Is this the Craziest Tennis Racket of all Time?

You must take a look at these brothers and their two handled tennis racket invention.

They say that because they can hit groundstrokes with either their left or right hands, the two handled tennis weapon benefits them. At first I thought this was a wind up but no – this is for real!

You must check this film and the service action of one of the brothers (it comes down at a healthy 135mph).

How to Improve Your Backhand Footwork?

backhand prep

Here’s the situation… You decide that you need to work on your cross-court backhand for your singles matches – so you and your willing practice partner head off to the court and decide it’s backhand drill time.

The Drill

After a warm up, out come the towels which will be used as targets on the court and they are correctly placed in the corners (not too close to the lines here as you want it to be match realistic). You are both right-handers so you start trading backhand to backhand across the court, aiming as close to the targets as you can – so far so good. After a short while you are starting to group the balls nicely near the target and the odd one even strikes the target, great!

So What’s the Problem?

What you haven’t noticed is that you are both hitting your shots flat-footed from the corners without any movement back towards the centre mark on the baseline. Think about it, you wouldn’t (or certainly shouldn’t) in a singles match, be hitting shots from a position fixed in the corner of the court. You would be moving back towards the centre in case your opponent gives you a forehand, so this is exactly what you should be doing when you drill.

Where Possible, Make the Drill ‘Match Real’

So don’t fall into the lazy trap of not bothering to move much in the drill just because you know the ball will come back to you in the corner. Really work at your feet and make the drill ‘match real’. Treat those cross-court drill rallies as if you might get a forehand (even if you know you won’t) and move back to cover that possibility. You don’t need to move all the way to the centre but towards it and then back for the backhand. This will be encouraging you to hit the ball realistically, running towards the corner, rather than just standing waiting for every shot. You can even mix in some forehands from the backhand corner to practice the technique used so brilliantly by Nadal.

This mentality of making your drills ‘match real’ applies to pretty much all your drills. You will benefit far more from the drills and will get fitter at the same time.

How to generate more racquet head speed


How do Federer and Henin get so much power?

There are many aspects of their technique that result in the devastating power we so often witness. One secret at the heart of this power is knowing how to generate more racquet head speed.

The tip of the racquet travels with such speed that it overtakes the position of the grip as soon as the ball is struck. In other words, on impact the racquet head and grip are pretty level, but right through contact the racquet tip zips through at the rate of knots and overtakes generating amazing power. Of course, the shoulder rotation, ball position, leg foundation all play their part in this power.

The picture shows Olivier Rochus with the racquet exploding though the ball.

How to approach a tennis practice session


Quality practice

How efficiently you use your tennis practice time will have a direct bearing on how quickly you will improve your shots. Going through the motion in practice, without any real thought process, can have a detrimental effect on your game, as you may well be encouraging bad habits.

Always leave the practice courts feeling that you have gained something from the session. You may have worked at your footwork, tried to improve your length, practised your topspin lift or grooved your sliced trajectory etc. Your session should consist of a mixture of general hitting, drills and point play. Whatever you are practising, quality repetition is what eventually perfects the shot. As a result of the hard work put in on the practice court, the shot will become second nature and therefore much more reliable in your match play.

It’s not only the matches that count!

You would be amazed at how often I have heard people state that they are “not too bothered about how hard they work practice, as it’s the matches that count”. BIG
MISTAKE! Your matches will mirror your practice sessions and the mental approach you have in them.

So how do you think you’ve played then?

It’s also very important to have a clear picture of what is happening in your practice session and for that matter, your matches too. You would be amazed at how many
people when asked after playing/practising, have an unrealistic view of how they’ve played. Sometimes completely oblivious to the fact that their length had been appalling or that they looked like they were falling over on every shot. By being aware of what is really going on, you are giving yourself a chance to work at it and improve it.

Boy, did Thomas Muster know how to practise!

Some years back, at an ATP Tournament in Prague, myself and a British Davis Cup player I was coaching, had to share a practice court with Thomas Muster and his partner. I was absolutely bowled over by the intensity of Muster and the way that he worked incredibly
hard in the available half court. He went on to obliterate everyone in the field to take the title and deservedly so. The French Open title soon followed.

How on earth did Jimmy Connors play with a Wilson T2000 racquet?

t2000 racquet

I have often wondered how Jimmy Connors played with the Wilson T2000 racquet. The sweet spot was tiny, the shape unforgiving and stringing them was a hassle. Standard stringing machines required an adapter. Very few pro players used the Wilson T2000 racquet and it’s a credit to Jimbo that he wielded this thing with the perfection that he did. It suited Jimmy’s game because the racquet required you to hit the ball pretty flat, to which he duly obliged.

