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Player to Player: Forehand Technique

December 17, 2012 08:06 AM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow tennis players!
Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.
Player to Player:
This week's question, from James:
If I serve and volley, should I land on my right or left foot? It looks like players in the past came in on their right foot and current players land on their left foot.
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@usta.com, and include your name and hometown.

Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!
Last week's question, from John:
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
Please explain the proper technique for hitting a forehand, with the sequence of legs, hips, shoulders, arms, etc. The idea seems to be that young pros are facing the net with their hips and shoulders before they hit the ball, like in the YouTube video of Novak Djokovic hitting a forehand in slow motion. Thanks.

Player Responses:

Ed W., USPTA Certified Tennis Professional

Regardless of open or closed, balance and weight transfer is one of the keys to a good forehand. Get your body in position, and your racquet will follow.

Ron R., teaching pro, Carrboro, N.C.:
You can find plenty of information about the kinetic chain and the sequence of movements in hitting a forehand (or any stroke). I will address your issue about placement of hips and shoulders when making contact with the ball.

Ideally, from my experience and understanding, it works best to have the hips and shoulders facing approximately 45 degrees from front when striking the ball. In this way, your belly button will be facing the ball, as will your face, as you make contact. A good way to experience this is to place your racquet near the (imaginary) point of contact, with two hands on the racquet, while facing 45 degrees. You can turn 45 degrees in various feet positions, so don’t worry about the feet. This is your "unit turn" position, similar to the ready position, just rotating 45 degrees. You build your stroke from here. 

From this preparation, you can coil to about 90 degrees while letting the racquet move back and then coil back to 45 degrees as you strike the ball. This will give you all the consistency, control, timing, power and spin that you need. It will also get you well on the way to having the best sequence of movements (kinetic chain). 

The angle of the contact position can vary with type of grip you use or your timing on the incoming ball. Djokovic and Nadal may sometimes have their hips facing front when hitting the ball to get a longer coil, but it could be a bad habit for you to try because timing and control will be more difficult and it can stress your body more than it would the pros, who have incredible flexibility, especially in their wrists. 

If you look at an athletic (figure eight) movement, the center of the tennis figure eight would be the 45 degree angle, where all forces become most focused. The same principle applies to all strokes in tennis.

Coach Leonard, Walnut Creek, Calif.

The motion for the forehand is similar to serving, swinging a baseball bat, bowling and passing a football. Once you're sideways with your forehand set on the backswing, you want to rotate your body toward your target. The best way to generate power and control: the hips and shoulders should be square and stay square at the point of contact.

I like to have my students picture themselves as a tree. Begin the rotation from the roots to the trunk and eventually the limb. With a balanced stance, push off your back foot to force your rear knee forward. The knee will bring up the hip, then the shoulder, and the arm and racquet follow.

There a two areas to be aware of in this motion. One, stay balanced. It's a rotating motion. The old tennis cliché was, "Put your weight on your front foot." If you do this, you'll find your front shoulder leaning and your front knee bending. The end result is the ball going into the net unless you counter with a scoop. Hyperextending your front knee is never a good thing. Try leaning forward on a serve.

Two, keep your hips and shoulders square on contact. Too much rotation will cause your weight to shift sideways and shorten your follow-through. Attempt a forehand volley while rotating past being square. Try using your non-racquet arm as a helper. As you strike the ball, put your opposite hand against your hip, waist or shoulder.

Another option is to catch the racquet on your follow-through. This helps extend your finish and stay square at the same time. A warmup drill that my team does is "beat the rug." Stand sideways facing the net with your front toe touching the bottom of the net. Rotate toward the net and do forehands. No ball is needed. This accentuates the body pivot and racquet contact. Keep a safe distance apart and take turns doing this so someone on the other side of the net doesn't hit at the same time.

Backhands can be done this way, too. If you want, you can stand one step back from the net, be in a ready position and alternate strokes. It's a great way to warm up while waiting for other players to show up, especially when you don't have balls to pick up.

If you do want to strike balls by yourself, face a fence, move four steps back, drop feed and hit. Use a portion of the fence for your target.

I hope this helped paint a better picture of the forehand for you.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.


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