Archive for the 'Tennis Pro’s' Category
Tennis Rules Simplified

The rules of tennis are quite simple. The game itself is complex. "

Rule 1. Opponents stand on opposite sides of the court. The player who delivers the ball to start the point is called the server. The player who stands opposite and cross-court from the server is the receiver.

Rule 2. The right to serve, receive, choose your side, or give the opponent these choices is decided by a toss of a coin or racquet. If the choice of service or receiver is chosen, the opponent chooses which side to start.

Rule 3. The server shall stand behind the baseline on the deuce court within the boundaries of the singles court when playing singles and within the doubles sideline when playing doubles. All even points are played from the deuce court and odd number points played from the advantage court. The server shall not serve until the receiver is ready. Serves are made from the deuce court to the opponents service box on the deuce court. Advantage court to advantage box. If the server misses his target twice, he loses the point. If the ball hits the net and goes in the correct service box, another serve is granted. If the server steps on the baseline before contact is made, the serve is deemed a fault.

Rule 4. The receiver is deemed ready if an attempt is made to return the server’s ball. The receiver can stand where he likes but must let the ball bounce in the service box. If the ball does not land in the service box, it is deemed a fault and a second serve is given. If the ball is hit by either opponent before the ball bounces, the server wins the point.

Rule 5. The server always calls his score first. If the server wins the first point, he gets a score of 15. Scoring is done like a clock. See example below. Love means zero in tennis. The second point is called 30. The third point is called 45 (now-a-days known as 40) and game is won when the score goes back to love. If the score is 40-40, also known as deuce, one side must win by two points. Advantage-In means if the server wins the next point, he wins the game. Advantage-Out means the receiver has a chance to win the game on the next point.

LOVE 15-30-40

Rule 5. After the game, the opponents serve. Games equal 1. The first to win 6 games, by two, wins the set. The first to win 2 sets wins the match. If the score is 6-6, a tie-breaker is played. This is scored by one’s. The first team to score 7 points winning by two wins the set. The tiebreaker continues until one side wins by two. Hence, Game-Set-Match.

Rule 6. If the ball goes into the net, or outside the boundaries of the court, the player who hit that ball loses the point. If the ball hits the net during the point and goes into the opponents court, the ball is in play. A player loses the point if he touches the net, drops his racquet while hitting the ball, bounces the ball over the net, hits a part of the surroundings such as the roof, or a tree, the ball touches him or his partner, he deliberately tries to distract the opponent.

Rule 7. A let is called during the point if a ball rolls on the court or there is a distraction from someone besides the players on the court.

Rule 8. A ball that lands on the line is good.

Rule 9. If players serve out of turn or serve to the wrong person or court, the point or game will stand and order will be resumed following the point or game.

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How to buy Strings for your Tennis Racket.

There is a lot more to tennis strings than meets the eye. After all, many people, when looking at a tennis racquet, see only the frame – and the frame is what these people spend most of their focus and money on. They might spend hours, days, weeks, months finding the perfect frame, and then neglect spending that much time picking out the right tennis strings and the right string tension – but tennis strings are extremely important!

In fact, tennis strings are key to how your tennis racquet performs. After all, while your racquet frame may affect the way in which you swing and where the ball will come into contact with the tennis racquet, the frame never actually touches the tennis ball (at least, it shouldn’t.) It is the tennis strings that come in contact with the ball. It is the tennis strings that are at the heart of the game – they are the heart of the racquet.

So, before you act like many other tennis players and simply neglect your tennis strings, here are a few things to consider and things that you should know about tennis strings:

Different tensions of your tennis strings can give you better control or power:
Control: use a higher string tension. (This is best for more experienced players).
Power: use a lower tennis string tension – this will make the tennis ball fly farther.
Other tennis string factors can affect the power and control that you will get with your swing, as well:
Control: for great control, use thicker tennis strings and greater string density.
Power: fewer strings means more power (this decreased string density also generally generates more spin). Thinner strings means more power. Elastic strings mean more power.
Strings with softer coating, soft tennis strings, will vibrate less.
Strings made with Kevlar or Kevlar hybrids last the longer than your average synthetic gut or nylon.
A lower tennis string tension will also help your strings last longer.
Having a lower string tension will also reduce the stress/impact on your arm when hitting the ball.
You should restring your racquet at least twice a year. If you play often, then you need to restring your racquet more often!
Natural gut tennis strings are still used today, and they are still good strings. Of course, it is generally more reasonable to choose tennis strings made out of synthetic gut, instead – they will last longer and be less affected by humidity, etc.

