“Never miss another overhead!”

Rick Barletta
Rick Barletta
That is what Naples friend and teaching pro Rick Barletta heard from Dennis Van Der Meer at his camp several years ago as he told the group about how to hit an overhead so that you make many more than you miss.

The 60 degree Overhead

Van Der Meer’s teaching point was that too many of us swing too hard, pulling our head, body, and ball DOWN into the net. His solution: stop your overhead swing at the 60 degree angle (see Rick demonstrating).

Now, I believe it is not possible to actually stop your swing there; but the concept is to THINK that… and you won’t over-swing. It also reinforces another belief of mine: you win many more overhead points by PLACEMENT not by power.rick 90

In addition to other overhead basics (turn sideways, let the short ones bounce, and watch something on the ball), I have been trying this concept and it seems to work.

Any other overhead tips?

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6 thoughts on ““Never miss another overhead!”

  1. That’s kind of what I always taught also. Much more like a badminton clear or overhead. This also enables you to get balls that are behind your head when you do a scissor kick. When teaching the girls I used to teach, I would hit them short overheads, almost on top of the net, and they were to try to bounce the ball over the fence without hitting the net on the follow through. Really gets the snap into it.

    Fred – good drill. hope you are healing well. george

  2. I think the fundamental precept behind this tip is sound, but I question whether it is necessary to try to engage in the 60 degree mechanics when the same result can be achieved just by learning not to swing at the ball so hard when you are going for overhead placement.

    Chris Evert won a lot of tournaments hitting, basically, a 40 mph overhead that was always well directed so as to be out of reach of the opposing player and by never overhitting. In short, placement usually trumps power when it comes to overheads.

    I have always felt this to be self evident, since the great advantages of the overhead are (1) you are hitting from a location typically close to the net, and (2) because the ball is so high over the net when you hit it there are a maximum number of angles that you can use to hit the ball into to keep it out of reach of the opponent. But with those advantages come some geometric disadvantages. That is, in order to take advantage of the geometry, you have to be able to control where the placed overhead lands, and it becomes more difficult to do that the harder you try to hit the ball.

    Therefore, if you are going mainly for placement, and 99% of the time that it is exactly what you should be doing with a smash, it is crazy to try to hit an overhead too hard because you are just making it more difficult for yourself to get the ball in the court at the spot that you have picked to keep the ball away from your opponent. Not only is hitting too hard unnecessary if your placement is good, but you are running the risk that hitting the ball just a slight bit too hard will push it wide or long and thereby defeat the purpose of going for placement.

    So, if the 60 degree tip works for some people, who am I to question it? But I really think just paying attention to your court positioning on an overhead and learning how to moderate your power when a placement shot is the more obviously effective tool is all that is necessary.

    Marty – thanks. george

  3. I remember receiving the same tip during a week spent at the Vic Braden Academy. The only difference is that Vic said the angle was to be 45 degrees. He called it the “Law of the 45’s” and noted that it was a great way to hit the first few smashes of the day when you were still a bit stiff and nervous. The 45 degree smash is also used to teach new platform tennis players how to take lobs out of the air.

    Tom – i like that and think the 45 degree is a better “goal.” thanks. george

  4. Another basic mistake is holding the racquet too far from your head when you are about to unload. Most of us when in the “trophy” position and about to strike the ball are keeping the head of the racquet to far away and out (for many they have an almost 90 degree angle at the elbow) – if you bend your elbow and bring the racquet head closer to your head (close to 45 degrees) when you are in the trophy position you will find a huge improvement in control and power as you unload to hit the ball.
    Saw this reinforced at the last ITF coaching conference – and if you look at videos of players with great overheads – Sampras, Noah, Federer they all bring the racquet head close in and bend that elbow.

    Michel – good pointer. thanks. george

  5. Good comments.

    Pros at Van Der Meer also suggested pointing at the ball with your off hand, which helps keep your head up and avoids pulling ball into the net. Also, they pointed out that if possible you should take advantage of the height of the ball and hit firmly down on it, not slice it.

    Phil – … all of which you do! thanks. george

  6. Similar to what Michel says, Newk et al in an overhead drill on Friday at the end of fantasy week 2 years ago recommended “pointing” at the ball with your non hitting elbow so that you could basically hold (or at least touch) the head of the racket with that hand. This basically means bending BOTH elbows and brings the racket head into a good position to move into the easy snap at contact in addition to making you tilt your shoulders a bit. TOTALLY agree with not trying to hit it hard – hit it with good solid contact at a big target; the pace will happen by itself if you get the strings on it. In other words, do as I say – not as I do ;-|

    Geoff – Good tip… point with the elbow, not the index finger. thanks, george.

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