Tag Archives: simple modern tennis

SMT Daily Tip #8: A Major 2H-Backhand Key

(This video is derived from Topspin Tennis’s YouTube channel)

There’s a very specific piece in Kei Nishikori’s backhand that I want you to focus on (@ 0:16).

Kei Nishikori backhand

You can see here that Nishikori has dropped his racket head below the ball, to the point where it’s almost touching the ground. Note that he does this by raising his right-hand above his left-hand, which is what you must do too!

Why does he do this right before he swings? It is to get the buttcap of the racket pointing at the ball! When Nishikori points his buttcap at the ball, it allows him to achieve more effortless power out of the shot and make consistent and strong contact with the ball.

Making this small adjustment should improve your two-handed backhand immediately.

Hope you found this quick tip helpful and feel free to ask any questions regarding your game!

For a comprehensive breakdown of the backhand technique, check out: https://simplemoderntennis.wordpress.com/two-handed-backhand/

 

 

 

 

 

SMT Daily Tip #6: Safest Shots to Hit When Pulled Out Wide

What are the safest shots to hit when your opponent pulls you out wide?

The safest shots to hit when you are put in this type of danger are: the down-the-line loop and the loop down the middle.

Looping the ball DTL allows you to have more time to recover back and restart the rally. Also, looping the ball DTL is much safer than hitting it flat DTL since you are clearing the net by a large margin. If the shot is done correctly and lands deep in the court then it will be really difficult for your opponent to hit an offensive shot. In fact, because it is deep and is placed far from where your opponent hit his/her shot, your opponent might get pushed back behind the baseline, potentially putting him/her in the defensive depending on how he/she hits the ball. If not, the least you can get out of looping the ball back DTL is restarting the rally, making this shot selection very potent.

Looping the ball down the middle is also considered a safe shot. This is because when you aim it down the middle, you are clearing the lowest part of the net and the chances of the ball landing out wide are practically zero. The benefits you can reap from this shot are: more recovery time and – if hit deep enough – a high chance to restart the rally. This shot selection is commonly used clearly for its safeness and being easily executable. However, do not use this shot every time, for your opponent will catch on and take it out of the air with a swinging-volley.

Now, the key component that these two shots have that make them effective is that they must be hit deep! Depth is absolutely crucial. If they are not hit deep enough, then this allows your opponent to hit another offensive shot.

In conclusion, it is important that you learn to utilize both of these defensive shots since they are the safest shots that can get you out of a losing position. With these shots, your game, without a doubt, will become more solid. And remember, depth is crucial.

I hope this was helpful! Feel free to leave comments or questions regarding your game below. I will be glad to answer all of them!

SMT Daily Tip #5: Work on Your Sharp-Angled Shots!

If you want to take your defensive game – and even offensive game – to the next level, learning how to hit sharp angles is very valuable.

Being able to hit sharp-angled cross-court forehands and backhands gives you a major advantage against net players. With such a shot in your arsenal, you can pass them with ease and shatter their net-approach tactic.

(This video example may be a little extreme but gets the point across)

(Also check out the point starting at 2:00)


On top of that, being able to hit this shot enables you to hit winners that you’ve never been able to really hit before. Even if you end up not hitting a winner with this shot, you can pull your opponent way off the court which will give you absolute dominance over the point from then on.

(Check out the point at 1:36)

As you can see, being able to hit sharp angles will definitely up your whole game, so I highly encourage that everyone makes an effort to practice this shot and eventually have it be a part of your arsenal. Go out on the court and give it a go!

Feel free to leave any questions; I will be glad to answer them!

SMT Quick Tip #1 – Good Anticipation & Judgement

(Skip to the point at 0:24 where Stanislas Wawrinka serves out wide)

Anticipation is key. As soon as you see (or know) that your shot will yield a weak or short reply, you must capitalize on it! For instance in this video, Wawrinka knew without a doubt that his cross-court backhand would force a short return, so he quickly approached the net and put the ball away.

Having good judgement and anticipation like this will make your game more efficient; you will always be one step ahead of your opponent!

Power On Our Groundstrokes

In today’s professional game, power in players’ strokes have become a paramount factor in determining their success/potential. Players are unable to apply pressure to their opponents without enough power. In fact, people who do not have enough power are the ones who are most likely to get pushed around. Being unable to produce power, hitting winners become more difficult and thus you end up having to rely only on your opponent’s errors in order to win points.

Power really adds another dimension to your game: being able to hit winners at will and applying enormous amounts of pressure onto your opponent at even unpredictable times – it just profoundly enhances your game and makes tennis less of a grind. However, of course, using power tends to strongly correlate with making errors but the benefits of possessing power greatly outweighs this con.

