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Tennis Tips and Photos

Tennis tips submitted by Allan Overland or Bill Bartlett in the monthly Court Report

Forehand - AO
Tournament - AO
Serving - AO
Return of Serve - AO
Overheads - AO
Rules and Questions -AO

Forehand Tips

REACH OUT FOR A BETTER SHOT - Having trouble with your forehand? Chances are you are not getting your shoulders turned enough or quick enough. To do better, my advice for you is to reach out as far (and as quick) as you can with your non-hitting arm in the direction of the ball. Literally reach out as if you are going to catch the ball. You want to do this the moment you see that the ball is coming to your forehand side. While this will probably feel a bit funny to do at first, you will derive some great benefits on your forehand side if you stick with this: When you reach out with your non-hitting arm, you will automatically turn your shoulders and thus prepare for the shot. Your weight will be drawn more forward into the court as you prepare. You will improve upon your sense of balance. You can catch the follow through and bring it back into the ready position quicker. You will disguise the shot better.

Overhead Tips

PREPARE AND MOVE! - As a coach, I try to encourage my players to play the overhead smash in the air as often as possible. There are some times when it can be okay to hit it after the bounce, most typically against a high lob that bounces in place (instead of towards you). If you do elect to play the overhead after the bounce, here are my tips on how to be successful. Prepare early. Turn, and get both your racquet and non hitting arm up above your head immediately - it's all too easy to take this deceptively tough shot for granted and rush it. Move your feet. It's very important to properly position yourself well behind the ball so that you can make your last couple of steps forward and into the shot. Hit up on the overhead. This is especially true as you play the overhead from a deeper court position.

Return of Serve Tips

CHOICE OF SIDES ON NO-AD POINT - You are playing in a match, and the scoring is no-add. As the returner, you have the choice of which side you can receive serve from on deuce points. Which side should you return from? For this month's tennis tip, It's like to offer some suggestions for this: Generally speaking, against a right-handed server, return from the ad side so the server cannot angle the ball out very well with a slice serve. If your opponent does not possess a slice serve, then this dynamic does not hold nearly as true. Generally speaking, against a left-handed server, return from the deuce side, for the same reasoning as above. If you are particularly hot returning from one corner, return from there. If your opponent just double faulted on the point prior to deuce, challenge him/her to not double fault again from the same spot.

RETURN TECHNIQUE - The return of serve is like the serve in a very crucial way; if you don't get this shot into play, it doesn't matter how good the rest of your game is! So for this month's tennis tip, here are my ideas for "many happy returns." Adjust your backswing based on the speed of the serve. Take a bigger backswing against a slower serve, and a shorter one for a faster serve. Keep your weight low and forward. This will enable you to cut off angles, and allow your opponent less time to react. Maintain balance. When returning, the less body movement the better. Like all the other shots, practice your returns. You can do this by having a partner hit you a basket of serves. You can best focus on the shot when you don't play out the points.

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Rules and Questions

Here are some good thoughtful tips on tennis etiquette.
When in doubt, call the ball good. In umpire school, they teach you that a ball 5% in, is 100% good. Clearly call out the score before serving each point. That way, you and l avoid arguments about the correct score. When hindered, call a let before you hit the ball. It is not fair to call a let after hitting the ball - and missing it. Try not to yell across other players courts to get a message to someone in the distance. This is very distracting, and impolite. Don't cut through someone's court (especially while they are in the middle of a rally), to enter/exit your court. Don't be lazy, it's not that much further to go walk behind the curtains and it is more courteous!

I would like to share a question asked by a member, and my response to the question.
Q. You are playing a point and a ball is returned at a sharp angle - but you can reach it. To do so, you are drawn out of your court and into the playing area of the adjacent court. What is the correct action to take? Do you stop and concede the point, which is not satisfying to you knowing you could have returned it. And, what should the reaction and action of the players be on the court that is entered during play of the point?
This is an interesting scenario. The main problem is that you have a right to play an opponent? shot and the players next to your court have a right not to be interfered with. To me, the answer is similar to a famous statement made by a supreme court justice. "A person? right to extend a fist ends at the point it connects with another person? chin." If the court next to you is empty, play the point. If the court next to you is occupied, try to play the point unless you sense that you will cause a collision or interfere in their play. Both the player entering the court and the players on the court that is entered, have the right to call a let if interfered with returning the ball.

