Ideal Tennis Forehand Contact Point And 6 Drills To Master It

Nov 26

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In order to make the most of your forehand technique in tennis, you need to find your ideal forehand contact point because only there will you be able to generate the most power with the least amount of effort.

Hitting the ball at the optimal contact point whether on the forehand or the backhand side also enables you to play with high consistency.

Keep in mind that having good technique does not guarantee having a good contact point; often, we have to use certain drills to help the player feel and find that optimal strike zone.


6 Drills For Finding The Ideal Forehand Contact Point

The following tennis drills can be applied to any forehand grip even though the contact point differs for a continental, eastern, semi-western or western grip.

The only thing that the player needs to focus on is whether he feels good energy transfer and good “contact” with the ball.

Shaheed uses a semi-western forehand grip, so his ideal contact point has to be well in front.

How much in front is based on biomechanics, and the best way to find that point (or strike zone) is through feel.

1. Just swing is a simple exercise where the player just swings the racquet and listens to the swoosh of the racquet. He then tries to feel and hear where the swoosh is so that he gets his first idea of how much in front the contact point is.

Tennis forehand contact point

Stopping with the non-dominant hand helps you become very aware of the contact zone

2. Stop and hit is another simple drill which can be played on the same side of the net.

The player has to stop the ball with his non-dominant hand, let it bounce, and then play it gently with his forehand.

Stopping the ball with the non-dominant (left) hand helps him “feel” the contact zone, and the left hand is crucial for this awareness of the contact zone when the player is hitting his forehand in a regular play.

3. Playing behind the net is a drill that already positions the racquet almost in the ideal forehand contact point and prevents the backswing so the player cannot hit the ball too late.

Once the player gets used to playing almost from the contact point, he steps a few steps back and plays mini tennis but still tries to hit the ball with almost no backswing while making sure he hits the ball well in front in the ideal contact point.

4. Feed from behind is a very effective drill to improve the forehand contact point because the ball keeps going away from the player and there is no way the player can be too late on the ball.

Forehand contact point drill

Feeding from behind is a very effective drill for all skill levels

It also encourages the player to extend more through the contact zone which helps with control and depth of forehand groundstrokes.

Ideal tennis forehand contact point

Just focus on meeting the ball in the contact zone regardless of the speed of the incoming ball

5. Hit in the zone is one of my favorite drills. The goal for the player is to meet the ball in the zone area which is marked by cones or tape just inside the court.

The player needs to stand behind the baseline and make sure he meets the ball in the marked zone.

6. Take the zone with you is the final drill where the player imagines that the zone moves with him and he says yes or no based on his observation of whether he hit the ball in the optimal contact point for his forehand stroke.

This final drill is also an excellent way to take your mind off technique, especially if you have trouble doing that in your practice sessions.

It’s very important that you “switch off” thoughts on the forehand technique or any other technique in order to focus on timing the shot and meeting the ball in the ideal contact point.

After all, eventually you want to play tennis, which is nothing else than playing each ball with a certain intention into a certain target area without any awareness of your technique.

Then your mind is clear, and you can finally play and really enjoy the game.

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39 comments

  1. Mary Lins /

    Tomaz, these all look like great drills for me to try. I have been hearing from a tennis pro at my club that I am using my (right) shoulder too much in my forehand as opposed to my arm … basically I am not getting the right feeling on this stroke! I recently got a total serve and wonder if there is a feeling I can look for with this tool in the forehand to help me. Thanks!

    • Hi Mary,

      Yes, you could actually use the total serve to improve your forehand, just swing it nicely and then repeat the same with the racquet.

      I also suggest you do the minimum effort drill for 5 minutes at the start of each session – and just look for the most comfortable way of playing.

      • Mary Lins /

        Thank you Tomaz for suggesting and linking me up with the minimum effort drill. I will incorporate this into my practice sessions. I think that my biggest fault right now is too much tension in my body…as I end up with a very sore arm (especially whatever the muscle is inside the elbow joint) after only hitting drills for an hour. After I miss the correct contact point and spray balls all over, I get tense!

