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 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.”
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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