I want to talk about a sometimes controversial part of the game, line calls. From what I have observed here at B.E.T.C. most players have done a good job with them however, I thought it would be a good idea to remind folks about the most important aspects of line calls.
Always wait for the ball to land out before you make your call. A good shot can simply be misjudged and called out before it bounces. When in doubt - call the ball good. Remember this very important key: a ball 99% out is 100% good! Respect your opponents·calls. They are much closer to the ball when it lands on their side than you are. However, I was recently (correctly) reminded by a top player that if your opponent asks you for help on a ball he didn't see too well, you can make the call yourself - that is, if you clearly saw the ball. If not, refer to #2 above.
In a tournament situation, you have the right to request a linesperson if you feel you are receiving many bad line calls. I usually give my opponent the benefit of the doubt on at least 3 line calls before I do this.
Make sure your opponent knows you called the ball out. Make a quick, audible call just after the ball bounces out. When you signal the ball out with your index finger, make sure they see you do this.

Here are some important safety reminders when playing tennis at the club. Start your session with a good, gradual warm-up. Resist the temptation to sprint after balls, and hit them hard early on in your warm-up. Put your warm-ups on immediately after you play, especially now that cold weather is here. Do this to keep your body temperature from cooling down too quickly. Eat a smaller sized meal at least 2-3 hours before you play to avoid getting cramps. Also, just sip on your beverage during breaks.
If you are playing out on the back 3 courts, and get tangled up in the netting going for a wide shot, don't jump back out into the court for your next shot - you might trip!
When sprinting off the court for a ball, remember that if you slam into a backdrop, someone might be walking back behind there!

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Service Tips

BALL TOSS - There is no getting around it; to consistently serve well, you must have a good, reliable, ball toss. But a good toss takes some work to achieve. Here are my tips for a better toss:
Hold the ball with your palm facing upward and your fingers straightened out. Line up your tossing arm with your front leg (right handed = left leg, left handed = right leg), and make a linear toss motion from there. For a smooth toss, release the ball at the top of your motion. Keep your tossing arm up after the release until just before making contact with the ball. Practice your toss daily, on or off the court. Even a few minutes each day will help with your improvement.

DISGUISE THE SERVE - Not long ago, I was playing a set against a very good club player and was having pretty good success returning his tough serves. What helped me was that I noticed that my opponent used different ball tosses for different serves. I explained to my student after the set that he needed to hit all his different serves (flat, slice, topspin) from the same toss. I will share with you why this is so important:
The more the toss is changed, the more the service motion must be altered. And the more the service motion is altered, the tougher it will be to groove on the shot. Importantly, one will cut down on potential injuries. Players that use different tosses tend to exaggerate placing the ball behind them or off to a side, and thus must contort their backs to hit the ball there. A consistent toss = better disguise! When a different toss is used for each serve, the shot is telegraphed to the opponent, making it easier to return.

DOUBLE FAULTS - In watching the recent Memorial Day Tournament here at BETC, I was struck by the number of double faults committed by many of the players. Ideally, you should double fault no more than once a set, tops. I? like to offer some reminders on how to cut down on the number of double faults you hit in match play. Take a little off your first serve. While that blast serve of yours might be incredible when it does go in, chances are that you are missing the vast majority of them. Hit slice first serves more often. You will get a higher percentage of serves in this way. Practice your second serve more. When most players do finally get around to doing some serve practice, they almost always just hit first serves! If you have to miss your second serve, miss it long. Who knows, your opponent might play an out ball. Aim down the middle at the service box on your second serves. If you have practiced your second serves a lot, you can go for the corners more.