        • poida /

          Well now, Oscar W. says, hit across the ball, deflect it, Vic B. says, no, why would you swing east to west (right handed player) when the court runs north to south….no wonder people quit tennis, so called “renowned” coaches can’t even agree on a basic swing path! This is crazy! And we haven’t even addressed contact points, contact zones – upper register, mid register, and low register, grips and swing shapes, footwork and stances, bodywork – angular vs. linear, and racket work – closed, open face, prontation, no pronation, supination, and on and on and on….. Good luck to anyone trying to get better at tennis!

          • Tomaz /

            And yet there are millions of people playing tennis AND enjoying it while they are completely oblivious to all these theories.

            They just to put the ball somewhere and make it spin in the process (or not at all) and all the technique develops subconsciously.

            Sure, not to the pro level but still enough to be able to enjoy tennis.

    • poida /

      The contact point is not the same depending on where you want to hit the ball, these drills do not address that!

  2. Dear Tomaz,

    This is very inspiring – big love for the game your giving to your students is obvious in your videos!
    Keep up with the good work – I find it very inspiring.

    I’ll take my zone with me during my morning training tomorrow. It reminds me Aikido technique of extending Ki in hara point, and training one pointed attention all the time.

    Very respectfully <3
    Misha

  3. Hi Tomaz,
    it is always a pleasure to see how creative you are! For me you are the best in the internet! Keep doing this job for us all who love the sport as you do…
    Peter

  4. I saw the footwork drills you did with your oldest daughter, what I do to keep moving my feet is saying to myself, 1-2 Cha Cha Cha…this keeps me dancing and in a rhythm.

    Would also like to know more info. regarding doubles strategy/technique and using more angles.

    THX.

    Georgia

    • Not my daughter ;), but thanks for the comments. I’ll keep your questions in mind for future articles.

  5. Hi Tomaz, thanks for sharing this latest FH update. Very helpful for both coaches and players..and parents. As you know, there us MUCH confusion in the world of coaching… on and offline. What do you make of the following from Oscar W.?

    Play Like the Pros
     
    What is wrong with the idea, on the forehand, of turning the body and the feet sideways, taking the racquet back early, stepping into the shot, and following the line of the ball?
     
    Simply, everything.
     
    The reason why the modern forehand is naturally open-stance is two-fold:  1) the open stance keeps the hand closer to the ball, making it easier to find it. Imagine turning sideways similarly to shake hands with another person. You would be unbalanced and reaching uncomfortably across your body for his hand.
     
    2) The modern forehand is circular, across the body, not in the direction of your shot. This makes the contact more of a brush, where you spin the ball and feel it longer, thus having more control than on the straight through-the-ball stroke.
     
    Beyond that, there is a lot less stress on the lower back, hip, knee and ankle.
     
    Tracking the ball with the racquet in front, just like the pros, has definite advantages as well. The ball slows down appreciably, 60% from baseline to baseline. When you track the ball with the racquet in front and wait till the ball is near to take a complete swing, you observe and adjust to this slow-down and trajectory of the ball a lot better. Early preparation leads to an early swing decision where you still don’t know your contact point.
     
    Unfortunately, tennis is mainly taught sideways, preparing early, stepping forward and hitting through the ball.
     
    You could call this conventional tennis or baseball tennis, and it will derail your progress.
     
    Give a try to the new techniques and decide.

    • Hi Poida,

      Here are my thoughts on Oscar Wegner:

      I personally believe that Oscar really wants to find a simpler solution for beginners because it is true that most coaches teach them closed stance in the wrong way.

      Their teaching is way too mechanical especially since they teach “racquet back” instead of “turn” and insist on stiff long follow-through rather than hitting through the ball and CONTINUING in a smooth way into the follow-through that goes to the side.

      So I think Oscar wants to help people start tennis in a more easy way and I agree that his approach of an open stance forehand is more natural from the start.

      I personally teach way less technique with beginners and have them rally much more on mini tennis because the biggest problem of beginners is NOT technique but BALL JUDGMENT, TIMING, FEEL and COORDINATION of many body parts which includes movement and hitting.

