Tip of the Week

A Tip of the Week will go up every Monday by noon.


August 31, 2020 - Move Like a Pro

Monday, August 31, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Most players go through the following sequence during each shot of a rally:

  1. Opponent is about to strike ball.
  2. Opponent strikes ball.
  3. Player sees incoming ball.
  4. Player decides if he has to move.
  5. Player moves.
  6. He's slow to get to the ball and complains he's too slow.

Top players go through the following routine:

  1. As opponent is about to strike ball, player flexes knees and prepares to move.
  2. Player sees direction of opponent's swing and sees where it's going before contact.
  3. Player begins to move into position.
  4. Opponent strikes ball.
  5. Player finishes moving into position.
  6. Player is in position, with lots of time to spare.

As you can see, the second sequence is much quicker. The three key points to remember are these:

  • Before your opponent hits the ball, flex your knees. This prepares you to move quickly.
  • Watch the direction of opponent's swing and learn to move as soon as he's committed to a direction, before contact.
  • Assume you always have to move.

If you follow these three tips and the "top players routine," you'll be in position far more quickly than before. Foot speed helps, but the real secret is technique.

August 24, 2020 - On Short Serves to the Forehand, Challenge the Forehand, Often Go to the Backhand

Monday, August 24, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Assuming two right-handers play, a common rally might start with a short serve to the forehand. Many receivers don't understand the tacatics in receiving this shot. The two main things to think about are this: First, if the receiver goes crosscourt, he has the long diagonal to go after (10.3 feet, instead of 9 feet down the line, about 16 more inches), as well as a wide angle. Therefore, if he attacks the serve (by flipping), he should often go crosscourt, as wide as possible. (Another option is to attack the middle, the midpoint between forehand and backhand.) Second, because of the threat of this crosscourt wide-angle attack, the server has to guard the wide forehand angle. So, the receiver should often fake this shot, and at the last second go down the line, to the often weaker, and now likely unprepared backhand. You can also fake the crosscourt and simply push down the line - see what works! When a righty plays a lefty (or the reverse), you can do a similar tactic where you fake down the line, and then go crosscourt to the backhand.

August 17, 2020 - Should You Develop Your Forehand Push?

Sunday, August 16, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

At the lower levels, pushing is often over-used; at the higher levels, spectators often underestimate its value. All top players have excellent pushes. However, advanced players – and even intermediate players – rarely push against deep backspin to the forehand, unless they are very defensive choppers. It's simply better for them to attack, usually with a loop. (The same can be said on the backhand, if you have a good backhand loop.) So … should you develop your forehand push?

The answer is yes – but not necessarily against long backspin to the forehand. You need to develop your forehand push mostly against short backspin to the forehand. Against this ball, you can attack, but pushing is often the better bet. You can push short, push quick and long, go for angles, heavy spin, etc. – all sorts of variations. And because you are closer to your opponent, he has less time to react. (At the same time, don't predictably push - learn to flip short balls as well.)

The problem is how do you practice your forehand push? If you push forehand to forehand with a partner, then unless both of you are practicing short pushes, you'll be practicing pushing against long balls. The answer is to develop the forehand push this way with a partner, but once it becomes relatively advanced, start focusing on drills where you start the drill by pushing against a short backspin, and then continue the drill/rally with other shots. You won't get as much repetitive practice this way, but you'll practice what you need to develop. For example, your partner serves short to your forehand; you push quick off the bounce to your partner's backhand; he pushes quick to your backhand; and you loop, either forehand or backhand. (Or, alternately, your partner loops off your forehand push, if it's "his" drill – and you still get practice pushing.)

Meanwhile, a nice drill is to push forehand to forehand (or backhand to backhand) where both players push short – but the first time a player pushes long (by mistake), you loop. This develops your short push, develops your loop, and best of all, develops your judgment on whether a ball is long or short.

August 10, 2020 - Two Tips to Increase Forehand Looping Power

Monday, August 10, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

If you have trouble generating power when forehand looping, try out these two tips, and you'll be surprised at the improvement. First, keep your legs farther apart. This gives more stability and more torque into the shot. Second, contact the ball more from your side. This forces you to use your whole body instead of mostly your arm. By following these two tips, you'll automatically put more body weight into the shot, increasing your power. If your basic technique is roughly correct but you don't have good power, these two steps will be a huge help.

August 3, 2020 - How to Vary Your Receive Against Short Backspin Serves

Monday, August 3, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Most players return short backhand serves with a simple push, without much thought to it. This makes the player predictable and vulnerable to third-ball attacks. The key is to vary the return. Let's take a look at just how many effective returns you can actually do against a short backspin serve – and ask yourself how many of them you actually do! Below are the most common effective returns – but there are others. Use your imagination! (And then apply the same thinking to other types of receive. In general, against short serves, focus on consistency, control, placement, and variation; against long serves, play more aggressively.) 

  • Topspin flip to wide forehand
  • Topspin flip to wide backhand
  • Topspin flip to middle
  • Flatter flip to wide forehand
  • Flatter flip to wide backhand
  • Flatter flip to middle
  • Quick push to wide forehand
  • Quick push to wide backhand
  • Quick push to middle (to rush a two-winged looper)
  • Heavy underspin push to wide forehand
  • Heavy underspin push to wide backhand
  • Short push to wide forehand
  • Short push to wide backhand
  • Short push to middle
  • Sidespin push to wide forehand (breaking away from opponent)
  • Sidespin push to wide backhand (breaking away from opponent)
  • Any of the above where you fake one shot or direction, and do another