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We are pleased to bring you the first in a series of short instructional pieces from one life member Mary Hill, a highly regarded teaching pro and player from Northern California.
Balance is one of the five fundamental principles of tennis. Physical balance can be defined as having your head over your shoulders, hips, and feet. This should be your ideal hitting posture. On low balls, lower your center of gravity, bending your knees rather than bending at the waist. Balance is necessary to move to the ball quickly and recover quickly. Balance effects your stroke flight. If your balance is too far back, your racket face is shaped up and balls go long. If it is too far forward, balls go in the net. Lack of balance also produces errors left and right. You need to be balanced physically, which is your posture, mentally which is being calm, confident, and present, and emotionally, which is your fuel. You can become aware and practice your physical balance by hitting short court with a cup full of water. Do this in the summer, because you may get wet! You could also use a quarter folded washcloth that you place on your head. Note how many hits you can do before the washcloth falls on the ground.
Symmetry is the second fundamental principle of tennis. Symmetry in tennis is the ability to prepare the same way on both sides of the body. The key to symmetry is the use of the non dominant hand.
In the old school, you were probably taught to take your racket back. This often resulted in a tight grip in the backswing. Today the cue is “turn”, keeping the non dominant hand on the throat of the racket. This allows for a loose grip in the backswing with your dominant hand. Now you can use your non dominant hand to change grips to shape the racket for the different spins you will use. Strokes will be better disguised.
To practice, try this exercise: (go slowly, 1 step at a time, so you do not overthink) This exercise is written for a right hander, but left handers will know how to reverse the cues. Face the net starting in a ready position holding your racket at the throat in your left hand. Lift the ball in front of you with your right hand. Keep your left hand on the throat, turn, grip lightly you’re your right hand, and adjust your feet into position for a forehand or a backhand, letting the ball bounce twice. Letting the ball bounce twice gives you more time to find the optimal balanced position and gives you a better feeling of how the left hand controls the racket in the turn and the backswing. Be sure you keep your left hand on the throat of the racket until after the second bounce. With your right hand still gripping loosely, let go with your left hand after the second bounce, just before you start your forward step, firming up your grip just before contact with the ball. This exercise trains your left hand to be involved in the preparation, trains your right hand muscles to be loose in the preparation, and trains your preparation to be symmetrical.
Principle number 3 is “Rhythm”…coming next time.