      By teaching technique with feeding you are not developing the above skills!

      I allow beginners to use closed or open stance at the start but will emphasize closed stance eventually and make sure they feel very balanced in it and that they do have a good extension through the ball.

      Open stance tends to spoil so many things for beginners because they tend to overrotate and not hit the ball cleanly.

      To conclude, take a look at Djokovic, Federer and Dimitrov warming up.

      They play in a way that is the most comfortable for them and you will see that unconsciously they choose the closed stance forehand very often, probably more often than open stance.

      The ball is in your court. ;)

      • Hi Tomaz, thanks for your excellent followup! The key issues in this discussion seem to center around 1) over rotation and 2) extension through the ball. Oscar seems to be saying extention is not the way pros hit the ball vs. pulling across the ball to create spin and power using body rotation vs. linear forces. This is to me, both as a coach and player where tennis instruction has led to great confusion and conflicted learning. The Braden school and Wegner school do not see eye-to-eye on how to hit the FH let alone teach how to hit the ball on the FH. Then there is this whole idea of “the double bend” and fixed/locked wrist at contact. Seems that FH coaching is lost in a land of technical confusion LOL

        I would love to get to the bottom of this and get clarity on this FH confusion once and for all. :-)

        Great conversation…ball in your court :-).

        • If you look at the above videos, all three players have very long extensions through the contact the zone.

          I believe the confusion starts because some coaches look at the pros in EXTREME match play situations where they need to adjust, where they are using maximum power and their extraordinary talent to produce shots under pressure.

          Then they analyze this technique and want to teach beginners that way. ;)

          In my opinion, to see the foundation of all tennis technique, you need to look at the pros only when warming up – and that’s you can see above.

          This is their foundation based on which they then build more complex variations of the stroke.

          • Hi Tomaz, at the end of the day, here’s where I think the FH confusion is rooted in the coaching community:

            from Oscar W:

            2) ….The modern forehand is circular, across the body, not in the direction of your shot. This makes the contact more of a brush, where you spin the ball and feel it longer, thus having more control than on the straight through-the-ball stroke.

            the key phrase:

            “across the body, not in the direction of your shot”

            Your thoughts?

          • My thought is this: we see what we believe.

            Oscar can state that because we can find examples when that is true. But because that is LIMITING belief, he will only notice instances where his claim is true.

            Another coach might only notice instances where players extend through the strike zone and claim that that is the right way.

            But the reality is nor black nor white.

            Obviously the 3 players above are extending in the direction in the shot, are they not? I mean, it cannot get more obvious and visual than that…

            The real question is what comes first – the “more straight” line or the “pull across”?

            I believe it is the straight line because a beginning player cannot time the ball well and therefore needs to extend his contact zone in order to make good contact.

            That becomes the foundation of all strokes – even at later stages.

            Also, in my experience, the most accurate players on the tour (or rec players or juniors) are the ones with the longest strike zone, for example Agassi, Nalbandian, Djokovic, etc.

            Just observe their strokes in super slow motion… Open your eyes and stay away from any “black or white” thinking and you’ll see what really goes on.

            The beliefs blind our eyes and minds

      • “Open stance tends to spoil so many things for beginners because they tend to overrotate and not hit the ball cleanly”.

        YES! :-)

        Regarding mini tennis I have used this and continue to use it ..often with progressive slower balls to help players learn to rally but have found the mistakes around timing and balance don’t improve easily without drills to learn good form. They mishit and push…racket work, footwork, and body work all out of syc.

        What are you thoughts on how to manage this…drills and exercises to learn correct feel make such a big difference! :-)

        Thanks for sharing your innovative approaches and thoughts on coaching confusion that messes up the joy of learning and playing tennis! :-)

        • Best way to improve timing with beginners is to limit their backswing – like you see Shaheed doing above with the net “obstructing” drill and then playing from point of contact.

          When you increase the distance to midcourt, encourage the players to use more of their body than arm to create more force.

          But usually it takes time so their is no magic bullet.

