Category Archives: Tennis tips

NEW ART: “Rafa Nadal’s Buggy Whip Forehand”


Tennis players often have difficulty hitting a clean running forehand while chasing after a wide shot. A normal forehand follow through requires rapid acceleration to the opposite side of the body, which is in direct contrast to the player’s running momentum. Like Rafael Nadal, many top professionals opt to hit a buggy whip forehand while on the run to minimize the oppositional force of their forehand follow through.

When executing his patented buggy whip shot, Rafa extends the racquet head forward before following through in an upward motion on the same side of his body. This follow through is in contrast to a normal forehand, in which the player follows through across the body. A well-executed buggy whip shot uses a quick motion to put a great deal of topspin on the ball and can direct the ball at deceptively sharp angles.


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Is “Racquet Back!” Still Relevant?

TennisOne’s Joe Dinoffer says that the one-time joke on tennis pros used to be, “Racquet back, bend your knees, that’ll be twenty dollars please.” And I’m inclined to agree. At least in the old days, this was more or less the standard of teaching tennis. After all, it worked quite well for millions of players in the 1960s and ’70s, didn’t it?

Chris Evert in the classic takeback position.

The “old school” recommended a swing pattern for groundstrokes that was simple and easy to understand: Use your hitting arm to take your racquet straight back as quickly as possible to the back fence and then follow through by finishing with the racquet tip pointing at the opposite fence. Boy, a lot has changed in the last quarter of a century.

I’m often asked whether the racquet back position still takes place in today’s game, only faster?


Well, not exactly. For efficient and powerful hitting in today’s game, a very different swing pattern has evolved. Nowadays, players only take a quick partial turn of the shoulders and hips to allow them to move quickly to the ball. This is commonly called the “unit turn.”

Still, they say, doesn’t the racquet eventually have to be taken all the way back and paused before swinging at the ball?

Yes and No. Yes, the racquet takes a full backswing. No, it does not pause in the full backswing position. From the partial turn and set-up, better players today perform one fluid and explosive motion through contact and continue with an extended follow through. Note that the racquet does not pause between the initial shoulder turn and partial take back of the racquet all the way through the complete swing follow through. 

And the days of the back fence to front fence swing is a thing of the past. The length of the swing of the tip of the racquet is actually three times longer than in “old school” tennis. The modern player now starts with the racquet tip pointing forwards, then loops it back, drops it in a somewhat circular path under the ball to create the “brush up” needed for topspin, and finally finishes with the tip pointing at the player’s own back fence or even further, not across the net.

This increased relaxation and swing length maximizes racquet head speed. The opposite would be a short swing and tight grip – more or less like driving a car with the emergency brake on.

Of course there are other contributing forces at work. Angular or rotational forces are generated from the circular motion of the swing, and ground or linear forces are created by bending the knees to load energy and then thrusting smoothly upwards with the hit. On top of all that, the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints should be relaxed to create a controlled but whip-like swing that extends forwards through the area of contact as well as around in a circle.

Furthermore, squeezing the grip as tight as possible is not a very efficient way to generate power nor is overall strength a necessity (although if used efficiently it could be a contributing factor).

Surprisingly enough, there are many 8-year-old girls hitting harder than some 250-pound recreational male players! Simply put, relaxation increases fluidity. And the more fluid your swing is, the more potential you have for your racquet head to accelerate and hit powerful shots. This concept holds true for many other sports as well. Relaxed and fluid motions that are also quick are needed to properly throw a baseball or football, as well as swing a golf club.

So just how relaxed should the grip actually be?

As relaxed as possible. Just keep two criteria in mind. First, you obviously don’t want to be so loose that you literally throw the racquet over the net when you hit the ball. And, second, you eventually need to be consistent. Most coaches who look at long-term skill development will say relax first, and with patient repetition, ball control and consistency will follow. The overall idea is that in order to hit as efficiently and effectively as possible, relaxation and fluidity are essential.


Posted by Steven White, Author of “Bring Your Racquet”

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Five sure ways to improve your chances of winning

What are the best ways to win a tennis match?  What do you need to achieve?  If you want a workout, thats one thing, but if you have multiple matches in a day, then conserving energy is very important especially for the junior player who may have two matches in a day, or the league player who drives from this match, to that one. 

1. Over Power your opponent.   If you can overpower your opponent, then do it!   Hit the big serve, get the short ball, stay in control of the point then hit the winner.    When NOT to do try this:  A. When you have two errors for every winner or more.  B. When your opponent is not phased by your power.  C. When your opponent loves the pace and counterpunches you. D. When the opponent is more powerful than you.

 2. Pressure your opponent into errors – Come to the net, move the opponent around on the court with shot combinations, deep short, side to side, high/low, fast/slow, much spin/less spin etc.    This is smarter than #1, but might take longer.  Do not do this, when you are playing someone who feeds of your creativity and then becomes more creative themselves.  Some players love to counterpunch against crafty players.  

 3. Disrupt the Rhythm of your opponent – Similar to #2, but with the intent of finding out what your opponents favorite ball is and never giving it to them.  I have seen many players with inferior technique and athleticism defeat stronger more technically proficient players by never hitting two shots the same and completely discombobulating them.   

 4. Take Time Away from your opponent – When they are at the net, lob.   Whenever they hit short, come to net.  If they are a baseliner only, bring them in on your terms.   If they love the net, bring them in on your terms.   When you intentionally hit very short and to the side, it brings the opponent forward in a zig zag pattern instead of coming straight in to the net, they also come in off balance if you hit short enough.