Take a look at Ferrer’s match with Djokovic at the Australian Open 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN4Q2zu4oyY). Compared to Djokovic, Ferrer has no real fire power. What makes things worse is that his ball speed never really changes and that is the reason why having power is so important. With power comes a larger range of gauging your ball speed. What makes gauging ball speed so advantageous is that your play becomes more unpredictable and the opponent will always be on his/her toes. Ferrer is a clear example of how damaging it is not changing ball speeds. Just look at Djokovic! Producing winners left and right, Djokovic throughout the whole match was in such a smooth balance and a fantastic rhythm. What makes it an even worse of a nightmare for Ferrer is that Djokovic can willingly power up his shots. It is just clear that Ferrer is always at a huge disadvantage going up against Djokovic, and the rest of the top guys.

On the other hand, Djokovic masterfully demonstrates why power is an important asset to be at the very top of the game. With power – whenever he sees an opening during the rally – he can end the point right then and there. Many instances during this match Djokovic would be hitting his typical rally-ball and then out of nowhere he will inject a lot of pace into the ball. As a result,  Ferrer will be caught completely off-guard and be put on the defensive. This is something Ferrer can not do as well as others. However, his fitness and machine-like consistency makes up for it – enough to keep him in the top 10 for many years now.

Although having power is not absolutely necessary, it’s an important dimension that can make points less physically burdening instead of having to grind out points continuously.

The Simple Truth of the Game of Tennis

People make out tennis to be a very complicated sport. If you think about it, it’s not at all complicated, but rather a simple game. Of course there are many elements pertaining to the sport such as: power, directions, the serve, the return, the groundstrokes, volleys, touch, footwork, mentality, defense, and offense. However, at the end of the day, the person who gets the ball back one more time than his opponent is the winner. All of these elements listed are just products that aid you in accomplishing this objective. The ones who understand this the most are probably defensive players. Their main strategy is to return as many balls back as possible while playing a very safe and consistent game. With incredible fitness, these guys are menacing.

Murray on defense

Andy Murray is a prime example of a defensive player with prodigious fitness. When you watch this guy, notice his tactics against most players; he plays a rather safe game, simply just trying to out-rally his opponent most of the time. The reason why he does this is because he possesses a great deal of stamina – he knows that he can outlast about 95% of the people on tour. Furthermore, take a look at Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. These guys’ defense are also out of this world. Of course the three are aggressive when they can be (especially Federer) but they grew up playing the game defensively. Look at where they are now; they reign at the top of the game because they developed this kind of foundation. They understand that at the end of the day, it is all about the person who gets one more ball back.

Obviously every player knows this but do they actually truly execute it? No, they tend to lean their interests towards hitting winners or looking flashy which makes them prone to making unforced errors. These are the guys who have their good days/streaks and bad days/streaks. The guys who reign at the top are hanging up there because they are the ones who are consistently able to get one more ball back than their opponents can.

Check out this match of Grigor Dimitrov v. Andy Murray at the 2015 Australian Open (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJH0hxrMCCc)

Notice how aggressive Dimitrov chooses to play in the first set. In the beginning he appears to be slaughtering Murray, hitting volleys past him and pummeling winners left and right. However, Murray still comes out on top in the first set because he’s the one getting the ball back one more time than Dimitrov does. In the second set, Dimitrov’s aggressive game varied in success throughout. At the beginning of the set, his aggressive game went against him, producing too many errors that put him down a break. Though, later in the set, his aggressive game began to pay off as he was able to win the set in the tie-break. Then, it began to become clear in the third set that Murray was the more consistent player with better timely controlled aggression compared to Dimitrov, winning the set 6-4. The fourth set was devastating. Dimitrov’s aggression in the beginning was on a roll, taking him up a break 5-2. However, once again Dimitrov was not able to keep this level of play up as Murray breaks back and soon afterwards at 5-5, Dimitrov concedes the break to Murray with a heartbreaking double fault. Up 6-5, Murray ends this match with a 6/4 7/6 6/4 7/5 victory. Watching this match just shows that aggression is only a factor of the answer and that getting one more ball back than your opponent is the answer. If someone is able to get to every ball and return every shot, then that person would be virtually impossible to defeat.

The men who know best right now

Why Do I Like Tennis?

Why do people like tennis? Unfortunately, I could not come up with reasons that could generalize for the entire community so I altered the question and changed it to, “Why Do I Like Tennis?”

If you are a perfectionist like I am, then you will probably take a liking for tennis, considering the many, many techniques there are to master. For example, we have the two groundstrokes which are the forehand and the backhand. While they are both classified under the same category “groundstrokes,” they are not exactly identical in terms of technique. The forehand is hit with the dominant arm and the core is what does the swinging; whereas the backhand  – while the core is utilized the same way – is strict on requiring that your dominant arm is straight upon contact. For the two-handed backhand, the core is still similarly used; however, obviously this stroke requires the proper usage of both arms. Furthermore with groundstrokes, there are heaps of sub-skills that you need to or naturally learn as you become more advanced such as the running forehand/backhand and the lasso-whip forehand. Besides the groundstrokes, there are also the serve, the smash, the volley, and the footwork. The vast and maybe infinite amount of techniques there are to master is what makes this sport so enjoyable to me, and probably for many others as well. The sport feels like it’s never ending, for there is always a particular skill to improve in your game.