As you can see, there is much more to tennis strings than you might have thought. And if truth be told, this article is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tennis strings. This article is here merely to give you an idea as to what types of tennis string set-ups are available. Now you can go out and experiment and find the best tennis string tension, density, thickness, etc. for you.

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Grip Guide - A Grip on Your Game

Fluid, powerful, and accurate strokes are the combination of many factors. But it all starts with how you hold the racquet.

No matter how much time you spend finding the perfect frame to beef up your game, the most important part of your racquet just might be your grip—not what the handle is made of, but how you hold it. Although they’re largely overlooked, grips are the foundation of all the strokes in tennis. Where you position your hand on the eight-sided handle has a huge impact on each ball you hit. Your grip affects the angle of the racquet face, where you make contact, and ultimately the pace, spin, and placement of your shot. The difficulty with grips is choosing the right one for a particular stroke. The fact is, there is no perfect grip; each has its advantages and limitations. But some are clearly better-suited for certain strokes and styles of play than others. This guide will help you to (1) learn to grasp the racquet for each grip correctly, and (2) determine the best uses of each of the common grips.

FINDING THE GRIPS

There are various ways to explain how to find a certain grip, but the simplest and most reliable is to use the base knuckle of your index finger as the main reference point. The diagrams for each grip show the bottom view of a racquet handle (where the butt cap is attached), which has four main sides and four narrower bevels between the sides.

CONTINENTAL GRIP

The Continental is the one grip that you can use for every shot, but that hasn’t been standard practice since the days of long pants and skirts. The Continental is used primarily for serves, volleys, overheads, slices, and defensive shots. Find the Continental by putting the base knuckle of your index finger on bevel No. 1, which puts the V created by your thumb and forefinger on top of the handle. Lefties put the knuckle on bevel No. 4.

PLUS:
Hitting with the Continental grip on the serve and overhead is standard, as it allows your forearm and wrist to naturally pronate through contact. This results in a more explosive and versatile shot with the least amount of stress on the arm. It’s also the preferred grip on volleys since it provides a slightly open racquet face for underspin and control. Since you need quick hands at net, having the same grip for forehand and backhand volleys is also crucial. As mentioned, your grip affects the angle of the racquet face. The more closed the face, the higher and farther in front of your body your strike zone should be for proper contact. Since the racquet face is relatively square on a Continental grip, for ground strokes the strike zone is low and to the side of the body. That’s why it’s helpful for defensive shots, low balls, and wide balls that you’re late on.

MINUS:
You can hit flat or with slice using the Continental, but it’s tough to put topspin on the ball. That means hitting with power and keeping the ball in play requires you to aim the shot just above net level, leaving you little margin for error. And without that safety spin, returning a ball out of your strike zone can be difficult. So lack of consistency is often a problem.

PROS WHO USE IT:
Virtually all of them, on serves and volleys.

EASTERN FOREHAND GRIP

Place your hand flat against the strings and slide it down to the grip; put the racquet flat on a table, close your eyes, and pick it up; or shake hands with the racquet. These are just a few of the tricks you can use to find an Eastern forehand grip. The more technical way is to hold the racquet in a Continental grip and then turn your hand clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties), so that the base knuckle of your index finger slides over one bevel.

PLUS:
This is generally considered the easiest grip for learning the forehand. It’s versatile, allowing the player to brush up the back of the ball for topspin or flatten out the shot for more power and penetration. It’s easy to switch quickly to other grips from the Eastern, making it a wise choice for players who like to come to net.

MINUS:
The strike zone is higher and farther out in front than with the Continental grip, but it’s still not a great option for returning high shots. An Eastern forehand can be very powerful and penetrating, but because it tends to be a flatter stroke it can also be inconsistent, making it difficult to sustain in long rallies. It’s not the best choice for players looking to put a lot of topspin on their shots and outlast their opponents.

PROS WHO USE IT:
Tim Henman, Lindsay Davenport 

SEMI-WESTERN FOREHAND GRIP

Moving your knuckle one more bevel clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties) from the Eastern forehand grip puts you in a semi-Western grip. This has become a prevalent grip for power baseliners on the pro tours, and many teaching pros encourage their students to use it.

PLUS:
The semi-Western allows a player to apply more topspin to the ball than the Eastern forehand grip, giving the shot greater safety and control, especially on lobs and short angles. Still, you can drive through the ball with this grip to hit a flat drive for a winner or passing shot. It also affords a player the option of taking a bigger swing at the ball since the topspin will help keep it in the court. With a strike zone higher and farther out in front of the body than the Eastern forehand, it’s good for controlling and being aggressive with high shots.

