Originally Published: July 2, 2008 7:21 p.m.
Tennis basically features three types of stroke motions: groundstrokes, volleys and serves. Once you get the hang of each, rounding out your tennis game becomes a matter of adding a couple other ingredients such as consistency and placement, seasoned with a smattering of touch and power.Depending on the level of play you'd like to achieve, the hours of practice and match play in different situations will help reach the accomplishments you desire in becoming what is known as being "match or tournament tough."People pay a bundle of money to be taught what I'm going to tell you in the next couple paragraphs, so read on with care.These are tennis thoughts that make a difference. Meet the ball out in front of your body. Make sure you play the ball, don't let it play you. You can get away with a lot in this game, except letting the ball into your body. Keep your head still through the whole shot. If you want to find the sweet spot, don't move your head. Your first step can make you or break you. As soon as your opponent makes contact with the ball is when you need to determine where you need to be and how much time you have to get there. Think in front and with forward balance. On groundstrokes, the amount of backswing depends on where you are on the court and how much time you have. No time, no backswing. Just a good low-to-high forward motion will keep you in the point in tough situations. Learn how to brush the ball from low to high on both the FH and BH. This is topspin and it'll make you a real player. Expect to make a certain amount of mistakes and try not to show your emotions. Between each point, cool down and ready yourself for the next point in the most positive way possible. If you don't own the shot, don't try to hit it. Size up your opponent's game to yours and come up with a game plan; then continue to evaluate it as the match progresses. Play percentage tennis. Give them a chance to make the first mistake. No matter the score, keep your concentration and game face, play each point to the best of your ability physically and mentally. Be a good sport, play competitively, laugh easily, give your opponent the benefit of the doubt and know the rules of the game. Use an umpire when things get ugly and if it's just a social game, remember what things are really worth getting upset about.Serving Stay relaxed. The stroke is similar to a throwing motion (think spaghetti). Add a toss that is to the racquet arm side, gently placed as high as you can reach with your racquet. Contact the ball just above the center of your racquet face. Once your racquet is in a throwing position, rotate your hips and shoulders smoothly. Learn to hit it moderately flat as well as brushing up, known as topspin. Hit up and out at the ball smoothly, using your body. Learn to place the ball deep and to different areas of the service box. Grip-Continental.VolleysFrom ready position, keep your racquet face flat and your arms extended, soldier like. The footwork is step-across-block. Form a right angle between your racquet and your arm, then step across and catch or block the ball back. Use their power and deflect the ball forward to a high percentage area. Contact the ball in front of your body. React without overreacting. Grip-Eastern FH/BH. Some like the Continental.GroundstrokesEighty percent of your groundstrokes will be in the strike zone. Use a small loop or C type motion to build up a smooth continuous swing. Keep your racquet face flat and strokes three to five feet high over the top of the net, using top spin. On the 20 percent of shots where you're scrambling ... no backswing, get low to the ball and swing forward and out from there. Grip-Eastern FH/BH, semi-western for easier topspin.Yes, this is the simplified version. But for more information you're gonna have to pay.(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Profession with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org)