 5. Grind it out –  This is the WORST way to win. Sometimes you are off your game, and it all comes down to will to win.  Run everything down, hit it back the way it came or crosscourt, keep it deep as possible and just wait for your opponent to miss.   Of course, be sure not to throw in a bunch of errors, and you better be more fit than your opponent, because if you are not, then they will grind you out.  

P.S.  There must be more ways to win.


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How to slide into a forehand

This takes some practice, and you want to start gently, because sliding the wrong way can easily turn an ankle. One important tip is to keep your front foot pointed somewhat into the direction of your slide. It’s the one that’s likely to catch in the clay and suffer a turned ankle. The back foot can afford to be sideways, because it will skip over any catches in the clay instead of getting jammed into them. Here’s a good illustration of how to slide into a forehand on clay. Note how the front foot is angled across the direction of the slide, and the back foot is tilted onto its inner edge. These foot positions offer the most twist-resistance for the ankle if the player should hit some kind of bump or slow spot on the court while sliding. Also, you should use an open stance when sliding into a forehand.


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“Commit to get to every ball”

 Like many other teaching pros, when I look for a youngster’s potential talent in tennis, I look for three things – the desire to win, a good attitude, and most important, good footwork.


Footwork is important because your feet line you up for contact with the ball. It’s just that simple. The pros make the game look so easy because their footwork is so very good. They line up correctly for each shot over and over again without having to make uncoordinated body moves and stabs at the ball while trying to reach it like many lower level players do. They understand the importance of good footwork and let their feet do the work in bringing out successful play in themselves. They are able to “groove their strokes”, hitting similar shots over and over again, by lining up the ideal position to play each shot.

 Players wishing to advance their game should make a commitment to reach all balls on court. Your capacity to reach just one extra ball and send it back across the net could raise your game another notch. This may require you to get in shape because when you commit to reach all balls on court, you must be prepared to keep this up for an entire match.

 The first thing you can usually look for when stroking problems develop is slow moving feet. This is why so many professionals of the game train so hard to keep their tennis play at the highest level. They too have made a commitment to reach all balls on court and fully intend to uphold this commitment, no matter how many miles they have to run during the match they play.


This lesson is an excerpt from Bring Your Racquet: Tennis Basics for Kids

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Teaching Tennis to Children

Teaching young children is not as easy as you might think. It can be very challenging. There are some adults, coaches and parents who are born with the gift of being able to communicate with children with great ease. For coaches and parents with less teaching experience where small children are concerned, here are some general principles that you should consider:

  • When giving instructions, speak clearly and slowly
  • Try not to show fear – children can spot it a mile away
  • Try to use vocabulary that they understand
  • In order to get and maintain their attention, be excited
  • Attention spans are short, so keep your instruction short
  • Refrain from sharing negative thoughts
  • When they do something right – tell them
  • Try to be animated to show enthusiasm
  • When you can, get down to eye level so they feel important
  • Use repetition when delivering simple messages of instruction

It is up to you to see that the child actually learns. There are many ways to teach children. Although court time is a very good lesson and putting them on the court and allowing them to do the activity will teach them to some degree, they cannot learn effectively. We need to consider what we teach.

 For the younger players (5-7 years), we need to begin with the fundamental skills of running, jumping, and balance to create players with athletic skills. Reception skills including visual tracking, following the ball, and eye-hand coordination should also be included. As the players progress in skill and age, we can begin to include coordination skills that will enable the player to use the body in the most efficient manner. This includes the use of both sides of the body, the arms and legs in different ways, and eventually, an overall development of multiple skills.

 Now that you’ve learned a few things that will help you to teach your child certain elements in the game of tennis, it’s up to you to get him or her wanting to come back to the court. My advice to you is to make the practices as fun as possible.

 When teaching your player, movement and balance should be emphasized throughout the lesson. Try not to deliver too much information on technique. This will only confuse young players. Some simple guidelines and key teaching points are listed below: 

  • Start by teaching them a ready position that is effective and comfortable to them.
  • Use a ball as often as you can during your initial step of the lesson.
  • Do fundamental activities before specific ones.
  • Have the child practice moving in all directions.
  • Teach the players how to move, don’t assume they already know.
  • Don’t use the entire court for play.
  • Teach to keep the head still and eyes focused on the ball.
  • Teach good posture and control of the lower body.
  • Teach them balance by lowering their center of gravity.
  • Have them use their knees and joints to create stability.
  • Form a wide base with the feet to create a good hitting stance.
  • Coordinate the use of the arms and legs to help control the position of the upper body.
  • Teach them to keep their shoulders level on all rotations and swings.
  • When tossing balls for them to hit, start out tossing close to the body then progress their movement outward gradually. Teaching Tennis: Protocol for Instructors

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“Maintain a winning attitude”

Nothing can hurt your game more than a negative attitude and a lack of enthusiasm for what you are doing. Ask your self a question. Who is responsible for your attitude? Well, I’m here to tell you that it is you and you alone. Strive to form positive thoughts in your head and in your heart whenever you walk on the court.

 The fiercest opponent you’ll probably ever face in tennis is a “bad attitude”. Tremendous abilities can be wasted when a bad attitude sets in. It can block out your desire to learn, destroy your ability to concentrate, and slowly break down your self-control. You could even say that your tennis future hangs in the balance when a poor attitude creeps into the picture. Think discouraging thoughts and you’ll be a discouraging player. Think encouraging thoughts and you will be an encouraged and motivated player. What you think about most often will form your attitude. So control what you let yourselfthink in order to develop and maintain a positive attitude.

 A winning attitude doesn’t mean you should become obsessed with “winning”. It is striving for your best effort and regularly playing up to your best potential. It is channeling all of your energies into the determination to be the best you can be. Many of the top players try to raise the level of their games with a little fist pump after winning an important point. It can work for you too.

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