Q. "I am a good tennis player, and I have a lot of strength and racquet head speed, but I can't seem to hit the ball very hard. I don't really know how to hit hard and keep it in. I know to use topspin, but when I do my racquet string always breaks! Can you help me?"
From Andrew S., Palo Alto, CA:
My advice is to go with hybrid stringing with polyester in the mains and a softer string in the crosses. You can get away with a thinner string for the polyester because it is more durable, so try to go with 17g for the mains. This thinner string will also give you a little more spin. Use as much topspin as you can.
From Joe C., Honolulu, HI:
Talk to a USPTA professional. You can try different racquets with more weight as well as different balance, stiffness, grip sizes, string and higher string tensions.
Racquet head speed taken into consideration, the Babolat line offers exceptional models that will bring power and accuracy into your game. The new Pure Drive and the new Aero Drive both come to mind and are available in regular and plus length. The Pure Drive is available in 100, 107 and 110 sq. in. Aero Drive at 100 sq. in. These racquets are very powerful and are currently being used in professional tennis by top-10 players. The company has a long, proud history.
The Babolat line was founded with VS Gut, and the models I have mentioned above can be hybrid strung using Excel Premium and Pro Hurricane or combined with VS gut. You will be surprised at what a difference from "run of the mill" racquets these are. The Babolat line is the top seller for a reason.
Experimentation with new, proven technology will lead you to the best fit.
From Tony S., Haddonfield, NJ:
Question: Why are "you" trying to hit the ball hard? With all the wonderful technology now built into racquet strings and frames, you should let your body's kinetic chain do its job and let them do the work for you. Develop a rhythm, not a hard hit, and you'll do well. If you want to learn more about the kinetic chain, check my article, "The Kinetic Chain" in the archives at http://www.tennisserver.com/wildcards/.
Another very important point: remember the words of tennis educator, Dennis Van der Meer: "Ball control trumps power every time."
From Bill K., Birmingham, AL:
It would be strongly recommended that this player needs a series of professional lessons to provide the means to achieve the level of velocity that is desired. There appears to be too much going wrong to try and make corrections without a pro’s eye on the situation. It would also be appropriate to have the pro look at the racquet and strings that this person is using to determine the cause of frequent string breaking. This is very suspicious. Smooth strokes using good form and body positioning will generate pace and control that will be the solution to the lack of power that this player is experiencing.
From Sheryl B.:
For the person who cannot hit the ball hard is as follows:
1. Loosen the hand and fingers to increase the racquet head speed.
2. Continue desiring varying degrees of topspin on your drives.
3. Pronate the wrists as you swing through your drives. (i.e.,. one-handed backhand)
4. String "down" the tension on your strings for more length on your shots.
5. Keep head still and on the contact point throughout the shot for a "cleaner" hit.
From Ron R., Carrboro, NC:
Without seeing you hit the ball, it's hard to tell you exactly what to change. Among the variety of suggestions you get, something will likely help.
First off, when hit with a lot of topspin, the ball does hop and move fast after it hits the ground. You will not get that hard smack or thud sound with a lot of topspin. If you want to hit flatter, drive through the ball and keep the racquet on more of a horizontal plane.
You can still have spin to help keep the ball in the court. By rolling the racquet arm at contact and through the swing with some upward motion, the ball will drive lower with spin and with pace. You will need fast racquet speed. It is also possible that you are not shifting your weight forward (sometimes the habit of heavy topspin swingers) and that you're tightening your muscles with too much effort while attempting to hit hard.
You need to move your weight forward, be relaxed in body and mind, start the swing slowly, and let your shot finish like a whip, the result of an uncoiling and spiraling motion. Watch a slow motion video of Federer. You can see how he gets spin and pace on his shots. If your strings are breaking, you need more durable strings or more racquets, or settle for using the extra heavy topspin more sparingly. Heavy topspin used strategically can catch your opponent by surprise and give you more variety to your game.
From Tina G.:
Have you thought about changing racquets? The silver 03 prince is great. I am a senior player, and I will also add that hitting hard is not always the greatest. Those against you like for you to hit it hard…give them soft.