I also really enjoy that the sport can be played singly. While I do enjoy playing team sports (basketball), I more prefer individual sports because in games, all of the weight are on your shoulders. You are out there on a battle with yourself and the person across the net, mentally and physically. I covet witnessing myself overcome mental obstacles and knowing the extent to which I can last physically. Whatever happens at the end, there is no one else to blame but yourself. You look to fix that by analyzing what went wrong and figuring flaws out with your coach on the practice court. With the aspect that tennis is played individually, you really learn a lot about your own capabilities and how strong you carry yourself as a person.

Andy Murray is well known for his forehand to be extremely loose and neutral of the wrist.

While the core fundamentals are the same for all high-level players, each of them always have a touch about his/her stroke (usually on the backswing) that differs them from others which is also another reason why this sport intrigues me greatly. For example Richard Gasquet’s forehand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk_eCLU_qnU) has quite a wild and strange loop to it that almost makes it look like his forehand is at a continental grip when in reality, it’s at a semi-western grip. The way he hits it just seems so unconventional compared to the rest. Also, If you look at Grigor Dimitrov’s forehand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3vfjOZuKJI), you will notice that every time after he turns his shoulders, he cheekily throws a peace-sign out as he extends his left arm.

Jeremy Chardy’s extremely cocked wrist on the takeback of his forehand is what greatly distinguishes him from the other players

I do not think anyone else on tour does this. Going to Andy Roddick, he’s known not only for his booming serve (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZC_uAGut9s) , but how distinct his serve looks; it’s a rather quick motion. It appears that he tosses the ball literally as he goes into the trophy position while others tend to toss the ball and then proceed to the trophy pose. All in all, from Federer’s graceful and elegant forehand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71xnOPbmrUI)  to Nadal’s brutalizing and wicked forehand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxmoF1qzouE) , it is evident that there is not one correct way of doing things in tennis and that each person who plays the sport will always have something perceptibly unique about their game. As a result, this always makes me wonder… what do I do that is unique from other players? In tennis, there is this sense of originality that is felt among players like no other sport. This is what makes tennis so interesting for me to watch and play.

There are many other reasons as to why I like tennis. However, the never-ending feeling in evolving your game, the sense of responsibility one bears on himself, and the distinctiveness the game creates among players are the main reasons why I love the game.

The Importance of Having a Transition and Net Game [Tennis Tactics and Efficiency]

Kei Nishikori

Many people tend to overlook volleys, deeming them not as important as groundstrokes. While that may be true, without a transitional net game, becoming successful on the tour or even in college is very difficult. Take UCLA’s Gage Brymer for example. Ranked one nationally and being a three time Ojai CIF champion, he was a phenom in the juniors. Many people expected him to play somewhere at the top of the line-up (Single’s 1 to 3) for UCLA because of his tremendous results in the juniors. However, he ended playing the number 4 or 5 spot. Why was this the case? If you watch Brymer’s matches when he was a junior and especially in college, notice how he rarely ever transitions to the net. His match with Mkrtchian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb6mFdhkHic) is a prime example of his reluctance to approach. In many instances throughout the match, he would hit a damaging shot that would force a weak return capable of being easily volleyed away, but what does he do? He remains at the baseline, and you can even tell that he gives it a thought before he makes the decision. Mkrtchian ends up winning this match. While part of the reason may be because Brymer’s baseline game was not at its usual level that day, Mkrtchian was the one who utilized his transitional net game to great effect. His groundstrokes are not as good as Brymer’s, but what places Mkrtchian at #2 or #3 singles is his ability to attack the net and seize good opportunities, efficiently ending points.

 

On the pro tour, it is inevitable that to be successful, players must have a transition game. Having that kind of efficiency not only expends less energy, but it also makes you more unpredictable. Without a doubt, the top four (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Murray) are the most efficient players on tour. If they know one of their shots will yield a weak shot, they know immediately to begin transitioning up the court to take full advantage. A notable player who has improved this aspect of his game is Kei Nishikori. He has made a tremendous stride on the rankings, beginning at #20 in 2014 and ending the year in the top 5.

 

In his match against Tomic at Brisbane 2015, Kei Nishikori demonstrates clearly his improved efficiency by attacking the net and seizing the moment whenever the opportunity arises. Check out these timed videos to see how he transitions effectively.

