Racquet Head Awareness

Tom McCune ready to volley

One of the major differences in strokes between the top players and us club players is that they almost always hit the ball in the center of the racquet.  Why is that and what can you do about it?

“Know Where Your Racquet Head Is”

That is one of the basic teaching points from my sometimes tournament (and former pro) partner Hank Irvine.  He feels, especially on the volley, that the mishits and poor shots come from players not really knowing where their racquet head is on the take back.

Now, one of the real differences between him (and others like him) and me (and others like me) is that they have had a tennis racquet in their hands their whole lives.  And those of us who have come later to the game don’t have that lifelong habit built into our subconscious.

What Can We Do About It?

Like most players, my off/left hand holds the racquet on the throat as I wait to hit the volley.  But that positioning leaves a lot of room for the angle to position the racquet head higher or lower than where I actually think it is (and should be).

One technique that I have been trying is to slide that left hand further up, so that it is actually holding the lower part of the racquet head.  With that positioning, it much easier to “know where your racquet head is” and, therefore are more likely to hit the volley in the middle.

If you have this same issue, how do YOU “handle” it?

Florida Tournament Update

Some further changes to the limited schedule for the 2021 Florida tournaments reported by Mark Taylor, USTA Florida…

     – Jan 25-29, G.T. Bray Park in Bradenton

     – (canceled) Feb 8-12, Meadows CC in Sarasota

     – Feb 17-21, Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor

     – Feb 22-28, St. Pete CC (Cat II)

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12 thoughts on “Racquet Head Awareness

  1. One of the most important things in volleying is eye on the ball and the racquet. Plan the direction of your shot in advance so you don’t have to watch your opponent and lose sight of the ball and the racquet. Roger Federer is the best example of this technique. He watches his racquet even after the ball is hit. By watching the ball and racquet carefully, more shots will be hit in the center of the racquet.

    Michael, boy, am i guilty of “looking where i am hitting” instead of into the racquet! thanks, george

  2. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year George! Started playing at 8. I’m 69 now, never put the racket down, and I just had my second rotator cuff repair surgery, to prove it! ouch!… so I’ll be living my tennis vicariously through your blog for the next several months. Thanks George! My hunt for the perfect sweet spot never ends! The sweet spot for me was always this sacred mystical place where everything sounds just right and feels just right at the moment my racket meets the ball. So I try and be very aware and sensitive to the spot throughout every rally!

    Jim, one of the most rewarding sounds is that solid “thunk” when you DO hit the sweet spot. Recover well and soon! george

  3. George ,
    You have heard Dick Stockton’s tip on volleying and I think it one of the best and most simple tips . Stacks says “put your head and eyes to the level of the on coming ball.”

    Steve, that from a master volleyer! thanks, george

  4. George lately I have found that moving my left hand off the throat and actually on to the strings of the racket face helps me hit a better volley. Doing this helps me in 2 ways: first, it forces the head more out in front; second, it makes it easier to see the ball hit the strings instead of looking up to see where it goes (I am guilty of this too).

    Steve, i am trying to change (“old dog, new tricks”). thanks, george

  5. Two things that work for me are:
    1. Always try to ‘play the ball’ – don’t let the ‘ball play you’. Take the ball on – don’t react to the ball.
    and
    2. Connect with the ball well in front of your body allowing your eyes to move and track the ball onto your racket. You don’t have to turn your head. Eyes can be moved much more quickly than turning a head.

    Allan, the “out in front” advice is truly critical! thanks, george

  6. Another advantage to holding the lower part of the racquet with the off-hand is that you can’t take the racquet head back behind you on the backhand volley, a mistake that’s all-too-common. It makes you hit the volley out in front of you, which is what we’re supposed to do.

    John, right, if you have to let go early, the head is too far behind you already. thanks, george

  7. George, just relaxing your upper body through breathing can help make your strokes feel easier and more fluid. I time my exhale just after the ball hits my opponent’s racquet. At the same time, I am consciously keeping my eyes at the level of the incoming ball. Your racquet should remain in view. If you can’t, then your swing is too big. If you can ” feel” ( as Hank Irvine mentioned), the racquet’s grip with your fingertips, you won’t squeeze the racquet too tightly causing tension. And tension can make you flail, jerk,
    or poke at the ball. In my experience as a tennis teacher, stroke production is based on a “feel” of a particular stroke, not it’s “mechanics”. Repetition helps develop balance, timing, judgement and muscle memory, which in turn, leads to a “feel” for any given stroke. For me, a short backswing,
    using my off hand on backhand volleys, is just enough to get the racquet face behind the approaching ball. There’s no need to generate pace. Keep the racquet still as it and your body moves through the hitting zone. The challenge of hitting the “sweet spot” is never ending, in any particular stroke. Using our eyes to see and track the ball is especially important to avoid volley mishits.

    Glenn, all excellent pointers! Thanks. George

  8. Would love to see some slow motion videos of these “short back-swing” volleys – especially on medium paced to slow balls. (Hint: I’m skeptical.) iPhones have wonderful slo-mo.

    BTW, recently learned that the “period” and “comma” keys allow for frame by frame advancing on YouTube. On Vimeo, “shift+arrow keys” will do the same.

    Kevin, I watched delPotro on a practice court in Miami one year and, while the shots coming at him had pace on the, he had virtually zero motion on his volley! George

  9. Let your head, and your eyes, follow your racket to the ball on your volleys….that’s what I (try!) to learn from watching those Bryan Bros videos on youtube. Nice photo, Tom!

  10. NO take back of the racquet with your arm(s). Turn shoulders only.

    Support the racquet just below the racquet head.

    Keep racquet head above the grip.

    When possible (not always possible when ball is hit higher than head level) try to do what Dick Stockton advises.

    Alan, listening to Dick Stockton is always a good idea! thanks, george

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