to stay within this comfort zone.

Q. I've heard announcers on TV say during a match that so and so needs to hit XYZ number of "winners" against another player just to win a point. However, after the match when I looked up the definition of a "winner" in Tennis it was defined as "a shot that is un-returnable." So don't you only need one of those? I'm confused. What do these announcers really mean?

A. I believe the announcer is likely referring to a specific player’s ability to retrieve balls that are seemingly winners to force the opponent to play another shot (or more). So, it is simply a figure of speech. You are correct that a winner is a ball that lands inside the court, which an opponent is not able to reach on one bounce.

Q. My friend and i have been disagreeing about something for weeks. I am trying to tell him that if an opponent hits me with the ball, that it is not a winner- a winner is a point that is won that is not 'hit' by an opponent and that touches nothing. He is trying to tell me that if he hits me with one of his shots, it is considered a 'winner'. A winner does not touch anything. Who is correct?

A. If the ball hits a player in the air, then that player automatically loses the point. This sometimes happens by accident. If you should accidentally hit your opponent, then it is customary to say “Sorry” immediately so that he understands that you were not trying to hurt him.

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