When I was at Vic Braden’s tennis college Vic said that on my forehand I was not extending out to the target enough. He said with my brain makeup that was a common error. He also said that watching tennis on TV and video contributes to the error……Hmmmmm. How so, I thought?
Vic has done an enormous amount of high speed videotaping / filming ….sometimes 10,000 frames per second … which allows super slow motion playback of strokes. With normal video things happen so fast the human eye and brain cannot see what “really” happened during the stroke so the brain skips things and just sees the beginning and end of a stroke and not what happens in between.
With the circular followthroughs over the shoulder or around the waist on the forehand it looks like the stroke goes from backswing to contact to over the shoulder directly. Things happen so fast our eyes and brain don’t see the pronounced extension toward the target that the best pros use. We just see a backswing and windshield wiper and most club players try to emulate that….usually with poor results…..
Why are the results poor?
The reason the results are poor is that going from the backswing to the windshield wiper directly gives only a few inches of margin to hit the ball cleanly. If you have excellent timing, then you can hit fairly consistently when balls come at you consistently. The trouble comes with slow balls or fast balls that throw off your timing. With only a few inches to be perfect on the strike zone this causes shanks and hits that fly all over the place.
Vic videotaped Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro and found that when you really watch in slow motion Roger’s strike zone for a clean hit is (I’m just going from memory here) is 4 feet and Del Potro’s is even longer. Both have world class forehands.
Their swing speed is so fast all we normally see is the backswing and the over the shoulder follow through and we never notice this extremely pronounced strike zone. It’s no wonder they are so great when they have 4 feet to hit the ball cleanly and most of us only have a few inches.
What Vic did with me?
Since it was raining a little he took me in the gymnasium and Andy, one of his top coaches fed me forehands. I was supposed to hit them to the other end of the gym right into the center of the padded wall behind the basketball hoop. I wasn’t even supposed to follow through at all. I was supposed to catch my racket way out in front toward the target. I was also supposed to hit the ball way out in front with a totally cocked back wrist throughout the stroke.
When it quit raining we went back to the courts and got the ball machine out. I was supposed to take what I learned in the gym, pick targets and hit forehands. I did not shank one forehand and most of them had depth and accuracy.
Since this is so new during practice I’m consciously thinking about extending toward the target more on each forehand and I’m sure if I keep this up over time this will become natural and fast…So when you see me on video you’ll see the backswing and the windshield wiper but you’ll know I snuck in a pronounced extension toward the target.