    • Dremynx /

      I did learned tennis from Oscar Wegner DVDs and book almost exclusively about 5 years ago when I was 40 without any coaching. His method seems to be simplistic but it does works for me and most of us. Eventhough he teaches to hit with open stance you can naturally switch to close stance when the situation calls for it. Those who were taught to hit with close stance mostly won’t be comfortable hitting with open stance. From my observation on the courts, I can say I have progressed a lot faster than those who start learning at same time and train more frequently with conventional coaching. I always see all those new students were taught by this coach to take two side steps and then turn side way to hit the ball even for 4 year old kid from the beginning. Just imagine when this small kid try to rally he will do two side steps even the ball is just right in front of him. I don’t think his method is only meant for beginners, he also produce DVDs for advance player.

      • Thanks for sharing, Dremynx.

        But as you can see even from your point of view, it becomes an argument closed vs open stance – but the fact is that both are correct and both must be taught.

        And as I mentioned before, I believe Oscar teaches open stance and his simplistic method MOSTLY to COUNTER what old school teachers do.

        You did not progress faster because you were taught open stance but because “they” were taught closed stance incorrectly.

        Most of you who are against closed stance wrongly assume that it is taught like you have seen on most US courts – racquet back, feet sideways, etc.

        I assure you that in Europe most coaches do not teach closed stance that way – hence you see perfectly executed closed stance from three European players above.

        In my view, both stances need to be taught and polished from the early beginning but I know from 20 years of experience that focusing mostly on open stance with beginners causes more problems than it gives benefits.

        Once you become more advanced, you are forced to play open stance because of time pressure so the open stance has to be worked on a lot – especially since 90% of the players do not perform it correctly. I will explain this in one of my future articles.

        • Agree Tomaz 1000%! The way the FH has been taught in the US is a disaster..very closed minded and mechanical. Can you do a quick video on correct way to learn closed stance FH emphasing the “fell” aspects of the complete stroke, especially timing weight transfer and getting the loop right.

          There seems to be much confusion around the loop and how it should “feel”. Are there images and exercises that you use and have found work well to help learn correct loop feel start to finish without over thinking technique?

          BTW…The contact point exercise of using the left hand to stop the ball and then hit is excellent! Used it yesterday with a student and it made an immediate improvement…. AND …the student LOVED the drill and wants to make it a regular part of next lessons :-)

          • I’ll include this in the upcoming Effortless Forehand video course. Stay in touch!

  6. Luis Vazquez /

    I love your tips!!!!!!!!

  7. The left hand drill (touch the ball with left hand) is almost the same as what I learned 30 years ago. My coach told me use my left hand and left foot to determine the contact zone. Ideally, the contact zone should be somewhere where your left hand and left foot points to.

    Once you apply this into your shot, the zone will be with you most of the time for your forehand rally.

    Tomaz, this is another great video.

  8. Excellent video. Loved it. Very nice easy to follow steps.

    Tomaz, what kind of racket do you use – brand, weight, size, type of
    string and tension ?
    Regards,
    Steve

    • Thanks, Steve.

      I use Wilson BLX Five, it’s a very comfortable racquet, saves my arm. ;)

      I prefer to use Signum Pro strings, Micronite combined with a polyester string. My tension is around 25 kg usually.

  9. Great drill Tomaz, we tried it today with my young daughter. We did all drills, forehand and backhand. The net drill was especially successful. I would say immediate improvement 20%.
    Keep up the good work.

  10. Hi Tomaz,

    Again great work! I have 2 observations:

    1. the comment on Oscar about the close stance, you’re partially right because the closed stance used on the video’s by Novak,…is only because the shots are coming to them (body) and you see especially with Novak it’s almost always a semi-closed or semi-open stance.

    2. the contact point in front of the body is correct for the modern grips eastern to western forehand grips. But with the continental and semi-continental(old school) forehand grips the contactpoint is not in front but more beside the body (closed stance).

    summary: the optimal contact point (moment, height and distance) is always in relation with the grip that is used and the intention of the shot that is chosen

    • Hi Walter,

      1. The stance used by Novak, Federer and everyone else who plays tennis well, is the stance that is the most comfortable and efficient for a certain type of incoming ball.

