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Tue, July 23

Howard: ‘Do not hit the net’ and many other catchy phrases
My Point

Tennis is an athletic game taught and made up of many repeated sayings. Repeated because the same mistakes are frequently made and it seems saying it just once or twice to a student makes little headway. It’s not easy to erase the memory hardened habit of a defective fundamental.

Many people ask, “What’s the biggest tip you can give a tennis player to improve their game?” And the answer is quite simple, “Don’t hit the net.”

As long as there’s a net between you and your opponent “lift” is going to be your greatest allie.

So get lower than the ball with your racquet as you set up to make contact and much more success will be yours. In a close contest the difference of a couple points is the match in your favor, and balls hit into the net are demoralizing and unproductive results.

“Contact the ball out in front of you on all shots.” If you do that lots of good things will take place. Better control, placement, viewing of the ball, and balance. Once the ball gets in on the body things will begin to get out of control, not to mention you will be more prone to joint injuries.

“Keep your head still through contact on every shot”, the serve, groundstrokes, volley’s, returns and overheads.

If your head stays still then your eyes have a better vantage point to watch the ball, which in turn helps you analyze where to be, your time frame, positioning and finally finding the “sweet spot” in making solid contact

Roger Federer has been photographed thousands of times showing how keeping the head set creates a very good result overall.

When volleying at the net, “Block out, not down”.

Gravity will bring the ball down, you redirect it out and forward. “Down will get you in the net.”

Also when volleying, “Step Across and Block”. Stepping across will line you up with the ball better, keep you balanced and give you the longest step in quick situations. And if you don’t have time to step because the ball’s coming so quickly, just keep your racquet out in front and block.

On your serve, “Hit up at the ball.”

There’s a visual misconception because you can look through the net that it’s lower than it seems. Standing from the baseline you have to look through the net to see the whole other side, if we covered the net you couldn’t see anything and realize how high it really is.

You’d have to be 6’6” or 6’7” and have a reach of 12 feet when serving to hit down inside the service box by one inch. That means that most of us need to hit up and out at the ball with the help of top spin to have it drop in at a decent pace.

“Relax and enjoy.”

When you relax, the body can do what it knows how to do and better.

No matter the outcome of the match when you’ve given the best effort you could on that day, enjoy the good, the bad or the ugly of what took place. Without the contrast of these ups and downs we wouldn’t have much perspective, and a positive response is much more appealing and better habit to reinforce.

“Practice your worst shots until they aren’t.”

I don’t know about you, but when I’m playing a match I’m looking for my opponent’s biggest weaknesses. And as soon as I see what they are, that’s what I try to capitalize on.

So if you don’t have any outstanding weaknesses, life for your opponent becomes a real challenge and dog-fight.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.

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