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Tennis Tip from Oscar Wegner: Transference

I have tested, for decades, an interesting experiment that has proven helpful to a lot of players, from amateurs to pros.  Rather than trying to position your body at a certain distance from the ball, track the ball with your playing hand or hands as if you were trying to catch it.

Now comes something that is instinctive, dictated by your intention of driving the hand to your favorite end of the stroke. For example, you track the ball with your hand, you see it right where you want it, with a bit of back and forth hand movement you then accelerate your racquet diagonally, that is, up for topspin and across your body for control. You finish the stroke pointing the butt of the racquet to where you sent the ball.

It is an easy transfer of focus where you transition from catch to hit with no doubts or reservations in the blink of an eye. You may even have your racquet quite loose.  It may seem too simplistic, too left to chance. But by keeping both hands on the racquet while tracking the ball, your playing hand will determine the timing necessary and the details of your stroke. Just make sure you finish the stroke all the way.

Focusing initially on the hand, rather than on the racquet, can develop several abilities. One is  something that you most likely learned at a very young age: the skill to catch a moving object while YOU are on the move as well and then throw it away.

Another resulting advantage is the simplification of the thought process. There is a hand and there is a ball you want to catch. Nothing else matters. I’d like to venture that there is no thought necessary at all. You are free to go about it as you please.

It is nothing complicated, nothing rushed. Your lower body may be in an emergency, running fast. It will tend to look for efficiency to help you execute your primary intention, which is your stroke. Let your body teach you. Feel it and don’t force it in authoritarian ways.
Give it your best try and let me know the results.

Oscar Wegner

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Comment by Oscar Wegner on August 16, 2013 at 2:54pm

totally agreed, like a spring

Comment by Tim Prapong on August 16, 2013 at 1:59pm

I would agree that there is plenty of power to be had as long as the swingpath goes up across and then further up (and/or) around. This can be done without much shoulder rotation as well and can easily happen with just the hand and the elbow in a whipping motion.

But if you are given enough time from the baseline, it is more preferrable to use the shoulders, hip and trunk to add more mass to the shot along with the quicker accelerating hand and elbow. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic follow this principle: full shoulder turn, dipped pivot and hip turn, and fuller extension than the average club player.

Comment by Oscar Wegner on August 16, 2013 at 1:32pm

First, I want to correct my earlier statement. An interesting practice is to look at the ball THROUGH THE STRINGS while tracking it. Second, I meant tracking the ball as if you were going to catch it WITH YOUR PLAYING HAND.

THIRD: FORCE IS MASS TIMES ACCELERATION. There is plenty of power if you accelerate starting anywhere near the contact point. The take-back, from behind you to the ball, would be more momentum, not necessarily acceleration. It contributes to the power of the stroke, but main power mainly comes from acceleration up, across, and pulling up.

Comment by Tim Prapong on August 16, 2013 at 1:04pm

Yes, that can be a problem if one doesn't understand you cannot swing unextended directly from the unit turn position. Then you have very little power and a ridiculously armed swing. It is important to gradually extend while looking (tracking) the ball.

Comment by Oscar Wegner on August 16, 2013 at 12:57pm

Tim, beware of taking the unit turn early. Just like an early backswing, it can throw your timing off. Plus it can do your running stiffer and slower. An interesting practice drill is to look at the ball while you are tracking it.

Comment by Tim Prapong on August 16, 2013 at 12:21pm

Ray, he doesn't mean that you necessarily catch the ball with your non playing hand. Hopefully, you choose to  use a unit turn (non playing hand on throat and no actual pointing). 

You could do it the old way of racquet back first and the non playing hand pointing at the ball. But there isn't enough time to all of a sudden do a unit turn from that old setup. I'm certain Oscar did not mean this. :)

The idea is more mental, where the intent more naturally creates the spacing for the modern technique. The spacing is closer than what is commonly used for the old way of racquet back first, then a predominant linear swing path to the side.

Comment by ray lamparelli on August 16, 2013 at 10:47am

Thanks for clearing that up.

Comment by Oscar Wegner on August 16, 2013 at 9:22am

Ray, I don't know what you mean. This is what the directions are: you track the ball as if going to catch it. You may be holding the throat of the racquet with your non-playing hand during most of the tracking. Then you hit it. At the END of the swing you point the BUTT of the racquet in the direction of where your shot lands on the other side of the net.

Comment by ray lamparelli on August 15, 2013 at 7:45pm

Am I dumb or do you say to point to the ball and then keep both hands on the racquet?

Comment by Tim Prapong on August 15, 2013 at 4:08pm

Hmm, I thought I invented a new and ingenious drill! Well, guess some of us are after the same principles.:)

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