Q. "I know it is not a necessary shot to have in your repertoire, and it might even constitute as being "show-offish," but I would really like to learn how to hit a between-the-legs shot. You know, the ones you see the pros hit. I've tried it before, and I end up just hitting my leg instead of the ball. Any tips on how to learn to hit the between-the-legs shot?"
From Alvin A.:
I have been playing about seven years now, and this shot is not hard. It's all about trusting your hands.
Time your steps to and past the ball. Your last two steps should be like split-stepping for a volley, and lastly, swing through the ball (not through your legs). As you make contact, slowly follow through to prepare yourself for the next shot. Also, remember that this shot is almost blind because your back is away from facing the net.
My suggestion to you would be to try this without the racket first. Have someone toss the ball where you can run to get it, but you must catch it between your legs. As you become more comfortable, have your ball toss go in different angles and/or depths! I hope this helps.
From Ken S., Highland Park, IL:
I remember as a kid watching Yannick Noah hit the through-the-legs shot with such style and grace. I really don't recall that many players using it, though, over the years. I saw Federer do it once and a few others, but it is an athletic shot and a last-effort shot to get the ball back.
To practice this shot, have a pro or even yourself throw a ball behind you, and open your legs wide and swing through, watch out. I would say a better last-second shot is doing the same with a forehand or backhand swing. I always like using a left-handed swing in a last effort. I have never made this shot, but I probably will try again, now that it’s in my mind.
I talk to Noah’s son sometimes – got to play basketball with him. He says he doesn't play much tennis, but I will ask him for advice. Again, practice with the toss behind you, and watch out. One hundred percent effort is very important in tennis, and so is athleticism. So if you work hard and play hard, you have won the battle, even if you don't make this shot.
From Jeremy R., Fort Worth, TX:
You have to make sure that you’ve run past the ball (in other words, the ball is in between your legs but behind you), and then make contact. I use my serve grip and flatten it out as much as possible. This shot works best when you truly have no other options. When you have time to run around the ball (thus, too much time), you tend to think about it too much. Hope that helps.
From Jim L., Palm Desert, CA:
Start out by hitting a few standing still. You'll find that you have to let the ball get really low – almost all the way to the ground. Your wrist, obviously, will have to be really loose in order to hit this shot, and, of course, your legs have to be wide enough apart to let the racket go through.
Then toss the ball ahead of you just a couple of steps and do the same thing, even if you need to do it on the second or third bounce. You'll find it easier if you almost run past the ball when you hit it. Then start halfway between the net and service line, toss the ball underhand toward the baseline and chase it down and do the same. Soon you'll be able to make this shot on the dead run. Of course, when I say "soon," it's probably going to be after a couple hundred tries, if you're pretty talented.
From Dave S.:
You're right that the tweener (between the legs shot) is not a necessary shot in your repertoire. However, any shot that teaches you to control your racket in an intentional way will improve your game. Thus, a tweener, a behind the back shot, catching the ball on your strings, etc., all when practiced, will improve your hand-eye control and shot-making abilities.
To do a tweener, make sure you are holding a continental grip. If you are right-handed, let the ball come down over your left shoulder as you are running back towards the back fence. Let the ball drop all the way down to where it nearly is going to bounce. The stroke is sort of a loose, wristy shot (but can be hit with a firm wrist, too), with the racket head striking the ball as it passes your ankles and as the tip of the racket top is on its way up.
Too many players try to hit it too early, and the racket can't get under the ball to lift the ball on contact or end up hitting their legs or worse! Practice tossing balls for yourself, and use a slower stroke until you can hit with a compact and quicker motion.
From CV, Richardson, TX:
The between-the-legs shot, or the tweener, as it is called, is definitely a high-risk, low-percentage shot. It should be attempted with caution, or you could do some serious damage to certain parts of your body.
You need to practice the tweener with a friend or a pro, tossing the ball to you before actually trying it out in a game. Stand at the net (a couple of feet from the net should do) with your back to the net. Ask the pro to toss the ball just over your head. He needs to call out as he is tossing the ball. Hold the racket in the eastern backhand grip (knuckle on the top bevel of the handle). Let the ball bounce. Take a few steps and, just as the ball is about to bounce for the second time, spread your feet and snap your wrist through the shot.
Once you are able to do this, you can try it out in a game.