Why You Miss Overheads While Moving Backwards

Feb 26

There’s a common mistake that happens when you’re hitting an overhead in tennis and moving backwards – and it’s hitting the ball in the net.

Because you might not play that many overheads in the match, it’s hard to see this pattern.

Perhaps you’re aware that you often miss smashes, but you’re not really seeing the pattern that when you’re moving backwards, you’re hitting into the net.

That’s actually often the case, and here’s why: When you’re moving backwards, you’re going slightly away from the ball.

tennis overhead while moving

Aim deep on those difficult overheads when you’re moving backwards.

For our minds, it’s hard to calculate a different timing compared to hitting a smash when you’re standing still or even slightly moving forward.

So, when you’re going slightly away from the ball, you will hit it a split second later.

But that split second means that your racquet will be moving slightly more forward, and it will be at a steeper angle – hence the ball will end up in the net.

The solution is to always aim deep when you’re hitting an overhead and moving backwards.

That will ensure that, even if your mind makes a small mistake in timing and you hit the ball at a slightly steeper angle, it will still end up in court.

At first, you’ll have to be conscious of this. As soon as you realize that you’re moving backwards while hitting a smash, you’ll need to immediately adjust your targeting and aim deep.

But after many repetitions and training sessions, you’ll store this in your mind and you’ll automatically aim deeper when hitting overheads while moving backwards.

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(6) comments

Steve February 26, 2013


I am 61 years old have been playing for just 2 years. Can you help with a drill to stop me looking to where the shot is going before I even make contact. Its like lifting your head on a golf shot.your tuition is brilliant. Many thanks

    Tomaz February 28, 2013

    Hi Steve,

    In order for you not to look where you intend to hit you’ll need to trust this process.

    You’ll need to know with certainty that the approach of looking at the ball rather than looking at the target gives you better chance of success.

    In order to trust the process, you’ll need to try it quite a few times and not give up too quickly.

    First, the key idea is this: the target is NOT moving while the ball is.

    You need to track the ball with your eyes in order for the brain to guide the racquet acccurately to the ball.

    If you don’t watch the ball well, you’ll mishit it and knowing well where the target is by looking at it doesn’t make any difference.

    Second, the target is very big (half of the court or quarter of the court for example) compared to the small ball you’re trying to hit.

    You don’t need to look at the target because it’s big – you KNOW where it is. Or better said, your subconscious knows where the target is.

    Track the ball and KNOW where you want to play the ball but “aim in your mind”.

    Wait for the ball to “disappear”, then turn your head to see where it went.

    Hit again (would be best if someone was feeding you balls) and adjust based on the previous shot – but keep tracking the ball with eyes while knowing where the target is (aim in your mind rather than with your eyes).

    At first you’ll think you’re lucky when you hit the target but eventually you’ll see that the percentage is very high and you’ll be able to trust this process.

Arturo Hernandez February 27, 2013


Great post! I wonder if hitting into the net also happens because players think they are now vulnerable if they simply get the ball back. When I am lobbed on the backhand side I will often move back and simply try and hit the ball high and deep up the middle so that it gives me time to get back to the net. This reverses the psychology. Suddenly, my opponent thought I was on the defensive and now I am back in an offensive position. Most of the time I end up getting a ball that I can attack. So instead of trying to hit an offensive shot with a regular overhead while moving back it may be better to hit a higher slower overhead and move back to the net.

Is this something you have observed or had experience doing?



    Tomaz February 28, 2013


    Yes, there could be many mental reasons why the players hit in the net and what you describe is certainly one of them. In other words, the player may feel he has to finish the point with the smash no matter how difficult it is.

    Or perhaps he feels that every smash has to be hit very hard no matter how difficult it is.

    So when your mind is clear and you still miss overheads when moving backwards, then the most likely cause is the one I described above…

Rodger Schuester March 5, 2013

I thought that hitting while backing up was a mistake I was making. So, I appreciate the timing discussion and that it may not be the best situation to be in, but it is not a mistake…just need to hit deep. Thanks.

    Wendell April 2, 2013

    Hit the overhead just like a spin serve. This allows the racket to have a much better chance of contact with the ball at the appropriate angle. Hitting the overhead flat…only a small opportunity to hit the exact angle.

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