TennisTalk: Ask Glen
Ask Glen is a weekly article providing key tips on everything from rules to gameplay to court savvy...to even a little bit of history. "Glen", of course, is Glen Howe, USPTA Master Professional and superintendent of the Tennis Division.
Use the following form to "Ask Glen", and be sure to look here every week for more answers to some of our best questions.
This Week's Questions
There seems to be a good number of local tennis players taking up the game of Pickleball. Is this bad for my tennis game? I play tennis several times per week, but would like to add a fun activity. What do you think?
Over the past thirty-five years, I have played many of the racquet sports offered. Most were promoted mainly by demographics. Platform tennis, paddle, pickleball, squash, ping pong, and racquetball were among the different games I have tried. In my case, it never diminished my love for the game of tennis.
In most of these different games, the key was creating a racquet swing unique for each sport. Pickleball has become wildly popular with the mature players of the Senior Center. Our program has over thirty committed players that play the game at least twice per week. Many of these players have regular tennis games in the City. Most will be playing in the Senior Games in the upcoming month in Tallahassee.
I have been playing tennis for many years, but have lately developed a number of arm injuries. Over a decade ago, I was told not to do weights with the arms because it would cause in-balance as well as overuse injuries. What do you think?
Nothing could be further from the truth when conditioning the body for performance. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint that is supported by a complex muscle group. If the muscles that support this joint in the front and back are maintained through strength training, many injuries can be avoided. Seek an experienced trainer to learn the best pieces of weight equipment and training routines to maximize your tennis.
My New Year's resolution for this upcoming year was to be a better volleyer in doubles. So far, I have increased my practice and use of the volley. When playing a match, what should I do in preparation for an oncoming ball?
Hitting volleys effectively comes down to not only practicing, but going for the volleys in a match. Maintaining a positive ritual and keeping the feet moving are paramount when hitting consistent volleys. From a tactical point of view, the volleys need to be hit to the open court to win the point outright. Many times players give opponents a chance to win by hitting the shots directly to them.
Part of the beginning ritual is to decide where you would place the ball if it were hit in your direction. This way a response will be prepared in the heat of battle. Hitting good volleys is what makes the game of doubles so much fun!
In an effort to be a more complete player, my pro and I have been working on specialty shots such as the drop shot and lob. What do you consider the key point in hitting winning lobs?
The dynamics of the lob have changed to more of a topspin lob due to the increase in speed of the game. I have always emphasized the importance of disguise for the lob and drop shot. The stroke prior to the attempt of these shots needs to resemble the groundstrokes so not to give the stroke selection away.
I have been using Prince racquets all my life and have been looking at Wilson and Head racquets. The issue that I am having is the shape of the grips feel different than my Prince. Is this a legitimate item or is this my difficulty with adjusting to a different brand of racquet?
There is a definite difference in the shape of the handle of the major manufacturers. The head grips tend to be more rectangular than the Wilson and Prince grips. I used a Prince frame for about 25years and it took almost two years to adjust to the Head grip. Feel of the grip relates directly to the feel of the ball and ability to place the ball where you want. In closing most tennis players gravitate toward the racquet line that they have used during their entire career.
What do you think about players that grunt when they hit the ball? I have trouble watching some players on TV that grunt excessively. What is the call during USTA leagues and tournaments?
There have been bans in the past for grunting when hitting the ball. I believe there is a rule change that is going into effect this year concerning the decibel volume of the grunt. There is really nothing wrong with grunting at the point of hitting the ball because it is used as a power and focus technique. The main issue is when it is so loud that is disrupts the play of an opponent.
What is the best position for a doubles player when attacking the net? In addition, where should my partner be?
This is a very good question because I have seen so many players over the years in so many different court positions. When attacking the net together, the best court position is approximately three feet inside the service line. This will give you the best opportunity to cover as much of the court as possible. When there is a chance to put the volley away, the striker should close the net to increase the chances of winning the point out right.
As one player closes forward, the partner should off-set to the service line to cover in case the ball is returned. Most of the time, volleyers move in tandem like basketball players defending. This strategy may vary with stroke and athletic athletic ability.
I have trouble hitting my two handed backhand crosscourt. In addition, it can be difficult hitting with power due to being jammed on many shots. Is there anything that I can try that may remedy this situation?
Sounds like you are stepping into the flight of the ball. The key would be to get behind the ball on the foot movement to the backhand. The outside foot is planted slightly wide of the oncoming ball. As the racquet moves forward, the player should step in the direction in which he would like the ball to go. This will create more of a semi-open stance. Not only will more power be produced, but the balance and recovery will be enhanced.
I tend to have balance problems when stopping to hit the ball and after I hit the ball. Is there anything I can do to improve my balance?
There are a couple of keys to balance that can help your tennis. First, if you are losing balance at the point of contact, chances are that your movement to the ball is too fast. A former coach of mine used to tell me to run as slow as I can and get their comfortably. Another method is to decelerate your movement as you get closer to intercept the ball. Second, using the non-dominant hand as a counter balance, can add significant improvement to your balance. Watch players on TV and notice the use of the non-dominant hand on all one handed strokes.
And lastly, keeping the head still and straight over the shoulders is another factor in producing sound balance of strokes. Since the head is a twelve pound weight, it can provide the feeling of tipping over if not properly centered. If these measures are practice and implemented, I'm sure there will be a noticeable difference.
Looking at the mental side of the game, some opponents are better at competing than others. In your opinion, what are the most important items in competing consistently against seasoned players?
The single most important factor in the mindset of your opponent is to remove his confidence. This can be accomplished by finding a stroke weakness or strategy that will make him feel inadequate for the match. If this is accomplished, the outcome of poor shots can spill over onto his best shots. In my opinion, it is very important to get opponents feeling that: "Today is not your day".
Watching the Tennis Channel, it is incredible the amount of velocity that is created with their racquet speed. I have tried to increase my racquet speed through relaxing my arm and grip, but find that the racquet is twisting at the point of contact. Is there something that I need to be doing?
Many good players forget to create a firm grip prior to the point of contact. In an effort to create a "loose arm" for maximum racquet speed, they forget to add hand pressure to the grip. This creates twisting of the racquet face and the result is errant shots. Pressure needs to be applied to the grip as the contact is being made. This has worked for many of my students and will become muscle memory with a little practice.
It would be great to have more finesse as a singles player. I have a power game, but struggle with my control on the touch shots. Is there anything that I can do, other than practice more, that would improve my touch?
Many power players struggle with this concept of the game for a couple of reasons. If a hammer grip is used, it will be impossible to create touch. Finesse can be improved if the fingers are spread on the grip. This will create "feel" and the ability to hit softly. The next step is to create deception by taking the racquet back the same manner as though the ball were to be struck aggressively. This can be practiced on a wall by hitting hard than spreading the fingers and hitting soft.