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Sun, Nov. 17

Column: Play tennis in 30 minutes with three basic motions

Learning to play tennis isn't so hard. It's as simple as learning three basic swinging motions known as groundstrokes, volleys and serves. Every other motion in the game is a relative of these basic movements, and all three can be learned well enough to play in about 30 minutes or so.

Yep, just 30 minutes.

Now to reach a professional level of tennis you'll need to add about 9,999 more hours of practice and play, but that's not too much to ask if you want to make a living at this fun endeavor. Grasping the fundamentals with the right instructor can be an interesting and enjoyable adventure.

OK, lets add a few more elements to help make your game a bit better.

Learn the grips that will make a difference in how you contact the ball. Eastern, continental, semi-western and western. The right grip let's you keep the ball in play, while the wrong one let's it fly who knows where.

The objective of the game is to hit the ball over the net before the ball bounces twice. That doesn't sound too difficult. The craziest part of learning tennis isn't how to play, but keeping score and learning a few odd rules. Love, fifteen, thirty, forty - game; ad in, ad out - deuce.

There are two more strokes that are related to the basic three mentioned in the first paragraph, the return of serve (similar to a groundstroke or volley) and the overhead smash, which is similar to the serve.

Because tennis entails hitting from both sides of your body you'll need to practice hitting forehands and backhands. For most people the forehand is pretty natural to acquire and the backhand takes a little more perseverance. A few thousand practice hits and you'll be doing just fine.

Let's throw in a couple specialty shots now that we've got the basics mastered. The drop-shot and drop-volley, which is a ball hit softly and short over the net, and then their other sibling, the lob. The lob is a shot that flies over the head of your opponent while close to the net they can't reach. All of these shots are hit with an open racquet face and with finesse.

Mixing the pot a bit further you get into very important aspects of tennis that will allow more strategy than just being happy that you've gotten a few shots back over the net. They are: consistency, placement, power and/or touch. Longer rallies, hit to a specific area of the court with more pace or less as needed.

Can you hit the ball down-the-line? How about cross-court? OK, can you keep it deep, mid-court or short at will?

There's a bit more to conquer while you're at it - spin. Can you make the ball spin forward, known as top-spin, or back-spin? A flat drive or side-spin? There are reasons and times to do all of these types of spins as you reach more advanced levels of the game.

Serving is as simple as tapping the ball into the correct service box, but doing it well is another aspect of creating havoc for your opponents. Good depth, flat, top-spin, twist or kicker, to their forehand, body, backhand or wide.

You can make this game as simple or complex as you want. Stay a beginner or reach for the stars. Either way you can still have a great time meeting all kinds of people from all walks of life that want to hit that little fuzzy ball over the net as many times as they can muster.

Yep, 30 minutes of learning three simple strokes and you too can start a lifetime of fun - playing tennis.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or

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