On all of your strokes, whether it is the forehand, backhand, volley, smash, or serve. You should have your head and eyes fixed on the contact point (where you strike the ball) until the ball leaves your racket.
Note that it is impossible to keep your eyes on the ball at impact because the ball comes and leaves too fast.The goal here is to just keep your head and eyes fixed on the contact point. When you do this, you will strike the ball cleaner and also decrease the chance of mishitting. If you do not keep your eyes and head fixed on the contact zone, you will disrupt the swing path because you end up jerking your head up too soon to see where the ball is going.
As you can see Federer below, he is not watching the ball, but he is keeping his head and eyes fixed at the contact zone to prevent the disruption of the swing path to the ball.
Being able to control topspin and trajectory on the forehand is crucial in today’s game. A great forehand is a versatile forehand!
The amount of spin on the ball is determined by the amount of upward motion you apply with your racket to the ball.
Which player will impart more spin? The player with the buttcap pointing diagonally upwards to the ball. The straighter the buttcap is to the ball, the flatter the shot will be.
Though, people argue that it is a hassle to constantly think how diagonally they have to point the buttcap so here’s an easier alternative: the type of follow through.
Djokovic is a prime example. He uses three follow-throughs on his forehands: by the shoulder, over the shoulder, and the reverse follow-through. He is probably the player on tour who employs three different follow-throughs on his forehand during a match the most.
Djokovic’s by the shoulder follow through is normally used for more aggressive flat trajectory shots. He will often use this forehand on sitters, high balls, and balls he deems worth punishing.
Djokovic’s over the shoulder follow-through is typically used for a safer and more-spin net clearance shot. He tends to use this follow-through a lot when grinding out points. You will often see him go cross-court with this forehand. He can also create good angles with this shot.
Djokovic’s reverse follow-through is often used when he is late with the ball and/or when he is going for a lot of spin. This shot is very effective in creating sharp angles/heavy bouncing balls and is a very safe shot. However, this should not be your standard forehand rally ball because this shot is not as penetrating and will tend to give short balls to your opponent.
Each of these follow-throughs produces different effects on the ball. The ability to use all three will give you a variety of options with your forehand, allowing you to better construct points. Djokovic has improved a lot in this aspect of the forehand which is one of the things that has greatly attributed to his success in recent years.
Check out Djokovic’s matches:
Besides Nishikori’s great mental fortitude, what attributes mostly to his success is the style by which he plays. There are many aspects of his game that are good, but the one that stands out the most is this…
His ability to play close to the baseline
The reason why this style is so effective because tennis is really a game of cutting time away from your opponent.
Say you are hitting your shots at a constant pace and you are five feet behind the baseline. What difference would it make if you were two feet behind the baseline? The amount of time you are cutting away from your opponent: his time to load and time to get to the ball. He will be running from corner to corner more if you were two feet behind the baseline versus five feet behind the baseline.
If you were five feet behind the baseline, the way to equal the amount of effect you apply when two feet behind the baseline is by upping your pace enough to match that effect. For example, Robin Soderling has crushing ground strokes, but he does not as play close to the baseline as does Novak Djokovic. However, because of his power, he is able to keep up with Djokovic being close to the baseline.
But what if you upped your pace and played closer to the baseline? You will be adding even more pressure to your opponent now.
One thing to note though; to play close to the baseline, you must be quick on your feet and Kei Nishikori is a perfect example.
Nishikori plays this style remarkably well, which is one of the reasons why he has respectfully earned his way into the top 10.
Nishikori is able to accomplish this ability because of his compact AND powerful strokes on both wings, forehand and backhand. His compact strokes allows him to take less time to load which makes it easier for him to play closer to the baseline. Also, the fact that he can produce firepower in his groundstrokes is a major plus for his style of play. With his power, he is putting tremendous pressure on his opponents, blowing them from corner to corner and greatly taking their precious time away to load properly.
Similar to his ground game, Nishikori will always try to take time away from his opponent when returning his serve, especially the second serve. If the shot is placed with good depth and placement as well, this will put more pressure on your opponent and give you control over the point in the very beginning. With his great returns, he is able to break his opponents more often than most players.
Nishikori, being a specialist at taking time away, is a difficult player to beat. You will see him often times effortlessly hitting winners past you and behind you. In addition, because of the tremendous pressure he applies, you will see him many times following up with a volley to end the point knowing that you will float him one. With his swiftness and aggressive playing style, he is a force to be reckoned with on the ATP world tour.
Check out his style in play by looking him up on youtube! Or check out these links here:
These are the three 3 big things you must be able to master to have an amazing inside-out/in forehand:
- Footwork – The ability to quickly run around your backhand to hit your forehand; this is known as the inside forehand. Where you choose to aim it determines whether it is an inside-out (directing the ball diagonally/down the line) or an inside-in (aiming the ball cross court/closer corner). Many people just side-shuffle around their backhand if the ball is at a comfortable distance, but if you the ball is out of that range, your first step should be a backwards cross-step and then side shuffle. The cross step covers more initial ground.
- The coiling of your shoulders and hips – It is crucial that for the inside-out forehand that you turn your shoulders completely to where your it is right below your chin. This allows you to load up efficient power into your shot.
- How you uncoil – This is very important; if you do not know how to uncoil correctly on your forehand yet, please check out my article or quick video on the modern forehand technique (https://simplemoderntennis.wordpress.com/the-modern-forehand/) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe3AEBgPJ0g) .
When hitting an inside-out forehand once you are uncoiled and ready to hit the shot, you must uncoil and transfer your energy to the direction you want the ball to go – in this case, inside-out.
Same goes for inside-in forehands – you must uncoil and transfer your energy to that direction you want the ball to go to.
The reason why you transfer your weight to your desired direction is because your racket will follow your body’s movement. Uncoiling puts you into the butt-cap position where the butt-cap of the racket is pointing at the ball. That means focusing that energy towards your target will make your butt-cap point towards that direction as well.
Check out a video of Federer displaying these three keys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TongA3DfjgM
Hey guys! This is Marc’s final session of the 8 hour package. He came to me with a very old school forehand – his grip was continental! But ever since we have worked together to transform his forehand into the modern forehand. Today we focused on weight transfer of the legs and really made our last effort on trying to work on his contact to be more closed. In addition, we tried to emphasize the footwork and hit inside-out forehands.
It’s been a great 8-hour package with Marc!