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The AD-Inbox: Answering your tennis questions

Welcome to the AD-Inbox, the USTA's monthly mailbag exclusively for The Grip, the player's newsletter. 


Each month, The Grip offers some of the latest tips, tricks, news and instruction to help subscribers improve their tennis games, but in addition, we want to hear what you have to say. 


Are you looking for some specific advice to help you take your game to the next level? Want to learn what to do off court to help you feel your best on court? The USTA's team of experts and affiliates can help. Have a hint that's helped you and could help someone else? We want to hear those, too.


On this page, you will find archived questions from previous mailbags answered by a corresponding USTA professional or adviser, or other pointers submitted by our readers from around the country.


Have a great tip to share or a game improvement question for an upcoming newsletter? Email us at



Previous Mailbags

March 2021 | February 2021

March 2021

I have a one-handed backhand. My best shot from that side is the slice. When I want to hit the flat backhand, how much should I change my grip from a regular (continental) grip? - Mike Hicks (Raleigh, N.C.)

A good slice can be a great change of pace, but the ability to drive the ball (especially in doubles) becomes more critical as your opponents get stronger.  The change you are looking for is a small one. From a continental forehand (index finger knuckle at bevel 2), you just need to rotate back to bevel 1 for an eastern backhand grip. Keeping your non-dominant hand on the throat between shots can help you quickly make this change. As with most things in life, there is always nuance and personal preference. The location of the pinky knuckle or angle of your hand on the grip is more in this category. During your next practice session, play around with your grip and make subtle adjustments to see what feels best for you!  - J. Benjamin Zaiser (USTA National Campus, Head Tennis Professional)

My opponent has a habit of shouting after they hit a ball they consider a poor shot, effectively giving me an easy winner. However, this very often disrupts my execution causing an error instead. I explained once the ball is traveling in my direction, this is considered a hindrance. What are my rights in this situation? What is the best way to handle this matter without causing tension? - Joan Macderment (Lake Winola, Pa.)

Your opponent’s bad habit constitutes a deliberate hindrance under Section 34 of the Code, which clearly states: “Any talking that interferes with an opponent’s ability to play a ball is a hindrance.” If your opponent commits a deliberate hindrance, then you are entitled to stop play and claim the point so long as you do so promptly. You do not play a let in this situation. So the next time your opponent shouts during a point as the ball is moving toward you and you are distracted by the noise, you should immediately stop play, before attempting a return shot, and claim the point. Politely explain the rule to your opponent and I suspect the unsportsmanlike shouting will soon come to a stop. - Eric Perkins (USTA Chair Sportsmanship Committee)

My string-breaks always occur on the crosses, never on the mains. Is this typical? In a related question, do stringers strive for the mains and crosses to be equal tension? Or is it typical for the crosses to be about 15% lower for a given tension specification? If my crosses typically run 15% lower for a given spec, would that be the cause of the crosses fraying and breaking before the mains? - Richard Wood (Charleston, S.C.)

In general, it's a little bit more common for the main strings to break, but it really depends on the kind of strings that the player is using. In a hybrid setup with the polyester in the mains, for example, it is more common for the soft string in the crosses to break sooner. We generally recommend stringing the mains and crosses at the same tension if the player is using one string throughout the entire racquet. Players who do have different tensions for the mains and crosses (any setup) usually only have a difference in tension of about 2-3 pounds. 15 percent is a huge difference. I don't think the 15 percent difference is what's causing the crosses to break sooner, but it's possible that they move more at a lower tension which creates more friction. - Sean Prokes (Operational Manager, The Racquet Bar at the USTA National Campus)

What is the correct rotation for a tiebreak in doubles? What is the serving order and when do doubles players change ends? - Brian Lloyd (Adelaide, South Australia, Australia)