      There are no rules – there is no Oscar Wegner rule that you should play open stance on every ball because that’s “correct” and there is no rule that you should play closed stance because that’s “correct”.

      The players above use the stance that is the most efficient and I pointed out that they choose the closed stance mostly in the rally situation.

      Yes, the ball is coming at them and that is the foundation of all technique – mastering first the “easy” ball. And that foundation as it is evident is the closed stance even at the highest level.

      2. It will be 2014 soon so old school continental forehands should be obsolete by now. There’s no point discussing them at all.

      Eastern forehand also has a contact point in front of the body and that’s all that matters for a good energy transfer into the ball.

      Here’s Sampras’ eastern forehand with a contact well in front:

      So regardless of the grip, the player needs to hit the ball in front of the body.

      How much in front for each grip comes down to feeling the best energy transfer into the ball and feeling the most efficient swing.

      How much more to the side is a matter of personal style – Sampras played his eastern forehand very close to his body.

      • Thanks Tomaz for your reply.

        1. I agree with you that the foundation is the closed stance, but I agree more with you on your comment that the player will take the stance that gives him/her the best control/output ratio. And therefore it must not be but can be the open stance…

        2.I also agree that the old school grips are obsolete to players educated in the ‘new’ age :-)), but still I see some little kids and more of adult beginners and a lot old generation adults with the old school grips.
        The point is, they hear a lot of ‘meat the ball in front of you’ and when they do, the ball goes very high, mostly to the fence on the other side… ;-)

        I’m still a big fan of you!!

  11. Dear Tomaz,
    I wanted to ask if you could create the same post for the backhand.
    Sincerely,
    Ryan

  12. I like your youtube clips and your tips in your website. It helped a lot on my tennis. Thank you!

    I have a question, when a faster ball is coming, how to maintain regular swing speed or how to start swing earlier? Any tips.

    Now I answer with “harder” swing when faster ball coming. I want to change this habit.

    Thank you again.

    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      You need to start your swing very early towards the ball and keep it slow at the same time.

      Try and exaggerate a few times by already waiting with the racquet back when the ball starts going towards you. See if you can keep a slow swing in this case.

      Then progress to a normal preparation and see if you can find it again by adjusting your swing speed.

  13. David /

    Can you apply the tennis forhand contact drills for the backhand as well?

    Thanks,
    David

    • Tomaz /

      Yes, you can apply it but keep in mind that the contact point for the two-handed backhand is slightly more closer to the body.

      The contact zone for the one-handed backhand though is basically the same as for the forehand.

  14. Maurice /

    Hi Tomaz,
    Very nice drills to locate and repeat the contact point. One of the mistakes I make a lot, especially during matches is “focus on the ball”.
    For some reason during warming up I have a good focus and feeling of the ball. But during the game I seem to be assuming already where the ball will end up and my focus goes to the court and my opponent. Basically to look where I will hit/place the ball. In the mean time the ball trajectory has changed slightly off course (wind, clay, you name it …) and I misshit or have the feeling that I’m not good on the ball. I’ve been kicking myself for this hundreds of times but I just can’t seem to stick to it. I want to look up too many times. Do you have a drill or remedy for my behavior ?

    Many thx,
    Maurice

    • Tomaz /

      Hi Maurice,

      In a way, you’ve already responded to yourself: you are assuming that the ball will end up at one place but then in reality it ends at another therefore you don’t contact it well.

      So your assumption is not right – so simply don’t trust it and don’t do it. Be aware of the price you pay for that.

      Secondly, practice keeping your eyes and MIND at the ball. Note that the reason why your eyes leave the contact point is because your mind races ahead.

      So first you need to control your mind and STAY at the contact until you complete the shot. You need to practice that many times when you just rally and don’t play for points in order to create a habit.

      Then play practice points with a friend with the single goal of keeping your eyes and mind on the ball.

      It is not an easy task and it’s best to decide that for example this season you’ll be working on it every day. It won’t improve in three training sessions but it will in 3 months if you keep at it.

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