MINUS:
You can run into trouble returning low balls. Since the grip naturally closes the racquet face, forcing you to swing up from underneath the ball, it can be difficult to return lower shots. This, along with having to make a significant grip change to get to the Continental for a volley, is why so many power baseliners are uncomfortable coming to net.

PROS WHO USE IT:
Marat Safin, Svetlana Kuznetsova

WESTERN FOREHAND GRIP

From a semi-Western grip, shift your knuckle one more bevel clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties), and you’ve got a full Western grip. Looking down at the racquet, your knuckle should be on the very bottom of the grip. This puts your palm almost completely under the racquet. Clay-court specialists and players who hit with heavy topspin favor this grip.

PLUS:
This is an extreme grip that puts a lot of action on the ball. The positioning of the wrist forces the racquet to whip up the back of the ball severely, generating tremendous topspin. You can hit the ball well above net level and it will still drop into the court. The resulting shot will usually have a high and explosive bounce, pushing your opponent behind the baseline. The strike zone is higher and farther out in front than all other forehand grips. The ability to handle high balls is what makes this grip so popular with clay-courters and juniors.

MINUS:
Low balls can be murder. That’s why professionals with this grip generally don’t do well on faster surfaces, where the ball stays low after the bounce. Also, you need tremendous racquet-head speed and wrist strength to generate adequate pace and spin. Otherwise, your shots will land short and your opponents can attack them. For some, it’s also difficult to flatten shots out, so putting balls away becomes a problem. And just as with the semi- Western, transitioning to net and hitting an effective first volley is a major challenge.

PROS WHO USE IT:
Rafael Nadal, Amelie Mauresmo

EASTERN BACKHAND GRIP

From a Continental grip, shift your knuckle one bevel counterclockwise (clockwise for lefties) so that it’s on the very top of the grip. If you drilled a nail through that knuckle, it would go right through the center of the grip (just don’t try that at home).

PLUS:
As with the Eastern forehand, this is a versatile grip that provides good stability for the wrist. You can roll the ball for some spin or hit through it for a more penetrating drive. Some players can slice with an Eastern grip, but if not, a subtle grip change over to the Continental is easy enough to do. This grip also can be used for a kick serve, and it makes the transition to net for volleys a relatively smooth one.

MINUS:
While solid for handling low balls, an Eastern backhand grip is not ideal for hitting topspin shots from around the shoulders. It can be difficult to control these balls, and many times a player is forced to slice them back defensively. You see this most often when players return kick serves that jump up high in the strike zone.

PROS WHO USE IT:
Roger Federer, Lisa Raymond

EXTREME EASTERN OR SEMI-WESTERN BACKHAND GRIP

The backhand’s answer to the Western forehand (a reason some refer to this as a semi-Western backhand), the base knuckle of your index finger moves one bevel counterclockwise from the Eastern backhand (clockwise for lefties). It’s an advanced grip that only stronger and more accomplished players tend to use.

PLUS:
Just as with the Western forehand grips, this is a very popular choice with clay-court players. It naturally closes the racquet face more than a regular Eastern backhand and moves the strike zone higher and farther out in front of you, making it more conducive to handling high balls and returning them with topspin. Some of the most powerful backhands in tennis are held with this grip.

MINUS:
Its limitations are similar to those of the Western forehand. It’s not well-suited for low balls, and because it’s a rather extreme grip it’s difficult to make quick changes for a transition to net. Players with this grip usually have long, elaborate swings and prefer the baseline.

PROS WHO USE IT:
Gustavo Kuerten, Justine Henin- Hardenne

TWO-HANDED BACKHAND GRIP

There’s no doubting the popularity of this grip, but there is some debate about the ideal way to position both hands. One of the most accepted ways is to hold the racquet in your dominant hand with a Continental grip. Then take your nondominant hand and put it above your playing hand in a semi-Western forehand grip.

PLUS:
This is an excellent choice for players who aren’t strong enough to hit a one-handed backhand. A more compact stroke than the one-hander, the two-hander relies on shoulder rotation and an efficient swing to provide power. That’s why it’s particularly effective on the return of serve. It’s also good on low shots, and the extra arm lets you power through on balls that are at shoulder level.