SERVE AND VOLLEY - A lot of good doubles is played at our club. As you may well know, a good serve and volley game is a crucial doubles strategy. But so many players I talk to remark on how challenging it is to learn it, and get discouraged in trying to employ it. The key to possessing this skill is working on it consistently. Here are my tips on how to improve your serve and volley skills: If you need to brush up on your technique, consult one of the BETC pros - this can truly make a big difference.
Practice hitting your volleys from all parts of the court. Most volleys in a match are hit from midcourt, yet most players practice their volleys from up close to the net. Practice the sequence of serving and getting to the net every chance you can. A great way to get more out of this practice is to have the returner feed an extra ball or two once a rally is finished. Play practice sets where you commit to going to the net behind every serve you hit.

THE SECOND SERVE - In talking to many of our club members about their tennis games, I often get asked about the second serve. I tell them that they should learn to hit it assertively and with spin, and that just as they practice hitting first serves, they shouldn't forget to spend time hitting plenty of second serves. My favorite second serve practice drill is what I call the "Best of Ten" game. Simply stated, for every ten second serves I hit, I see how many I can make. What this does is tell me what percentage of second serves I can hit in, and it puts me under a serve with a little pressure - especially as I get near the tenth one and I've got a good score going! This simulates the do or die feeling one can get in a match with the second serve. I challenge you to try this drill and consistently get a 90% score.

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Tournament Tips

A number of years ago when I was playing on the P.N.W. Junior Tennis Tournament Circuit, the tournament I most looked forward to was the one that was played on a clay court surface. It was such a fun surface to play on because the clay was easy on your feet, it was fun to slide on, and the rallies would last longer than on hard court surfaces. If you have the opportunity to play on a clay court, keep in mind the following suggestions:
Hit plenty of drop shots and angles. Because the surface is a bit slippery, it is tough to play against these shots and then quickly recover for the next ones. Slide into the shot. When you have to slide (typically on a wide shot), time your slide so that you come to a stop by the time you hit it. Go to the net with discretion. Because the surface is slippery, it is very difficult to change directions quickly at the net. Your approach shot (or serve) should be a strong one to earn you an easy volley.

Dr. Allen Fox is one of the best known coaches and sport psychologists in the game of tennis. I would like to offer some tips from Dr. Fox on "How to overcome fear on the tennis court." You will need to take time learning how to focus in on the game. Even the great players must learn mental toughness. Realize that EVERYONE experiences a degree of fear in competition particularly the fear of losing. The first key to minimize the fear of losing is to simply accept it and face up to it. Keep yourself busy trying to solve problems, as opposed to dwelling on what? not going right. Learn to keep your off court concerns off the court. Think about what you are doing at the moment. In doubles, no matter what, always stay positive with your partner. No wincing on their missed shots! If you would like to read Dr. Fox? book, the title is, "If I? the Better Player, Why Can't I Win?"

DEVELOP GOOD MENTAL HABITS - I? like to list some great tips from famed sport psychologist Gary Sailes. His definition of mental toughness: "the ability to ignore elements of interference during competition." An ideal performance state (characteristics): physically relaxed, mentally calm, low anxiety, energized, optimistic. We can? control what happens on court, but we can control our reaction to it. Stay motivated by setting challenging but realistic goals. To reach goals, develop a strategy, set deadlines, and make periodic evaluations. Develop confidence by developing positive habits; positive self image, and by abandoning the negative.

GIVING 100% - Here is a mental toughness tip on how to cut down on match play jitters. Realize that the only thing that you can control in a match is the EFFORT you put forth. When you focus on your effort, you will take away the concerns about winning or losing, and remove the judgment of whether you are playing well or not. As a player, I like to prepare mentally before a match by telling myself, "No matter what happens out there today, I am going to give 100%. I will just let the score take care of itself." When I do this, I usually do play pretty well and enjoy the game much more.

PRESSURE IS A PRIVILEGE - "Pressure is a privilege, it only comes to those who earn it. - Billie Jean King"
Billie Jean made this remark many years ago when she was asked if she had felt much pressure about playing in her first U.S. Open final. I love this quote because it represents a terrific example of reverse psychology. The point here is that we will all feel some pressure in our match play when we get good enough. So the next time you are playing in a meaningful match and you start to feel a little pressure, pat yourself on the back for being good enough to be in this position!

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