June 27, 2016
Wimbledon has just started and after watching a bit of it, it dawned on me that many people do not take full advantage of watching the best players in the world play. Since it is a one on one sport (or two on two for doubles), you can get a lot out watching just a few minutes of a player if you do it right. Let's look into why watching tennis on tv can impact your game.
The Classic "TV Tennis Strokes"
The first time I heard the term "tv tennis strokes" was from a great instructor I worked under, Tim Bauer. He coined the term when players tried to emulate how the professionals hit tennis balls. I like to call it "t-rex" swings. This is due to how viewers see a professional follow through after hitting a tennis ball. Since they swing so fast, the only thing anyone can see is the finish of their swing, where they wrap their arms around their body. The problem with this is that recreational players do not see the most important part of their swing, the contact point. See below on Federer's contact point and you see how straight his arm is on contact. I would say a large majority of recreational players do not do this, as they hit behind or to the side of them, making their shots less powerful and putting more strain on their arm.
Fixing "TV Tennis Strokes"
The best thing you can do to work on this problem is to have a follow where at the end of your swing you can still see the racquet in front of you. This will really force you to follow through forward more than around your body. Remember the wrap around that players do is just because they swing so fast. Many of us do not even have to do that since our swing isn't nearly as fast. Either way, do this for awhile and you will see positive results in how much efficient your stroke has become by hitting the ball deeper with less effort. I did this exact swing for a few months and it helped tremendously.
When I first picked up a tennis racquet the summer before my freshman year in high school, I was in a great position to learn a lot during the tennis season. That year our small division 4 team in Michigan had the two best players (By far) playing for us. They both got full rides to division 1 colleges and to put things in perspective, their warmups were better than the matches they played in. The #2 guy gave up 13 games all season (I have a good memory) and only 1 game in the entire state finals tournament (the first game of the first set). I bring this up because while others watched the match for entertainment, I watched for education. My best lessons were watching the best players hit the ball in front of me. While others watched the ball go back and forth, I fixed my eyes on the best player and took notes. How did he take the racquet back, move his feet, follow through, etc were all important points I needed to figure out to improve my game. I always told myself that if it was good enough for a player of that caliber, it is good enough for me. Now as a coach when my team gets awe struck from another player beating up on someone, I make sure they keep their eyes on the better player. They take note on their technique, attitude and focus. It is a great lesson to learn while everyone else is just watching for the enjoyment. Try this the next time you watch a tennis match. Focus on one of the players and if you get nothing else out of watching him/her, you will at least get an appreciation for how difficult the sport can be! Happy viewing!