Archive for the ‘Drills’ Category
As I watched the US open this week I started to notice something. When a pro gets a floater and crushes it into the open court, nobody seems to notice. The pro is expected to put it away with authority and generally there is no instant replay.
What I noticed was that there would almost always be multiple instant replays on precision shots. Virtually always you would see instant replay on good passing shots. That tells me the tennis world, even though enamoured with 144 mph serves actually puts more stock in shots that are hit exactly where they are supposed to be hit.
So, I’m going out and practice today the drills I learned from Coach Kyril and Mauro Marcos. Take a look at the video below and you’ll see what I’m doing today.
And keep in mind what coach Mauro Marcos always says, “So what if you have power if the ball goes in the woods?”
When Coach Kyril and Coach Mauro were here in Virginia Beach doing their video shoot I heard Coach Mauro say something that has really stuck in my mind. He said that down the line shots are “stroke cleaners”.
I’m assuming what he meant was that a down the line shot is not as natural as a cross court shot and that you really had to execute your stroke mechanics properly to effectively hit down the line.
So, I got the trusty ball machine out yesterday and set up targets and I only hit down the line. Right now I only have about 50 balls in the machine.
My goal was simply to hit past the service line on the down the line side of the court for both forehands and backhands. I would get one point if I accomplished the goal and zero points if I didn’t hit the ball to the proper target area even if the ball was still in.
The most I could get was 36 out of 50 and one time I only got 29 out of 50. This will be a drill I keep coming back to to increase those numbers.
I will tell you that after doing this that the cross court shots I hit after that were much cleaner. So, spend some time hitting down the line and watch your groundstrokes improve.
Note: our philosophy around here is to hit crosscourt because it’s a higher percentage shot and hitting down the line can get us in serious trouble fast, so I’m only suggesting this drill as a way to improve your stroke mechanics….not because I want you to have a down the line match strategy.
I had several lessons over the weekend with Coach Kyril and Coach Mauro. Luckily we were videotaping for their DVD series so we also turned the camera on when they were training me.
Mauro is extremely detailed in his instruction and he won’t let up until you do it right. The slightest little nuance can make a big difference in whether the stroke works for you or not.
The problem is that so much was coming at me so fast I couldn’t remember all the little details he gave me . . . but the video tape did.
I got about three hours of tape with the microphone on coach Mauro, so even if he was feeding me balls from the other side of the net and the camera was on me, I could clearly hear his comments. This has been a tremendous follow up tool for me because I don’t have access to him every day and have to practice on my own.
Videotaping your lessons is one thing, but you should also videotape your practice sessions. If I’m having a problem, I can upload parts of my practice session to YouTube and Mauro can evaluate what I’m doing. If your coach is local, you could take a portable DVD player with you to the courts or use the one many people have in the back seat of their car for their kids and watch it in the parking lot.
Just about any modern video camera will work. If it has a high speed shutter, that’s even better because you can still clearly see what you are doing when you slow down the playback.
Another interesting thing about videotaping is that you probably won’t believe some things that you are doing unless you see it for yourself. When I train presentation skills using videofeedback, people would swear to me they were NOT jingling keys in their pocket while they were speaking. . . but they were.
I was at the public courts in Virginia Beach yesterday. I was all done practicing my serve when an older man walked up to the court. He said, “Hey do you have an extra racquet in there (referring to my bag)?”
The man was walking so slowly that I wasn’t sure if he could run at all or if he could hit the ball. I said, “I sure do” and I gave him a spare racquet and started hitting with him very gently.
He could hit the ball consistently if you hit it easy and right to him. I wasn’t getting too much out of the exercise, but I have too much respect for my elders and I just didn’t have the heart to blow him off and leave or lie about not having another racquet handy.
So what did I do? I decided to take the opportunity to practice. I’ve always had trouble looking away from the ball at the last 1/5 of it’s flight (read my 4/5 article) so I made it a point to TOTALLY FOCUS on the ball no matter where he hit it.
I also, made up a game he didn’t know about where I would pick a spot on the court near him and try to make my shot land exactly on the spot I had picked. He didn’t know I was doing any of this. It was practice only in my head.
Bottom line is I treated an old tennis player with respect and got some practice for myself at the same time. What could be better?
I definitely didn’t think this up on my own and I can’t remember where I heard it, so if anyone recognizes this point, please tell me who originated it so I can give credit.
The idea is that we watch the ball 4/5 of it’s flight toward us and then in the last 1/5 of it’s flight just before we whack it, we look to where it is supposed to land. This causes mishits and out of sweetspot hits and sometimes an entire whiff of the ball.
I’ve had this problem most of my tennis life. Now I sometimes spend entire practice sessions trying to overcome this problem. I can’t say I’ve defeated it, but I can say that effort in this area definitely pays off.
I force myself to look at the ball when I hit it and to keep my head stll after I hit the ball. This is gradually making me a much cleaner ball striker, which means I don’t have to swing as hard to get the same pace on the ball.
This also is important on the serve. Too often we look to see where it lands (usually in the net or the back fence) instead of keeping our head up long past when we see the flash of the racquet.
So, pay attention to that last 1/5 and watch your strokes improve.
An extremely frustrating error is when you have your opponent pulled way off the court and you muff the easy putaway.
A good drill to make sure this doesn’t happen to you is to enlist your kids or some neighborhood kids and give them a pizza for helping you. You will either drop the ball and hit it or use a ball machine.
Here’s how it works:
You have one kid at a time run toward the net yelling and screaming trying to distract you as you hit to the open court (don’t hit right toward the kids so you don’t accidentally hurt them). It’s ok to hit right at them if they are experienced tennis players and have a racket to defend themselves.
Your job is to keep your head down and totally concentrate on the ball no matter what they scream or no matter how much they try to distract you. You can lob them or pass them or hit to the open court, but your only goal is to concentrate on the ball and hit it over the net.
One of my coaches Kyril Popoff of http://www.CoachKyrilTennis.com emphsizes the value of simply getting a bucket of balls and dropping them yourself and hitting them.
I do this quite a bit and what I’ve found is that I’ve been able to refine my optimum strike points by experimenting with higher or lower or further forward or further back points of contact with the ball. When I hit the ball I get immediate feedback of how that particular strike point suits me and my swing.
Give it a try and I’m sure you will learn something about slight adjustments you could make to improve your strokes.