Speed not power!

Almost anyone you ask who plays tennis will say they try to hit with power, but in my Tennis Lessons in Paphos, I try to change this perception.

Why? If you listen to tennis commentators, you often hear them talking about players tightening up, especially on the big points.  Think about it.  What’s happening?  They get stressed, they hold the racquet tighter and they try to force the shot.  So, what happens to the flow and shape of the stroke?  It changes. The relaxed, consistent stroke disappears, there’s less spin and bam! The shot goes out or in the net.  This is exactly what happens when you try to add more “power” to a shot and to “muscle” it.  You straighten your arm, grip the racquet tighter and lose the shape of your stroke.

So what can you do?  Change your mindset.  When you want to add power, what do you want the ball to do?  Come on, think for a sec.  Yup.  Make the ball go faster.  So, if you want the ball to go faster, what does it make sense to do?  Make the racquet go faster – accelerate the racquet head speed.

So next time you want to add power to the ball, just think that you want to add speed.  Power can come from the legs.

Let me know how it works for you!

David beats Goliath every time!

Uh? What’s David and Goliath got to do with Tennis and more importantly Tennis Coaching in Paphos? If you remember it’s a story about a normal guy taking on a giant, a great lesson, but for the purposes of this article, I’m more interested in the weapon he used – a sling.

Whenever you’re coaching, you have to choose carefully the words you use to describe how to hit a ball. You don’t push it, but you also don’t just slap it.  You stay with it for a distance and then it flies off and your racquet continues its arc or follow though.  It’s important for the pupil to be able to visualise what they are aiming for and the closest analogy I can think of is a sling.

With a sling, there are two ends held together and the stone, or other projectile, is held in the centre. It is swung in an arc and at some point the other end is released with the stone being flung out at a target. The sling continues on its arc for a distance afterwards. It is a flowing movement (no pauses in the racquets trajectory and always moving in arc, no linear movement). You certainly don’t push or slap the stone.

If you imagine you’re racquet as the sling and feel your racquet as if it is part of your hand, you can watch the ball coming towards you.  You can imagine the ball pushing your racquet back and then, using the racquet to gather up the ball, fling the ball off in the direction you wish it to go, like a sling, and allow the racquet to continue its path.  By visualising the path of your shot and feeling your racquet make the trajectory, you will hit the ball in a similar way to a sling.  The result?  A smooth stroke that is pretty good.

It’s not something you will read in a book (at least not one I’ve read), but I’ve tried it out and my opponents have commented on how good my swing was and, most importantly, my consistency improve.  So, try it out and let me know what you think 🙂

Finding your Zen

Not the right word for you? Ok, but don’t underestimate the importance of relaxation on the tennis court.  This Paphos Tennis Coach is not good at meditation, but has learned the value of relaxing when playing tennis.  Doing it 100% of the time is a work in progress.

Why do you need to relax?  Well if you’re going to get into “the zone” and flow then you need to be relaxed.  Believe me, if you have ever played in “the zone” you’ll be desperate to do so again. To do so, y

English: Tennis ball

English: Tennis ball (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

our world needs to narrow down to the tennis ball, everything else, apart from the feel of your racquet, needs to disappear.  Then it doesn’t matter what noises are around you, whether you are playing in a match, or whether there is wind.  Your body will automatically adjust.  Am I a master at this?  No, but I am getting better at it and by having done it myself, I’m better able to teach others to do it as well.

Also, as I have demonstrated to many of my pupils, if you relax your whole playing arm, your stroke is smoother.  As soon as you tighten up and try to force it, the whole shape of your hitting action changes and your shots get worse.  Ever hear a commentator say,  that a professional tennis player has tightened up at a crucial point? They’ve done exactly that and spoilt their shots.

So how do you find your zen? Everyone is slightly different, but it’s all about being focused and breathing.  You might want to read the Inner Game of Tennis which I have found invaluable. I use a blend of various techniques. If you find it very hard to switch off, then and you may want to consider learning to meditate 😉

Learning to play Tennis on a clay court

The French Open will be starting in a few days, the culmination of a jam packed clay court season on the ATP and WTA tour.  While you’re watching your favourite players, try to see what is different in their style of play and tactics.  If you’ve been brought up on hard courts like me, playing on a clay court is hard at first, but you will grow to love it.  I still can’t slide properly though.  The exact opposite is true of Djokovic, if you watch him, he slides on every surface, even hard courts.  It works for him, but unless you have elastic legs like him, I wouldn’t recommend it on hard courts.

Classic clay court players are of course the Spanish (like the King of Clay Rafael Nadal) and French.  In fact, most of Northern and Southern Europe, apart from the UK, play primarily on clay.  Here in Cyprus, there are not a lot of clay courts (they require a lot of water and maintenance) and those that there are are not in particularly good condition, apart from those at Aphrodite Hills.  If you do have a chance though, it’s worth trying.

So what’s different about clay?  What should you be watching for in what will probably be some very exciting matches at Roland Garros?

– the rallies tend to be longer

– at club level and even at the Open, you will see players waiting for the ball to drop before they hit it, whereas on hard courts you are more likely to hit at the top of the bounce or as it rises once you are in the groove

– there will be more drop shots & lobs

– spin becomes more pronounced because of the friction of the surface, so there’s more topspin & slice

– harder serves get slowed down, so it’s more about placement

– its physically more demanding, keeping the ball in and making your opponent run may work for you

– you’ll see Nadal, Ferrer and many others running around their forehands

– you’ll see most players sliding

That is a very brief summary, but I’ve included below some links to some interesting articles giving a bit more information:


Click here for a pdf article with tips to playing on clay


Español: Rafael Nadal durante la final del tor...

Español: Rafael Nadal durante la final del toreno, en la que se impuso a Roger Federer, que defendía el título logrado en 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What Are Your Goals For 2012?

A green check symbol.

Image via Wikipedia

So, you’ve decided you want to get fit, maybe you have made the decision to take tennis lessons, or to start competing in tournaments.  For all of these, it’s important to set goals – overall ones and then milestones.  Sometimes you aren’t sure though what they should be, what is reasonable.  So, either just bounce your ideas around with a friend, or ask an expert.

I have now laid out my plans for the year in terms of training for tournaments.  Coaching isn’t enough and just playing isn’t enough.  You have to look at all aspects of the game.  For fitness, I have worked out when the tournaments are, so that I know when i need to peak.  I then can work back and see where are the best time to work on preparation and transition to the pre-competitive stage, as well as planning in active rest and complete rest.  I’ve then broken down each week and worked out what I need to work on every day.  Sound like a lot?  It is and I’m sure I won’t stick to it 100%, but hopefully I will keep to it more or less and achieve what I want to achieve.

The same goes for tennis itself.  You need to plan when to work on technique, when to do drills and when to practice playing.  I haven’t even started on the mental side of things.

So what are your goals?