Monday, July 2, 2012

Stroke Production and the Art of Tennis

In one of his earlier books, "Poetry In Motion" is how the late Arthur Ashe referred to Tennis.

I believe he was referring to being able to produce an effortless Tennis stroke, that wins a point or extracts an error from your opponent with seemingly little effort.

While I don't remember exactly all that he wrote about Tennis in his book, I'm thinking of  the continuous and seeming effortless ability of two players while playing, especially in doubles, to be able to produce the basic, fundamental strokes, which during play, looks to be a clear and surprising winner for the opposite team.
Yet, the element of that stroke to which I refer, for all intents and purposes, and to the un-initiate--those who have not been taught, or know the fundamentals of the construct of the stroke--is the ability to prepare early, and to anticipate the next shot, or where to wait for the next shot.

 To some seasoned, and knowledgeable players, as you watch the point unfold, you are invariably watching the ball, but miss the subtleness of what has been observed by the players themselves.

I've concluded through my observation, and play, that while standing wide of the center service mark in doubles when serving,  you put yourself at a distinct disadvantage.  This happens especially if you serve to your opponents backhand who is right handed. Your partner at the net must--by design-- watch his alley, and therefore is often unable to poach on balls that are returned through the middle, which he should do if your opponent's returns are head or shoulder high.  Yes, even on the backhand.

But as Tim Gullicksonthe coach of Pete Sampras says: "Serve it down the "T" they know it's coming, but can't do anything about it." 

In doubles, the art of winning is enhanced, if you can spin the serve low over the net down the "T," twisting it in behind your receiver's partner, even if it's their forehand.  They then have to hit the ball while going away from the net, and while their partner is often in the way, thus he has no place to go but to your forehand, as you approach the net, or to your partner, already at the net ready to poach.

But ask Jimmy Connors, or Peter Sampras, it's only done when you get your first serve in.

"Putting the ball in play" is a different kind of animal. In the deuce court, many feel the need to run around their backhand hoping to hit down the line putting the ball in play. This maneuver puts them way off the court, and sets up a wide angle volley for their opponent if they come to the net.

However, those righthand players, weak on the backhand, who return their serve on the forehand 
usually are not just returning a serve, but going for a winner.  They will be hitting balls higher above the net, when hitting their forehand drive, so expect a lot more pace.

Page Two

However, players who run around their backhand in the deuce court, when the serve is in the middle of the service box, are right in the middle of the court again, so it's an advantage for those quick enough to run around their backhands.
Therefore it's better to create a pattern of serving down the middle, in the ad, or deuce court, and use the wide angle serve to the deuce side, or ad side as a reminder or check to your opponent.  If they want to prevent an Ace stay alert, and observe where the server sets up to serve,

and that's the Art of Tennis as "Poetry in Motion."