If you are a fellow USPTA member, you already know this, but if you are an instructor, a parent keeping an eye on your child’s improvement or a player with a consistent stroke problem, it may be time to think outside the box. Tennis can be enjoyed being played in different ways, there is more than one way to correctly play tennis. Here are two examples of what I mean; the first is a tactical issue and the second mechanical.
When I was in New England I taught a junior player Brian from the time he was ten until he left for college. Brian began playing USTA tournaments in the 12 and under division and kept it up into the 18’s. Brian had an exceptional one handed backhand, both topspin and slice. The problem arose when he entered into the 16 and under division; the kids were getting stronger resulting in harder serves. Brian was having a rough time hitting the topspin backhand on return of serve, due to the pace and kick, the ball was always up around his shoulders. The slice return was never a problem except for the fact the opponents knew that an attacking return would not be coming from that backhand return side. If I had him backup he could generate more pace but that only led to giving up court space to the other half of the court. The answer was a third backhand. So, we worked on a two handed backhand for return of serve only. With the two handed he could move in and drive those shoulder high serves back with the power hand behind the ball. There is nothing wrong with three backhands.
When Brian was in college he and I teamed up for some memorable doubles tournament wins. [I’m not stupid when picking partners; young, fast and talented is always good.] Brian went onto college on a tennis scholarship and the last I knew he was working as a teaching pro in New England.
Currently, one of my students here in Florida is a sweet, smart fourteen year old named Emma, she is new to tennis. Emma started karate at the age of four, which helps in certain areas, but tennis is her first sport involving a ball. Most people just beginning with balls in sports find the judgment of distance, ball speed and spin difficult, Emma is no different but making constant progress. When we began working on basic ground strokes I noticed after a few sessions that the two handed backhand was looking so much better form wise, the forehand was not improving and erratic. After a brief discussion with Emma’s mom I decided to go to a two handed forehand. The forehand has improved dramatically. There have been many great players who have hit with both hands on both sides, let’s not forget Monica Seles. The new forehand keeps Emma’s body lined correctly and generates more power and she can see improvement.
The point here is there is more than one correct way. If you need three backhands, do it. If you need to hit two hands on both sides, do it. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!!
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