MINUS:
Because both hands are on the racquet, the two-hander limits a player’s reach. So doing anything with wide shots can be tough, especially since it’s difficult to rotate your upper body when stretched. Also, two-handers can become dependent on topspin. Hitting an effective slice calls for extending through the shot with a steady front shoulder. This is unnatural for two-handers, who are taught to open their hips and rotate their shoulders. Taking the nondominant hand off the racquet to hit the slice or volley is also troubling for many twohanders; it’s the reason why they’re generally not comfortable at the net.

PROS WHO USE IT:
Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova

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Get that first serve in!

Question:
Why do commentators go on and on about first serve percentages?

Well, they do it because the serve is arguably the most significant shot in modern tennis. Typically, in a match between two pros, the server has a better win/loss ratio when the first serve goes in. So it’s important that it does go in! The first serve percentage is obviously used as an indicator of a player’s effectiveness in this area.

OK - it’s a significant factor in the pro game. Is it significant for us?

You bet it is! Apart from anything else, repeatedly using two serves per point is tiring, especially in the course of a long match. You can ill afford to waste the energy! You should be looking to get 60 - 70% of first serves into play.

Missing your first serve means there’s pressure on you to get your second serve in, and this pressure can start to affect your confidence over time. As a match progresses, a good returner will apply more pressure by moving in on the second serve and looking to attack you. So you find that it’s not enough to just get the second serve into play - it’s got to have a reasonable amount of depth and penetration as well. This added pressure can lead to double faults.

So if you’re missing your first serves, put a bit more spin on (for control) and get those percentages up again.

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Pro Tennis: It’s High Time to Bring Back Wood Rackets

Wood Tennis RacketsBy D-Wil of AolSports fans - Professional tennis players need to go back to wood.

After watching Maria Sharapova hit one of her patented squash-like wristed stretch forehands and watching Rafael Nadal (both Maria and Raffa bludgeoned their opponents today at the French Open) do the same, and many other not-so well known players hit similar shots, I got disgusted. I’m joining John McEnroe’s oft-spoken suggestion to both the men’s’ - ATP - and women’s - WTA - tours, bring back the wood!

I have grown tired of watching pros hit "equipment shots," the kind of shots that were impossible before the advent of composite tennis rackets. I’m tired of players with marginal games, but with one weapon only advance far in tournaments because they can now use their on stroke, swing as hard as they can and hit winners from anywhere in the court.

Today power is more important than strategy and speed is more important than court position. The ability to generate tons of power only through racket speed means players are no longer forced to think their way through a point. Why do that, when you can slug your way out of trouble, a la Fernando Gonzalez? Sure, Gonzo has hired Larry Stefanki, to help him think more on the court, but he still largely stomps his way through matches like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

Wood rackets are much heavier than their composite cousins, and do not require as much racket speed to generate power. However, with their smaller racket heads, the "sweet spot" - that perfect striking area on the racket face - on a wood racket is actually smaller than a tennis ball. The sweet spot on composite rackets is more often than not, oval and the size of two tennis balls in width and two and-a-half balls in length.

These rackets were originally derived with the everyday player in mind; to make it easier for that player to share in the experience of playing tennis. What composites did, though, is make these rackets so costly that playing tennis is not a viable exercise activity for many people; $200 dollars for a good racket compared with about $50 for a wooden racket, $70 strung - is a pretty penny for an instrument that you them must take lessons - more money - learn to use. So, rather than make the game more accessible to the average person, with new material technologies applied to tennis rackets, tennis priced itself into a near, elite-only, status.

But back to the game itself. If top players and satellite players were forced to use wooden rackets, we would find that many players we think are good now are not quite what they appear to be. The game would be slower, forcing the players to think their way through nearly every point; think about the consequences of every shot. On quicker surfaces, especially grass, serve-and-volleyers would regain their inherent, fast surface advantage. However, this advantage would not be at the expense of the game itself.

Back in the day of Bjorn Borg and early McEnroe, a casual observer could see how good a players’ hands were. We’re not talking pure hand-eye coordination, but feel for the ball on the racket. That art is nearly lost today. No longer can a player like Johnny Mac or Borg slice-and-dice a player to death; a wide shot here, a deep shot there, a slice her, a topspin shot there and before you know it, you’ve lost 10 points in a row - and you didn’t feel a thing. Today, it’s a 130 mile per hour serve (Venus Williams hit a 129-mph serve at the French Open this past week), 80-95 mph forehands, backhands whacked as hard as possible, swinging instead of punched volleys - power, power, power. And whoever can corral their power best wins.

Ack! I want to see thought and guile. I want the blend of speed, grace, good hands, and deft shot-making. I want wood.

How about you?

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