2019’s Tennis Goal

After our doubles victory at The Meadow’s tournament in February, I asked my partner Hank Irvine what was “the #1 thing I should work on” to further improve my tennis game.  His answer was interesting.

The Backhand Overhead

His answer was NOT to learn to hit the backhand overhead; but to AVOID hitting the backhand overhead.  His belief is that stroke – and its close cousin, the high backhand volley – are usually defensive shots that inevitably give the opponent(s) a chance to get the ball back in play.

He said, better to take 3-4 extra steps to get yourself in position to hit a forehand overhead/volley –- and put the ball away.  I questioned the logic when playing doubles and being a righty in the deuce court; wouldn’t that put me in the middle of the court and leave my side open?  His answer: put the ball away and you don’t have that problem.

Teaching Pointers

Teaching pro friend Steve Diamond tells the story when he was working with a junior who asked “how to hit the high backhand volley?”.  Steve’s reply was, “Run around it and hit an overhead.”

Steve Diamond

For training, Steve says the key to getting yourself in position to run around the high ball (and to go after a deep lob) is what he calls the “drop step.”  He says, picture an NFL quarterback taking the snap from center … the first thing the righty QB does is pull his right leg back behind him, which turns his body sideways.  Same in tennis.

How To Practice…

According to Steve, “The drill I use most often is to start a student at the center line halfway between net and service line. I say “right foot (for a righty) around the back (or drop step)” and then proceed to hit a lob into the ad service box where they have to hit an overhead. As they get better, I start them a few steps into the deuce court box and do the same and continue to move them over until I feel I’ve reached the maximum distance that they should be able to cover. Some of my best juniors over the years have been able to start on the deuce court sideline and get all the way over to the ad sideline, if I hit the lob high enough!”

Hank Irvine adds to that, saying, if you really study the motion, you will see that the first motion (for a righty) is the left foot going forward 1-2 inches BEFORE taking the step backwards.  That will not only turn the shoulders, but will also give you better balance to push off on the left foot going backwards.

OK, so for all of my friends playing with me this year, you have my permission to point out to me all the times when I did NOT take those extra steps when I could have to hit the high ball with a forehand, not my favorite backhand volley!!

How about you … what is your #1 goal for this year??

PS The 70/75 National Indoors is going on right now in Houston.  For results, click HERE

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5 thoughts on “2019’s Tennis Goal

  1. This is terrific, George. I agree with your mates Hank and Steve. Certainly there come those moments when it’s necessary to reply to a lob only with a backhand volley. But not nearly as often as many players lead themselves to think. After all, the lob is not coming fast. It is floating up in the air. So, per the tip you cited, shuffle over quickly and turn this into an overhead opportunity.

    Joel, as you do so well! thanks, george

  2. So when I hit with George last week, to practice the “run-around” overhead, he stood in the ad court service box and asked me to hit him some short lobs over his shoulder. So I got to practice my short lobs. Never know when that shot will might be needed!

    Jack, and short-lob well you did!! thanks, george

  3. This is most informative and thought provoking, George. I agree 100% with the analysis and comments from Hank and Steve. I write only to point out the the drop step (move right foot back initially to turn the shoulders) is not only an important move for players standing on the deuce side. If you are at net on the ad side this is also a critical initial move that you need to make to cover any lobs over your head on that side as well. But the move is not instinctive (for me at least) and I need to keep practicing it and also keep reminding myself to do it when playing a match where I might be susceptible to the lob. The right foot move is critical because it not only turns the shoulders to put you into position to hit a proper and powerful overhead, but it also allows you to move backward more quickly and efficiently either using a sideways cross step pattern or a sideways shuffle pattern with your feet to be able reach the lob going over your head. (It also facilitates the scissors kick if you have to do that to reach a lob that is still slightly behind you.). Otherwise what you wind up doing is just shuffling your feet backward while maintaining your body square to the net. Not only is running backward like that much slower than moving your feet sideways, but as we get older we can lose our balance and even fall much more easily by trying to run backward like this. And of course you will never be able to reach any decently placed lobs by doing that, so words like “yours” being shouted to your partner to run back diagonally to cover the lob that you cannot reach are more typically what you hear from older players who don’t use the right foot back technique. Good stuff, and thanks for reminding me again what an important move this is when at the net.

    Marty, yes, backing up causes more than tennis problems. thanks, george

  4. Fascinating. I was just told this by a friend a couple of months ago. Never heard of it before so here it is twice in the last six months. Is it because I am just now listening?? Anyway, thanks for reinforcing that!

    Mike, most everything we discuss here, players can say, “Yes, i should remember to do that!” (Like “watch the ball,” or “move your feet,” etc.). George

  5. I have to say that my #1 goal is to stay healthy and avoid injury before Newks in October. Hasn’t been so easy this year!

    Jim, i hope you/we succeed and we see each other there. george

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