At the heart of the T2000 was the wire wrapped around the frame. Strings were not threaded through holes like standard frames but tucked around the wire. This helped catapult Jimmy’s shots to great speed.

In my eyes when I think of Jimmy Connors, I think Wilson T2000 not the Slazenger that he used later in his career.

Hitting to Length

Gasquet Backhand

Hitting the ball to good length is so important but often underestimated. With the ball hit to good length you are making it extremely difficult for your opponent to dictate the rally. If you continue to hit to good length and mix in shorter angles your opponent will eventually set you up with a short ball to kill, or even better, make a mistake. The short angles that pull your opponent out of court are far more effective if they are contrasted with good length.

What can I do to improve this?

There are many technical aspects that can play a part in you hitting to good length (which will be covered in other tips) but there is a simple exercise which can help.
When you walk on to the court and start hitting balls in a practice session, don’t just hit the ball to any length, try to hit the ball so it lands on the baseline. Use the baseline as a target. If it helps, imagine that the baseline has drink cans lined up along it and try and knock those things over. If you hit a bit long, don’t worry. A ball that lands 12 inches past the base line is much closer to being excellent length than a ball that lands on the service line. The Swedish junior National team used to employ this mentality during practice and as a result they all hit fabulous length ground strokes.

Should I try to hit really deep in matches?

The more this is practised the easier it will become in matches. If you set very high standards in practice you can afford to lower the bar slightly in matches and still be effective. If the ball is struck hard with heavy topspin the length is not quite so important as a ball that is not. The reason for this is that the ball will bounce with a terrific kick which in itself puts pressure on the opponent. So there’s the first big advantage of hitting with topspin!
Another situation where really deep hitting could be tricky is when you are getting your eye in at the start of a match. It can be easier to get your rhythm first and then progress your length.

To summarize

Set high standards with hitting to length in practice = ability to lower the bar in a match = less risky but effective length

Hit your backhand with purpose – the diamond drill

murray backhand

This can be practiced as a backhand drill or as a visualisation. Place markers in the shape of a diamond as shown in the animation. The task is straight forward. No balls are allowed to land inside the diamond. By keeping your shots outside of the diamond, you increase your chance of dominating your opponent.

Try to adopt the mentality that every ball must be hit with a purpose.

Even if the markers are not present, visualise the diamond and register when your shots fail the test.

Backhand racquet preparation – can your opponent see your racquet tip?

backhand prep

How far you go with your backhand racquet preparation on a drive depends on the situation you are in. A difficult service return might mean that you need to abbreviate your backswing, creating a blunted drive. Of course, you could choose to block or chip the shot. But how far should your racquet go back for a no-compromise drive?

A good exercise is to make sure that the racquet tip can be seen by your opponent when fully loaded. That way you can be sure that you are set up well enough to generate some serious backhand power!

As you can see from Dementieva’s racquet preparation, she is in the classic loaded position showing her opponent her racquet tip. Notice also that her racquet head is higher than the grip in preparation for the racquet drop on the follow-through. Obviously she needs to get the raquet head lower than the ball to lift up with her heavy topspin, but if she took the racquet straight back low and then lifted up, she would lose both rhythm and power in her backhand shot.

Dementieva displays superb organisation and comfort for the shot. Everything is tied in together to accomplish this. The movement, the preparation, the concentration and the follow-through, all work together as one.

Can a New Overgrip Cause Grip Problems?


I recently received an interesting question on one of my blogs but the question is lost deep in the conversations about the wonders of Richard Gasquet’s backhand. Here’s the question and my reply:

“My tennis racket required an overgrip to accommodate the
appropriate diameter for my hands, but this has resulted in a
rounded handle and I can’t really feel the bevels. Will this be a
problem for achieving the right grips, especially for a backhand?”

And my reply:

“Hi there,

This is a really good point.

An overgrip like a Tourna Grip shouldn’t round the bevels too much
but a replacement grip (normal thicker grip) over an existing grip
can round things quite a bit. Some people find that the lack of
reference points (edges/bevels) can make finding the correct grip
position a bit difficult. If it continues to be a problem for you,
one technique is to remove the existing grip and build up the
handle with strips of card (full grip length), fixed in place with
dabs of glue. Assuming the card is the right thickness when the
grip is put back on over the card you’ll have the right size grip
and still have the bevels.

This is tricky but absolutely possible – it’s worth a go if you
can’t get on any more with your racket due to its rounded handle.”

There may be other, better solutions, but I have used this technique many times and it does the trick.