Most tennis myths arise either from a misstatement or from an
overgeneralization of a correct principle.
Tennis Myth #1:
"You should make sure to snap your wrist on your serve."
This is the most popular and most harmful of all tennis myths.
If you snap your wrist deliberately on your serve, the only thing you're likely to accomplish is eventually injuring your
arm. Keeping your wrist loose on your serve will let it whip forward exactly when it's supposed to -- as a natural consequence
of the forces generated by larger, more powerful parts of your arm and body. Trying to snap your wrist deliberately can put
its motion out of sync with those powerful forces, and this can lead to injury. You don't need to think about snapping your
wrist, and you definitely should not try to force it to happen.
Tennis Myth #2:
"You should always plant your feet to hit a volley."
When you'll be making contact below the top of the net, volleying
will be easier if your feet are not moving, but on higher, slower balls, unless you're already quite close to the net, you'll
do better by continuing to move forward as you strike the ball. This will get you closer to the net for your point of contact,
and more importantly, it will help keep you from stopping in the midst of hitting the ball. When you stop moving, your body
tips forward, and if you're trying to hit a ball while this is happening, you'll tend to pull the ball downward into the net.
Tennis Myth #3:
"You should stop to hit an approach shot."
If you have time to stop and set up before you start your swing
on an approach shot, you'll be able to execute a bigger swing more cleanly than if you are still moving, but, if you try to
stop in the midst of hitting the ball, you'll be off balance, and you're much more likely to commit an error. If you don't
have time to stop well before you hit, then keep moving forward as you hit. As you near the ball, you'll usually have time
to slow down a little, and this will make it easier to execute your swing.
Tennis Myth #4:
"Roll your strings over the ball to produce topspin."
Amazingly enough, one still hears this little gem of goofy advice
being given to unsuspecting tennis students. The last thing you want to do is try to rotate your wrist while you're hitting
a forehand or backhand, and it's simply not possible to roll your strings over the ball: the ball is on your strings for less
than 1/100 second. Trying to roll over the ball will only make you turn your racquet face too much upward or downward, causing
Tennis Myth #5:
"Stay down with the ball."
This is more of a misstatement than an outright myth. Pulling
up too early on a forehand or backhand is a mistake, so staying down until the right time is good, but you don't want to stay
down completely through the entire swing. Except on certain slice shots, including drop shots, you generally want your legs
to push upward as you swing. On most swings, you don't want to stay down -- you want to be on your way up.
Tennis Myth #6:
Another thing to remember is that, although a half volley frequently
has to be hit in no- man's land, it's a myth that every ball will be at your feet. Many balls delivered into the midcourt
area arrive at chest height - and that's a green light for you to knock off a conventional volley and keep coming in to control
The reason why many intermediates have trouble with that midcourt volley is because - unlike McEnroe and
the other pros - they fail to hit their volleys on the run. Instead, they come to a stop before they hit the ball. They make
the mistake of freezing. Their feet go to sleep in no-man's land. And when your feet stop moving, anywhere you are on the
court is no-man's land in my opinion.
What you should do, once you see where your opponent is going to put the ball,
is head in that direction and then run through the shot - that is, hit the ball as you're moving forward en route to the net.
KNOW YOUR SPEED
- But before you make that
excursion into no-man's land, be sure you can reach the ball comfortably. You have to know that beforehand. Some guys are
so fast that even if they hit a lousy shot, it's still a good one because they're where they want to be due to their sheer
speed. Other people hit a lousy shot and it's deadly.
We ask people, "How fast are you?" They say, "Pretty fast. I'm
faster than Helen." That isn't good enough. You have to quantify it. You have to know what I call your "short-ball range".
That is the area on court from which you can take a ball, hit an approach shot and reach a point midway between the net and
service line just as, or just before, your opponent gets the ball on his racquet.
Here's how you find that out. Bounce
a ball and hit it to your opponent's side of the court, as if you were using it as a ball to approach behind. Run toward the
net like crazy. Just as your opponent contacts your shot, have him yell, "Now!" Look to see where you've ended up. If you're
in no-man's land, either your starting point was too deep in the court, or you're not as fast as you should be to reach the
ideal volleying position. Keep experimenting by bouncing the ball and hitting it from various places on court until you have
pinpointed your "short-ball range". Then, in matches, you'll always know when to hit the perfect approach shot to avoid winding
up in no-man's land.