In doubles, the order of service continues in the same order as it was established for that set. The player whose turn it is to serve shall serve the first point of the tiebreak game. The following two points shall be served by the opponent(s) (in doubles, the player of the opposing team due to serve next). After this, each player/team shall serve alternately for two consecutive points until the end of the tie-break game. In a traditional 7-Point Tiebreak, players change ends every six points. If using a Coman Tiebreak, players change ends after the first point and thereafter after every fourth point. This keeps doubles players serving on the same end of the court that they have been in the set. - Cristina Brace (Manager, Community Pathway, USTA Officiating & ITF White Badge Chair Umpire)

"Can you follow through over the net with the racquet? When does reaching over the net result in a loss of point? Who makes that call?"  - Kay Hutson (Garland, Texas)

A player is allowed to follow through over the net as long as the ball has crossed his/her side of the court first. If a player reaches over the net and hits the ball before it crosses the net, the player loses the point. The player who hits the ball before it crosses the net must concede the point. - Cristina Brace (Manager, Community Pathway, USTA Officiating & ITF White Badge Chair Umpire)


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February 2021

I am experiencing finger pain on my dominant hand. Could I be doing something wrong with my grip? - Jacob & Anne (Adamstown and Frederick, Maryland)

A tense grip of the racquet could be the issue.  Try loosening your grip as if you were cradling and bird. Overuse of the wrist and fingers could also be the issue.  Picture hitting or rallying a ball with your hand.  Your interaction would be entirely about what the palm of your hand was doing.  The same is true for your strokes. Rotation of the forearm is important in tennis, but the wrist should be kept in check. - Benjamin Zaiser (Head Tennis Professional, USTA National Campus)

What are some stretches and strengthening exercises or weight lifting I can do to help prevent injuries? Are there programs for younger players I could follow? - Jacob & Anne (Adamstown and Frederick, Maryland)

It is very hard to make recommendations or suggestions without knowing players. However, this injury prevention exercises video library on the USTA Player Development website should give you a good idea of what tennis players should be doing. I recommend consulting with your local certified professionals, preferably someone who is familiar with tennis players and/or young athletes, for assessments and more specific exercise recommendations. - Satoshi Ochi, MA, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, RSCC*D, CTPS, MTPS (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, USTA)

What are some of the best nutrition tips I can follow as a competitive tennis player? Should I be eating more fruits and veggies? - Jacob & Anne (Adamstown and Frederick, Maryland)

A balanced diet is the best fueling strategy for competitive tennis. Here are some tips. - Ed Ryan, ATC, LAT (Director, Athletic Medicine, The Andrews Institute/USTA National Campus)

For players up north who have long and cold winters like here in Minnesota, what are the three biggest things you can work on right away as soon as the weather is warm enough to get back to playing tennis?  - Hayley (Bloomington, Minn.)

Take the time during the winter to prepare to play tennis. a total body program to improve mobility/flexibility, strength, cardiovascular and muscular endurance, and movement and stability will provide the foundation to return to the court. Ensure that shoulder, trunk, and leg warm-up programs are thorough. Begin by moving around the court as in a match, without having to hit a ball and gradually add strokes.  - Ed Ryan, ATC, LAT (Director, Athletic Medicine, The Andrews Institute/USTA National Campus)

This Month's Player-to-Player Tip

With COVID-19 and the closing of indoor tennis facilities here in the Midwest, we've had to continue our outdoor summer season into playing outdoors even in winter or not play at all. What our group has learned: air temperature of low-to-mid 30s and up are playable, if you dress properly. Wear layers. Lightweight, breathable, skin-tight compression pants under heavier-weight sweatpants for the bottom half is about right. For the top, same deal: lightweight long-sleeved compression top under a sweatshirt and add some sort of vest with pockets for easy ball access. If wind is 10+ mph, a vest is important. Finally, gloves and a gaiters for neck that can be pulled up over face. A slouchy beanie or stocking cap to cover ears. If sun is shining, you'll want a visor that fits over headgear. Keep your equipment and balls indoors, not in your car. Cold balls don't bounce well. You'll be a little cold at first but as you get active, it's surprisingly comfortable. - Ed, Midwest Section

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