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Sun, Feb. 23

The modern<BR>game of tennis;<BR>Drop-In changes

Were you aware that the game of tennis has changed? Not in regard to the rules or court dimensions, but in the way the ball is hit and a few other important aspects.

The traditional way we played when hitting groundstrokes was more of a closed stance, straight, flowing follow-throughs, moderate contact with a text-book look.

Our volleys were a solid step-across block.

Grips were more set with eastern forehands and backhands, with a bit of continental for volleys.

Serves were with a circular motion scratching your back with your racquet and a well placed flat or topspin placed ball.

Lobs were mainly open-racquet-faced, and overheads were considered on the cutting edge if we knew how to hit it with a scissors-kick in the air.

To serve and approach in singles was a normal part of singles.

To purchase a racquet was as simple as knowing your grip size and wanting a heavy, medium or light stick.

So what's MODERN TENNIS, and aren't we still playing tennis the way it was intended and traditionally taught?

Yes and no.

Just like runners and swimmers are breaking old records, baseball players are hitting more homers, tennis players are pushing the apron of how tennis balls are being struck.

Some of these changes are due to better training methods, mental and physical, biomechanics are better understood and put in place, equipment has changed dramatically, tennis is being played globally raising the standard of play, and thus here we are currently with what is called Modern Tennis.

So what are some of these changes?

Open to semi-open stance groundstrokes. Semi-western grips for more topspin, or flat drives. A variety of follow-throughs ... around the opposite shoulder, around the ribs, inside-out, explosive contact with feet leaving the ground.

Swinging volleys on sitting midcourt shots, hit with heavy topspin.

Overheads similar to what you'd see Pete Sampras hit out of the air, feet off the ground.

Lobs hit more often with topspin.

The game of singles played primarily from the baseline, thus the open-stance shots with power. Modern equipment makes the ball travel faster as well so when you try to take the net on a good player it makes it more difficult to do what you need to do before the ball is by you.

Doubles is less conventional with players lining up in different formations, poaching not only off the serve, but also off the return.

Players have so many choices of racquets that are made with a wide array of stiffness levels, not to mention string and grip varieties that can almost make you crazy. Ask your professional for some help here if you're not sure what to do.

The top players in the world are now training in six areas.

•Physical (Motor skills-conditioning-speed,agility,quickness-strength-nutrition-flexibility-medical)

•Technical (Tracking skills-racquet skills-shot fundamentals-ball control-movement & footwork-Modern shot technique-developing weapons-developing game styles.)

•Tactical (Consistency-placement-patterns-spins-power-shot selection-competitive situations.)

•Strategic (Repetition-recognizing strengths-game style-surfaces-game situations-match situations-tournament situations.)

•Mental/Emotional (Self-esteem-confidence-independence-discipline-temperment-concentration-goal setting-sportsmanship-competitive readiness.)

•Environmental (Fun-home-social-economic-competitive.)

The top players also draw from five different libraries to learn and study from. Video, seminar & specialty courses, audio, online lesson and print media. (I think Dick McGaw made up this agenda so he could have a different view point as needed.)

The bottom line is what was just a fun game can become a very serious endeavor if you want to take all the new research and put it together for yourself into an organized enhancement program to reach your peak performance.

Now, most of us are in this for the "let's have fun" part of the game, so don't let this column boggle your mind.

If you learned the game of tennis years ago and have conventional-traditional type strokes you'll be just fine. BUT, with a couple clinics and lessons you can consider making a few slight changes and see that it's less complicated than what it might seem.

One last thing, the wood racquet has to go.

"Other Items"

•Our good friend Ted Beck passed away suddenly last month and his wife Mary Ann has been more than a friend to me and many others in the tennis community over the years. As she has reached out to us, let us reach out to her and her family especially during this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you Mary Ann and your family.

•Drop-In-Tennis that is held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Roughrider Tennis Center will be starting today at 9:00 a.m. with the warm-up clinic beginning at 8 a.m.

•My e-mail has changed. The new address to reach me is

•Life sometimes goes in a circle. As of last week I am now teaching at the Prescott Racquet Club part-time with a fine group of other tennis professionals. Twenty years ago I opened the club in a partnership with Bob and Bruce Hannay ... time flies doesn't it?

(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or

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