Want To Cure Tennis Elbow? Become Left-Handed!
The Story Of Vejen Emilov
I admit I never considered this possibility until I got an email from Mr. Vejen Emilov. Vejen lives in Turkey, and found my website while looking for tennis instruction.
He bought my beginner videos and realized that he was lacking some basic tennis techniques. Vejen also had tennis elbow pain. He tried all sorts of treatments with no success.
Eventually, he decided to learn to play with his left hand, which was non-dominant. Vejen began practicing against the wall nearly every day for 1 or 2 hours.
He soon decided that he needed a professional to make sure that he didn't repeat the same technical mistakes that caused his tennis elbow problems in his right arm.
Vejen flew from Turkey to Slovenia in September 2008, and spent 2 weeks training with me 4 hours per day - 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.
This article will show you how Vejen improved his game after only 1 month of practicing with his left hand, and how this technique can work for you.
ForehandVejen is a very good visual learner and has been involved with various sports throughout his life. So, ball judgment and learning a new technique was not difficult for him. He picked up clues from watching the pros and my free tennis videos, however, in my opinion, Vejen first overcomplicated his technique.
Obtaining good coordination in the left side of your body when you're an adult is neither easy nor fast. Your left side may have been "sleeping" for many years, and it will take a while to "wake it up".
You'll notice in the first part of the video that Vejen is not moving that well. In fact, I didn't want him to move because his whole concentration was on changing the movement of his arm.
If I give him a more difficult ball his brain will be forced to do double the work - calculating the ball trajectory, coordinating the whole body to get there, AND thinking about correcting the new movement.
This only creates more problems. That's why when someone wants to correct technique, they have to begin in very easy conditions. After Vejen got more comfortable with his new technique, we introduced movement.
The video shows only one drill for the open stance, but we also practiced closed stance, moving forward and backward, and various types of footwork like shuffles, crossover steps, and running to the ball.
BackhandThe usual reasons for tennis elbow pain are:
- Incorrect technique on the backhand side
- Late point of contact (which forces the incorrect technique)
So, the key is to "lock" the arm by extending it completely before the point of contact. A beginner's technique must be simple to allow him/her to meet the ball early enough in front of the body.
By the way, it's also impossible to cure tennis elbow if you don't correct this technical mistake (hitting with the elbow still bent) on the backhand side...
Remember that Vejen is right-handed, so he doesn't feel the left side of his body that well, which is why he tends to rotate his body into the shot to get more power. While that move works in terms of power, it doesn't work in terms of control.
Vejen will eventually improve his feel and timing and won't feel the need to rotate into the shot. He can demonstrate the correct technique - staying sideways through the stroke - well. It will now take some time for him to be able perform that movement in real tennis, where conditions are much more difficult and unpredictable.
VolleyMy approach to teaching the volley is very non-technical. The volley is, in my opinion, the most "feel based" shot. There have to be so many adjustments in a very short time that sticking to a taught form can only limit you.
Sure, there is some basic volley technique, but the player ultimately needs to focus on good feel, good timing, and feeling comfortable while moving and playing at the net.
Vejen already had some basic technique which he developed through watching my videos and other players on TV. Our goal was to simplify the movements and hit the ball nicely in front of the body, thus transferring his body weight into the ball.
Vejen was able to hit good volleys on the shots that were going nicely to him, but had more difficulties handling more challenging balls because he had to coordinate many more muscles and body parts.
ServeThe serve is another stroke which requires the coordination of many body parts, and is thus difficult to master in a short time - especially with your non-dominant arm. Next time you play tennis, try a few serves with your non-dominant arm and see how it feels.
My goal was therefore twofold: I tried to wake up Vejen's left side by using the ball on the rope drill and by throwing balls (and sometimes even the racquet.) Vejen could find his natural coordination much better with physical rather than verbal instruction.
The other goal was to teach Vejen the correct technique for an advanced serve, which includes the Continental grip, hitting the ball with slice, pronation, and other parts of the serve.
The serve was Vejen's main challenge, and while he was quickly able to hit the ball into the court, he was not able to hit the serve correctly (with slice and pronation.)
He did, however, understand how the serve works and how he needed to move the arm and the racquet towards and through the ball. Only, his muscles have not yet received enough repetition, so the movement is not automatic or fluid.
PlayingThe last day of our 2-week training was the test. We wanted to see if Vejen could play tennis from the baseline, starting with the serve and then rallying with groundstrokes.
Final WordsThis was a great experience for both Vejen and myself. Vejen enjoyed our lessons a lot, and I have learned that there are no limits to what you can achieve as long as there is a positive approach, the willingness to try the unknown, and the determination to follow through to the end.
If you want to cure tennis elbow and have tried many different treatments with poor success, then consider learning to play tennis with your non-dominant arm.
While it is not likely that you will be able to reach the same level of tennis that you played before, you will definitely learn enough to enjoy the game and stay connected to this challenging and beautiful sport.