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Player to Player: Overheads

September 24, 2012 11:24 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 Tiquan:
I would like to receive some advice on how to hit a proper drop shot. My slice shot is fairly good, but when it comes to drop shots, I never can get any of them in.
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 Barbara:
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
How can I hit better overheads? I have a pretty good serve, but it doesn’t translate to precise overheads. Is there a way to judge the ball? Does one step forward while hitting or just get shoulders turned and hit without transferring weight?
Player Responses:
Kenny S., Chicago

One tip on hitting better overheads would be pointing at the ball and keeping your eyes on it to get the correct position. Practice the overhead before a match, and in practice, try to get the correct technique. Sometimes you have to let the ball bounce and then hit an overhead or put-away groundstroke. Sometimes you also have to let it go over you and run back and hit a groundstroke. If it is sunny outside, wear a cap or sunglasses and try to follow the ball but don't get lost in the sun or the lights, if playing indoors. Also try to avoid the swinging forehand or backhand out of the air -- that is a real advanced shot.

Rick M., PTR, Lugoff, S.C.

The real secret of an effective overhead is relaxation. You know all the techniques, like tracking with the opposite hand, scissors kick, continental firm but not overly tight grip, etc., but what I call the "rag arm," which is a baseball term, is what you need. Hit with abandon, and pronation will come naturally. Tighten up, and instead of the rag arm, you'll have hands of stone.

R.O.I., Napa, Calif.

It is important to be sideways, hands up, and move into the ball, not violently. The ball would hit you in the chest if you let it drop. It may be just me, but I start my motion when the ball suddenly comes into focus in the air. If you look closely, you may see this, also. The best way to practice is against the wall. Hit the ground next to the wall first, and when the ball pops up, move under it as described and rinse and repeat. This is by far the best way to practice your overhead. High overheads with a partner aren't nearly as effective. When you achieve some control, move yourself side to side and front to back, also. In a match, your aim for anything inside the service box is the side 'T's. Good luck!

Coach Leonard, Walnut Creek, Calif.

There are several differences between serving and overheads. With serving, you're in stationary position, tossing the ball and striking it. With overheads, you're chasing the lob down, setting up, then hitting the overhead. Imagine you and someone else playing a friendly game of catch in baseball. Now try fielding balls during batting practice. Now you have to hustle. A good server doesn't always hit good overheads. If the server tends to spin the serve, the timing is more critical on overheads. I use my "Touchdown" drill for working on overheads. Here is how it works:
"Touchdown" drill
1) No racquet is required. Instead, have the player at the service line holding a tennis ball in the normal racquet hand. 

2) The lobber will be on the opposite side at the baseline with a hopper or teaching cart. Start off with shallower lobs to the player.
3) Once the lob is up, it's the player's goal to get behind it and catch the ball with the non-dominant hand in front of the body like a service toss. It's key that both arms are extended up when moving. This is similar to a referee signaling a touchdown in football. A common tip has been to point at the lob. I like to go the next step and focus on catching or at least contact on the palm. The touchdown stance with the catch will generate the proper pivot for overheads.
4) Remember, the racquet hand is already holding a tennis ball. Once the non-dominant hand either catches or makes contact, have the player throw the other ball over the net. The non-dominant hand should lower once the throw starts. Have the player do this several times to get comfortable.
5) Repeat the same drill, but the player will now use a racquet. The other difference is the player will now hit the overhead just before catching the ball.
I like to cue my players in this drill by saying "Touchdown!" just when I lob. To get the players motivated, I'll follow up, "Touchdown!" with "Slam dunk!" Slam dunk cues the overhead. Stepping in is always a plus but isn't always possible.
Reading lobs has often puzzled many a net person. Here is my rule of thumb on lobs. If the lob is still climbing as it's crossing the net, it's beyond the service boxes or deep. If the lob is descending as it crosses the net, it's landing short or in the service boxes. I do doubles drills to sharpen the net person's judgment. On the climbing lobs, switch and fade back to avoid more lobs. On the descending, the baseline partner closes as the net person hits the overhead. Stress doubles teams to communicate as soon as the type of lob is recognized. With groups, I will sit the extra players at the bench by the net post so they can practice reading the lob flight.
So the next lob you get, think "Touchdown." There'll be a good chance that you'll get the" point after.
*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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