4 Reasons Why Recreational Players Cannot Have Perfect Tennis Technique
My tennis experience convinces me that it's almost impossible for recreational players to develop good tennis technique in a competitive tennis situation.
(You can develop good technique if someone feeds the same shot to you repeatedly.)
These are the 4 main reasons why:
1. Club players start playing points before they can hit the ball well in a correct way. This means before they have control of direction, height, depth, spin and speed.
If you play points too early, you will worry only about getting the ball in or about hitting it fast, and you will pay no attention to whether your stroke feels comfortable!
Winning the point blinds you to the signals from your body telling you that the movement is uncomfortable or maybe even painful.
When you remain deaf to these signals for a long time and keep hitting the ball that way just to win the point, your body eventually stores the movement and thus incorrect technique.
2. Recreational players are taught incorrectly at the beginning. Perhaps the player was taught how to hit the ball but with incorrect form.
The player trusted the teacher (or the book, video or another model) MORE than the feelings of his body, so he forced the body to store the movement (technique), which is then almost impossible to change.
3. Recreational players don't know HOW you must hit the ball to have control and power.
Some players just want more power … and more power, not knowing that to PLAY tennis effectively your shots also need spin, direction and height (depth). So they just continue bashing the ball and looking for more power.
Again, they store the wrong movement, which, with more repetitions, just becomes more ingrained.
4. Their ball judgment, balance, distance judgment and reaction skills are not good enough to position themselves at the perfect distance from the ball and swing at the right moment!
Therefore, they hit the ball too close to their body, too far from their body, too high, too low, too early, or too late. These mistakes force the player to adapt their body movement (technique) in order to meet the ball with the strings and make the shot.
Surely you have seen Rafael Nadal or other players following through over their head on a forehand. That is not some special technique.
That is just what they must do to make up for being LATE on a shot, what they must do to hit the ball with spin and get it over the net when they are late.
Check how Kim Clijsters hits a forehand in this video. You probably wouldn't call this a very good technique and yet she was forced to move the racquet that way because she was late on the ball.
This is the MAIN reason why club players CANNOT develop such good technique as the pros.
Recreational players in general do not have such good ball judgment, distance judgment and coordination skills as the pros.
But if you have played ball sports for many years, then you have the ability to judge the ball and distances well, and you have good timing to swing at the ball.
My friend Urban and I were both involved in many sports before we first hit a tennis ball: table tennis, soccer, basketball, volleyball and other games that children play.
I started playing table tennis at 7 and started playing tennis at 15. I already had many fine motor skills by then which enabled me to learn good tennis technique very quickly.
Check the videos below of my friend Urban and me and our tennis form.
Neither of us has EVER received any tennis lessons. We were not taught by a tennis coach.
We learned by:
1. WATCHING the technique of pros and other players and trying to imitate / copy the fundamental movement / motion.
2. HITTING the ball thousands of times. I often played more than 3 hours per DAY without playing points. I believe my rally / points ratio was around 9:1 for the first 5 years of playing tennis.
That doesn't mean that I played only straight to my partner. We often stretched each other, played to corners, came to the net but we didn't keep score.
There was no pressure and thus no tension. This resulted in fluid shots and good tennis technique.
3. BEING AWARE of the body signals - discomfort / comfort, power / weak feeling, good control / poor control, good weight transfer / poor weight transfer, balance / imbalance, tight muscles / loose muscles and so on.
By paying attention to these signals, you send the feedback to the brain, which then makes adjustments in body coordination to improve the current state.
You can see that our technique is not different from tennis professionals. Yes, they are better hitters and better players, but that isn't because they have better technique.
It's because they hit more balls than we do, have even better feel for the ball than we do, were pushed to the limits by playing tougher opponents, started to play earlier, have better ball judgment, have better anticipation, are stronger, faster and have better stamina, have played more matches and have much more experience.
The minor technical weaknesses in my friend's shots and mine (e.g., less-than-ideal weight transfer into the ball and shorter straight racquet path through the ball) would most likely disappear if we were to practice as much as the pros.
The goal of the above videos is to show you that you do not need any instruction to develop almost perfect tennis technique.
But what you DO need in order for your body and brain to coordinate and move your body parts with such fine movements, is a large database of motor programs in your memory.
Simply said, you need to have been playing many other sports for many years so that you develop good balance, ball judgment, hand-eye coordination, fine foot, arm and hand movements and so on.
Then you can position yourself at the right place, at the right time and swing at the right moment, which enables you to hit the ball with good technique.
Tennis is a playing game not a technical game. Perfect tennis form doesn't give you any points in tennis. It's only a tool for hitting the ball better.
The fastest and most natural way to learn tennis technique is by watching tennis videos and copying the fundamentals of a good model.
These fundamental movements (technique) will then refine automatically as you hit thousands of balls in different situations and at different levels of difficulty.
This process of refining your technique and ball striking will be faster and more efficient if you do not play points. By avoiding that pressure, you avoid body tension and become aware of the signals of comfort and energy efficiency in your movements.
Unless you have good skills at ball and distance judgment, coordination, anticipation, flexibility, reaction, balance and so forth, you will have to adjust with your body to correct the mistakes of your timing and positioning to the ball, and you will thus lose good tennis technique.
My message to you is: Enjoy the game, and stop worrying about the technique, because you may already be at the limit of your abilities.
Focus on hitting the ball in the correct way (and not with correct technique!) as shown in the Origin of Forehand and Backhand Tennis Technique. Listen to the signals from your body, and avoid playing for points for quite a while.
Try to hit the ball with the least effort and greatest efficiency, and let your body and subconscious mind figure out how to do it.
That way you will develop the best technique and most effective strokes that you are capable of.
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