 

https://youtu.be/fSVgdMjmVGQ?t=144 (Kei Nishikori yields a weak return with his serve, takes full advantage of it by hitting a forehand approach, and puts away the next ball with an easy volley)

https://youtu.be/fSVgdMjmVGQ?t=224 (Nishikori serves to Tomic’s backhand, sees that Tomic floats the ball back, Nishikori quickly sees the opportunity and comes in puts away the ball with a volley)

https://youtu.be/fSVgdMjmVGQ?t=334 (Nishikori throws down a big serve, Tomic as a result is stretched and can only put his racket out to float the ball back, Nishikori is quick to act on this and sets up a swinging volley followed with a volley winner)

https://youtu.be/fSVgdMjmVGQ?t=436 (Serve stretches Tomic outside. Nishikori knows that if Tomic were to get the serve back, his next shot will be even more damaging. Tomic does get the serve back so Nishikori is ready with a  backhand approach. He knows that the backhand approach will force a very weak return and so he will proceed to the net to end the point with a volley, and in this case it is an elegant drop volley.)

 

Nishikori, despite not having the biggest serve on tour, still has a very efficient serving game. He knows what does damage and is very well aware of how to best capitalize on weak shots. This is what all pros essentially know how to do and is what separates the level of tennis from college/juniors. Albeit having a great baseline game is heavily advocated, many tennis players tend to overlook how important having a transition game actually is, let alone possessing decent volleys.

Why Rafael Nadal Struggles Against Novak Djokovic

Nadal’s nightmare is a man with an aggressive game(remember his matches with Soderling and Del Potro in ‘09). In fact, Nadal’s worst nightmare in recent time has become Djokovic because of how consistently he executes his aggressive game.

Djokovic spreads the court extremely well, and he is probably the best at this currently on tour. His ability to change direction off both sides is phenomenal and this does incredible amounts of damage to Nadal especially when Djokovic plays close to the baseline.

Nadal is known for playing rather far back so that means if his depth is off that day, Djokovic will be all over him baseline-wise since he plays close to the baseline and can comfortably take shots on the rise.

When talking groundstrokes, no question does Djokovic possess the better backhand

  • His backhand rarely ever breaks down and can easily produce winners, which Nadal is not used to because the backhand is usually where he attempts to draw errors.
  • He has a very solid high backhand shot which further puts Nadal at a disadvantage since this eliminates one of his go-to strategies (pounding the backhand with his heavy-spin forehand).
  • His ability to go down the line sets him up perfectly to avoid Nadal’s forehand. Doing this enables him to have the forehand vs backhand exchange. This is what Djokovic looks for because his forehand is a more solid stroke compared to Nadal’s backhand.

Although not as good as his backhand, Djokovic has a solid forehand

  • He handles Nadal’s heavy-spin forehand most of the times comfortably
  • His forehand is very versatile. Can spin and flatten with power as he pleases and does so intelligently.

What makes Djokovic even more difficult to defeat is that not only does he possess a strong aggressive game, but he has incredible defense as well. With that combo combined with his fitness, that means Djokovic can even go toe-to-toe with Nadal in lengthy and grueling rallies constantly shifting from offense to defense.

Although Djokovic has great defense, that’s not his main strategy against Nadal; it is to be as consistently aggressive as he can. Being able to execute his aggressive playing style against Nadal frequently – unless Nadal is stepping up and playing close to the baseline – Djokovic will be in control of most of the rallies pressuring Nadal. If you view the highlights of their match in the final of Monte Carlo in 2013, you will see how Djokovic always tries to position himself close to the baseline and why Nadal has such a difficult time effectively responding. Against each other, what seems to be a huge factor in who is going to win the match is court position. In the video, you will see that Djokovic is hugging the baseline while Nadal is a couple feet behind the baseline in most points. Because of this situation, the balls are coming back towards Nadal quicker, leaving him less time to load up his vicious forehand or run around his backhand. In addition, the effectiveness of his forehand along with his backhand decrease as well, which of course, gives more time to Djokovic to execute his shots. They both in fact spread the court beautifully; it is just the players’ court positions that gives Djokovic the upper edge.

So what is there left to do for Nadal at this point when

  1. His “go to the backhand” strategy does not work
  2. His court position is weak compared to Djokovic
  3. Djokovic has a consistent aggressive game along with his fine defense

In reality it is rather simple, Nadal either has to just be more aggressive by playing closer to the baseline (he does not really need to amp up his groundstrokes – especially the forehand – for they are penetrating enough) or he must laboriously grind out the points and out-rally Djokovic, which is definitely not the recommended tactic considering his knees. Ultimately, being passive against Djokovic will most of the time not work out, so the better and probably braver route is to definitely be aggressive against him.

Keys to the Inside Out/In Forehand

These are the three 3 big things you must be able to master to have an amazing inside-out/in forehand:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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