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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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.
PLAYING ON A CLAY COURT
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
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.
have the opportunity to play on a clay court, keep in mind the following
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
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
MENTAL TOUGHNESS ON THE COURT
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!