In this day and age, the top pros in tennis are hitting powerful shots on their serves, returns and even off the baseline.
Most of the time, the top pros in tennis can be described as effortless, fluid and explosive.
Meanwhile, at all the other levels of the game – players are struggling with their game. Over my decade long quest to discover what separates the best players in the world from everyone else, I’ve discovered that the top pros have distinct commonalities in their tennis strokes that set them apart from the rest.
What Can The Average Player Do to Improve?
During my decade long journey as a competitive tennis player and now as a coach, I’ve discovered that there are overwhelming similarities in the way that the top pros are hitting the ball. I call these similarities ‘key checkpoints.’
These key technical checkpoints are present in every stroke – from the forehand, backhand to the serve. Ironically, these technical checkpoints are what separates the top players in the world from club players, aspiring junior players and even some collegiate players.
Similar Fundamental Stroke Patterns Despite Style Differences
Although every player on the pro tour has a slightly different game style and even different swings, they all share certain fundamentals on their tennis strokes. These fundamentals are key positions which contribute largely to a player’s ability to generate more power, topspin and accuracy on their shots.
Despite having many differences in background and coaching, all of the top professional players that I’ve examined under slow motion video reveal stunning commonalities in the way they hit the ball.
Using Video to Model the Top ATP & WTA Pros
Players at every level of the game can benefit from seeing themselves play on camera. Most players have a flawed perception of how they believe they are hitting the ball.
In many cases, the player may think that he or she is hitting the ball in a certain way, but in reality they are not actually hitting the ball the way they think they are.
This is because the brain often has an inaccurate visual image of how the stroke is being hit.
Most of the time, players think their strokes look much better, but in reality there may be drastic flaws in their stroke production.
These flaws may prevent them from improving. The only way to accurately diagnose flaws is by first videotaping each stroke to breakdown exactly what elements or hitches may be present in the stroke. Only then, can real improvement begin.
Video can also be used to model the pros as well. Slow motion video of the pros is especially effective in revealing the truths behind what the pros are actually doing. By examining these slow motion videos, players at all other levels of the game can also implement various techniques into their own game.
Commonalities in Stroke Patterns
Take a look at this short clip of a variety of one-handed backhand shots of the pros courtesy of the USTA High Performance center.
Notice that while each player comes from drastically different countries, continents and backgrounds – the shape and overall flow of their backswing is distinctly similar.This is an indication that there are definitely certain movements in tennis that are attributed to producing better and more powerful results.
The key for tennis players at all other levels of the game is to identify what these key positions are, and then try to emulate them into their own game. Most players struggle with improvement, simply because they are never taught these important basic fundamentals.
Tennis Lessons Offer No Guarantee for Improvement
This fact might come as a shock and a disappointment to some players. The reality is that tennis lessons alone do not guarantee improvements or results on the tennis court. Tennis lessons are only effective if the coach is knowledgeable enough to diagnose a player’s bad habits and then simultaneously correct these negative habits.
In addition, the information being taught must be accurate. If the student wishes to compete at a high level of tennis, the student must develop efficient tennis strokes.
In other words, the student must also be taught how to implement pro level strokes into their muscle memory in order to be able to hit with more power, topspin and accuracy.
Most coaches avoid teaching their students high level strokes, simply because most players don’t have the time or commitment to develop pro level strokes.
So, they simply emphasize the strategic part of the game instead. However, it is my opinion that every tennis player can have pro level tennis strokes if they can put in the time required to develop them.
Developing Fundamentals in Your Own Game
As a former junior player, I had the privilege to learn from some of the top coaches in the United States. My coach used to emphasize one concept in particular – ingrain the fundamentals of efficient and adaptable tennis strokes first, then allow the stroke to mature.
What he meant was that before a player can allow their natural swing to emerge, they must first learn to develop the fundamentals of pro level strokes before they can allow their stroke to mature into its very own style.
Too many players get caught up by learning incorrect strokes off the bat, and this causes them to achieve lesser results on the tennis court.
In fact, without a proper foundation of efficient technique in place, a player will be bound for disaster in the long run.
Modeling the Pros Begins with Identifying Key Body Positions
Fundamental elements of the forehand, backhand and serve can be observed in every top professional player on tour. While most players may not have the pure athletic talent of the pros, they can still model certain elements of their strokes.
The pros all share commonalities in their swing patterns for a very distinct reason. This distinct reason is because there are certain body movements or key positions in tennis that simply leads to better results – more power, topspin and accuracy. The pros have simply managed to develop these commonalities, which explains why their shots have much more juice than the average tennis player.
Our goal as mere mortals is to identify these key body positions and then try to emulate these into our own repertoire. Of course, it may be quite a challenge to develop strokes like Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. However, even a small improvement can equal massive results on the tennis court.
Even One Small Change Can Equal Drastically Better Results in Tennis
Think about it. If you could implement just one of the many elements of a pro level forehand, how many more points do you think you could win with the extra topspin or power you may achieve?
The point is, better tennis strokes equal better results in terms of power, accuracy, depth and spin of your shots. Make a conscious effort to always be improving your strokes as well as eliminating your bad habits on the tennis court.
Modeling the Pros – Your Key to Success in Tennis
As I’ve said before, the top pros such as Federer or Andy Murray aren’t necessarily stronger than the average tennis player – they simply have more efficient strokes. A common misconception is that power in tennis is generated by strength or brute force.
While every player is free to develop their own individual style, keep in mind that there are certain fundamentals behind every tennis stroke that must be consciously ingrained in order to reach higher levels of play.
This article was written by Coach Ed of Optimumtennis.net