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Player to Player: Tennis Elbow

May 7, 2012 08:17 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 Richard:
What do you suggest is the best way to handle opponents who deliberately make multiple bad line calls to win at all costs? The temptation is to do the same to them, but there must be a better way. Any suggestions?
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 Oscar
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
I have been playing tennis for over 40 years and never had tennis elbow until recently. I am right-handed and have always hit a decent one-handed backhand, however I cannot hit my backhand with power due to the pain. I am considering switching to a two-handed backhand. Is this a good Idea?
Player Responses:
Tiku R., Lexington, Ky.

I am recovering from elbow tendonitis and having difficulty in making the single-handed backhand due to pain just as you describe. I went to a coach and asked him to teach me a double-handed backhand. It took a single one-hour session, and now I can hit it pretty well most of the time. Know to hold the racquet correctly for this, learn to swing from bottom to top and end up with the correct follow through position, and put your right foot forward. As you probably know, one can create a lot of good, sharp angles with a two-handed backhand and, most important, no twinge of pain. Having a good coach who can feed you the right ball variation would get you there quicker. Good luck!
Rick M., PTR, Lugoff, S.C.

It will definitely relieve your tennis elbow since you're now essentially hitting a left-handed forehand with the right hand serving as a guide. The most common grips for the two-handed backhand are an eastern forehand for the left hand and an eastern backhand for the right hand.
Dave G.

FIrst suggested to me was to have a lesson with a certified instructor. Your mechanics on hitting your backhand may need to change.

Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

Having played tennis for over 40 years myself, I can relate to all the ache and pain conditions. I find that the primary source of tennis elbow with backhands is the racquet position prior to forward weight transfer. Other than slice backhands, I don't encourage players to cradle the racquet head any higher than 9 o'clock when shifting weight for ball strike.

A player like Roger Federer possesses a uniquely vertical takeback on his one-handed backhand. Take note, though, he actually lowers the racquet head just before his forward pivot. Without lowering the head early, the tendency is dropping it at point of contact. The dropping action not only lowers the racquet but unfortunately raises the elbow. Raising the elbow takes away the natural "hinge" action, which forces the forearm to torque in order to have proper contact and follow through.

Imagine throwing a plastic tennis can cap across the court. Focus on the angle of the cap and arm just before your forward pivot. Feel the hinge action. Now throw with a high cap. Feel the difference? Doing this repeatedly develops the correct muscle memory for the backhand. This can be done practically anywhere. So carry that plastic cap in your bag. That handy cap will eliminate your handicap.

Another way to do this is to hold a rolled newpaper or magazine. This way you can also work on your grip and follow through. I prefer to do this with a particular magazine. This way I have "Time" to do it. Actually a newspaper is better than a magazine. You don't want to have issues with your backhand.
Theia Foley, Mtn Home, Ark.

I have tennis elbow presently. Hitting your backhand with two hands is more precise and stronger. My tennis elbow has affected my forehand. What healing remedies have you come up with besides no tennis for awhile?

Eric R.

Your question stated that you have played for 40 years. Congrats! Sorry to hear that now you have that scourge of the tennis world.

What I would guess that you have is lateral (the most common) form of tennis elbow. You will know which is your problem (lateral or medial) by putting your palm flat on a table top. Probe around the bony structure of your elbow. If there are pain reactions, then look at rehab programs that may increase your flexibilty and strengthen the area, as part of the answer to your question.

You are partially correct that a stroke change will take away some of the source of your pain. The top left hand should operate like a left-handed forehand in providing power and stability through the stroke. However, at your age, this "new trick" will take a restructuring of your footwork and your use of the left side and shoulder. You have to be prepared to seek out a good pro. Realistically, unless you are a former pro, look for a steep learning curve if you have played for 40 years as a one-hander.

However, unless you correctly change the care and rehab of your right elbow area, then it is unlikely to be a "miracle cure." Get a highly experienced medical opinion about the exact nature of your elbow pain before you try to fix it.

Dr. Glick, a well-known SF orthopedist, wrote an article on rehab exercises for Tennis Magazine, and you should be able to print out those once you know for sure the extent of the damage. Just Google the archive on this website and on other Tennis magazines for "tennis elbow" exercise illustrations and videos. The ones that are best can be done even without a gym.

Once your elbow comes around, then you can embark on a new stroke. I have been through it with others that I know (about your age). They have all gotten back healthy and pain free if they followed this course without having to discard 40 years of hitting a one-hander. The two-hander, which does have the distinct drawback of restricting your reach, can be truly great if you have the foot speed and agility, combined with the back and core flexibility.

For doubles ,the one-handed slice volley with an extended stretch is very hard to replace with two hands. Even the greatest two-handers, from Borg to Connors to Nadal and Agassi, had to learn the one-handed slice for advanced net play.

Having both strokes is a definite upgrade if you are up to adding practice time to integrate the plan. But, first of all, allow your elbow cool down.

Enjoy the journey.

Charles R., Spring, Texas

Before you change anything about your game in response to injury or pain, please consult your general care physician. What you think is tennis elbow might be something different and could have been caused by some other activity. Your doctor should be able to determine the type of injury, help decide what might be causing it and will then prescribe a treatment plan that could be as simple as a few weeks rest with medication to control inflammation or swelling and cold/hot compressess or treatment that could result in surgery. 

Also, before changing your game, consider changing your equipment -- larger handle to reduce tightness in forearm, reduced string tension to reduce vibration and rebound, more flexible racquet design.

I also suffered tennis elbow when returning to the game after a 30-year absence. A visit to the doctor, rest, medication, stretches and exercises to strengthen the affected area and improved equipment have all but eliminated the pain I was suffering after matches. Good luck.

Ken S.

I have elbow problems and used to have a better two-hander as a kid. Muscle memory is the problem. It is very hard to change to a two-hander from a one-hander. It will take lots of practice and playing below your level. In the long run, a good decision with the right technique
*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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