Simplifying strategies in technique for tennis is difficult. There are so many variables that can influence the quality of a tennis stroke that the effort of trying to simplify an explanation often has the opposite effect. After recently watching a lot of adults and juniors play in one of my drills, I tried to find something that everyone could benefit from. This posed a difficult challenge as there was a variety of ages and levels on the courts. After watching for a good half hour I found a common theme that the players all could benefit from. As far as the degree of help it would provide depended not only on the level but also the situation. Let me explain.
Racquet head speed is essential for players to hit the ball hard in any stroke from the baseline, including the serve. Without racquet head speed you are unable to create a shot that your opponent will be challenged to hit. High racquet head speed, if done correctly, can also be a way to prevent injuries as well. It all boils down to tension. How much you have and when you have it.
Tension While Learning
When learning gets difficult, we tend to try harder, making our muscles tighten. You can even see that in someone’s face when they are focusing hard on something. This is exactly what I see when players are learning a new stroke or trying to improve an old one. To combat this, try to isolate the stroke and limit the variables. This will allow you to focus on one thing in your swing; relaxing. To do this, have someone feed (or use the ball machine) to the stroke you are working on with a consistent rhythm and pace. This will help you relax more and get you to focus on one thing rather than multiple elements that can occur when you are hitting with someone.
Tension In Crisis
For the more experienced players, tension happens more in situations rather than the average stroke that they use during their matches. For example, I have a hard time relaxing when someone hits it hard to my forehand. The natural response of gripping tight deters my ability to consistently hit a deep ball back to my opponent. The only way to conquer this is exposure. They say that “time heals everything.” That may not be true for all things but for this situation it definitely is. Expose yourself to whatever bothers you. Put your hitting partner (or again, use the ball machine) in situations to expose your weaknesses. When you feel the tension happening, try to work on relaxing while striking the ball. Do not worry about where you hit the ball but rather how relaxed you are when hitting it. If you stick with it, you should start seeing more fluid and relaxed strokes.
Use Your Sense Of Feel
To get rid of tension in your swing, or at least to understand it, there must be a degree of understanding that you have with your body. Use your sense of feel to get a better understanding of where you feel tension the most. As you experiment with this, you can then narrow your focus to specific strokes and/or situations to try to relax more during that stroke. This will help relieve pressure on your tendons and produce a more fluid and reliable shot. Repetition is the king of acquiring new skills. There will be a learning curve when exposing your weaknesses but with consistent focus and practice, you will see a much better stroke for you to rely on in times of stress during your matches.
Need More Help With This?
Try this video on creating a “C” swing in your groundstrokes that will help keep momentum going and allow a more relaxed swing to give you effortless power.