Whether you are an experienced player or if you are enrolling your children into tennis classes for the first time, we like our clients to understand what it is that we teach and why we use these particular methods. Although tennis can be somewhat of an artistic sport that allows for different styles, there are some techniques that offer more potential than others for players to advance their games.
The following is a basic stroke-by-stroke guide to our methods at the MLTC:
The Forehand Groundstroke
Forehands probably have the most flexibility as far as how they are hit; there are many acceptable techniques and they are all considered correct. What needs to be understood is that those techniques still need to follow certain guidelines of biomechanics in order to function optimally.
Players who are just beginning in our program are taught a very classic style of tennis in which the player stands sideways to the ball and uses what is called an Eastern Forehand grip (to find this grip, simply “shake hands” with the racquet). Prior to the 1980’s, this was considered the ideal way to approach the ball and nearly all clubs taught this method.
Since that time, a more aggressive style has become popular at higher levels of play in which the player faces the net as he/she hits the ball (open stance). The player holds the racquet using a Semi-Western grip (hold the racquet out in front of you in your non-dominant hand with the strings facing the ground and then use your dominant to grab the racquet like a frying pan) or a Western grip that is even more extreme. Depending on your style, abilities and amount of training, you may be introduced to this technique by one of our instructors.
Although there is a school of thought that promotes starting beginning players with an open stance and Semi-Western/Western grip, generally speaking we avoid doing that. It is very easy in this game to swing across your body and not properly drive it forward. Without learning how to do this using the basics, many players will struggle trying to master a more advanced technique that they may not be ready for.
The Backhand Groundstroke
If you have never had a tennis lesson before, then odds are that you do not have nearly the same confidence in your backhand groundstroke as you do your forehand. Even if you have had a lesson, this may still be the case. Why is that? The number one reason boils down to how the racquet is being held.
One of the first things you or your child will learn to do is a grip change from your forehand to your backhand. For some reason, many club instructors do their students an incredible disservice by allowing them to retain a forehand grip on their backhand groundstroke. 99% of professional players make a grip change.
Like the forehand, there are different types of backhand grips ranging from a small shift to a Continental to an extreme Western Backhand that facilitates the creation of more spin on the ball. Generally speaking, we opt to reinforce either a Continental or an Eastern Backhand grip change.
When players come to the net, it is natural to want to hold the racquet like a frying pan when hitting the ball out of the air prior to it bouncing. Unfortunately, this comes with some serious disadvantages. Everything from hitting balls near a player’s own feet to hitting “angle” volleys will be problematic.
Players at the MLTC are all taught to volley with a Continental hand position. The easiest way to find a continental grip without too much detail is to hold the racquet as though it were a hammer. Trying to bounce a ball on the edge of your racquet will also help to put it into the correct position. Once again, this is something that 99% of professional players use when hitting a volley. It is also something that many club pros tend to neglect when instructing students, but it stands out like a sore thumb to the experienced coach.
One of the primary reasons for this grip is because it is used on both the forehand and backhand volleys. It also allows players to handle low balls and to produce angles. During earlier times, players were taught to make a grip change as they would on their groundstrokes. Although a player can be successful at making shots using this technique, there can be difficulty when trying to handle balls traveling at faster speeds.
The Serve and Overhead
Similar to the volley, the serve and overhead are first taught at our facility by holding the racquet using a Continental grip. This grip relative to the serve affords the greatest amount of forearm pronation so that students can hit the ball with more force. It also allows players to easily hit with spin. For many players, using this grip is an enormous struggle; especially for those that are self-taught and have formed the habit of serving using the all-too-common Semi-Western hand position. Although a Semi-Western grip can be great for a forehand groundstroke, you will never see an advanced player use that type of hand position for a serve or overhead.
The MLTC prides itself on being able to give doubles players the information they need to succeed at all levels of the game. Marcus has himself been trained by a former world class doubles player and since that time has worked with numerous high school, collegiate and recreational players on improving their doubles abilities.
Unfortunately there is a great deal of questionable information regarding how to most effectively play the game of doubles and it is consistently perpetuated by teaching instructors. Thankfully the #1 doubles team in the world has put out a series of videos that helps to dispel various myths and poor strategies that are still being taught at clubs around the country. The most important part about these videos is that they demonstrate how the fundamentals between recreational and professional tennis are exactly the same.
You can view these videos on our website by visiting this link.
Although we utilize a systematic method to teach our students, we also realize that tennis is an activity in which the number one goal is enjoyment. Sometimes players are quite happy with their current techniques and we respect that. Just because someone holds the racquet like a frying pan for all of their shots does not mean that they can’t hit the ball over the net and play competitively!
When you have instruction in our classes, simply tell us what you would like to gain from our program and we’ll do our utmost to provide it.