The Myth Of Correct Tennis Technique

Nov 22

The biggest myth in tennis is: “If you perform tennis technique correctly, the ball will go over (well).”

This idea then leads to the next one: “If you missed a shot, you did something technically wrong, and your goal is to find out what you did wrong and correct it. If you correct that technical mistake, the ball will go in next time.”

Let’s take a look at Roger Federer’s open stance forehand in both practice and match play in order to start busting that myth…

As you saw, the technique is not really how you move your hips, shoulders, and elbows but rather the path of the racquet through the ball.

“Correct” tennis technique is nothing more than trying to hit the ball with the racquet in a certain way (with a certain intention) and at the same time allowing your body to adjust in the most comfortable and efficient way to each particular situation.

Here’s how Rafael Nadal explains this (taken from Rafa’s autobiography (2011)):

Rafael Nadal backhand

“No ball arrives the same as another; no shot is identical.”

“You  might think that after the millions and millions of balls I’ve hit, I’d have the basic shots of tennis sown up, that reliably hitting a true, smooth, clean shot every time would be a piece of cake.

But it isn’t. Not just because every day you wake up feeling differently, but because every shot is different; every single one.

From the moment the ball is in motion, it comes at you at an infinitesimal number of angles and speeds; with more topspin, or backspin, or flatter, or higher.

The differences might be minute, microscopic, but so are the variations your body makes–shoulders, elbow, wrists, hips, ankles, knees–in every shot.

And there are so many other factors–the weather, the surface, the rival. No ball arrives the same as another; no shot is identical.

So every time you line up to hit a shot, you have to make a split-second judgment as to the trajectory and speed of the ball and then make a split-second decision as to how, how hard, and where you must try to hit the shot back.

And you have to do that over and over, often fifty times in a game, fifteen times in twenty seconds, in continual bursts more than two, three, four hours, and all the time you’re running hard and your nerves are taut; it’s when your coordination is right and the tempo is smooth that the good sensations come, that you are better able to manage the biological and mental feat of striking the ball cleanly in the middle of the racket and aiming it true…

Tennis is, more than most sports, a sport of the mind; it is the player who has those good sensations on the most days, who manages to isolate himself best from his fears and from the ups and downs in morale a match inevitably brings, who ends up [winning].”

(I bolded certain phrases for emphasis.)

Roger Federer’s technique has been dissected and analyzed to the smallest detail, and coaches and players from around the world have been looking to copy every element of his strokes, but what they fail to see is that the perfect tennis technique is simply a consequence of masterful motor skills (reaction, coordination, balance, etc.) and ball judgment skills that have developed through many, many years of training behind closed doors in ways that most tennis coaches have no idea about.

Here’s a rare video that shows you only a glimpse of what Federer worked on for many years in his youth:

Ask yourself how many training sessions like this he and other top pros did in their youth and what kinds of skills they have actually been developing.

Could these skills be the key to great tennis strokes rather than the exactly perfect follow-through above your shoulder?

The Difference Between Form And Technique

In order to have the proper understanding of this article, we need to define the terms “tennis form” and “tennis technique” as I believe most tennis players and coaches think about form when they talk about technique.

(The following are my own definitions of “form” and “technique.”)

A tennis form is an idealized series of movements that complete the whole stroke – from start to finish.

Andre Agassi forehand technique

A perfect tennis form happens in perfect conditions. (Image credit: procomparetennis.net)

This ideal form happens ONLY when two conditions are met:

1. The incoming ball is approaching at ideal height, speed, spin, and distance so that the player is able to move his body in a very comfortable way. In other words, the body moves biomechanically optimally.

2. The outgoing ball hit by the player is hit fairly low above the net, with the average amount of topspin and with moderate speed.

Form is what you so far believe is correct tennis technique, and it is what you see being taught on every tennis instructional website, DVD, and book.

You are led to believe that in order to hit the ball well you need to move your body parts (hips, shoulders, arms, hands, etc.) in the exact same way that the pros do – and do that on every single shot.

Again, what you’re being taught is tennis form (the idealized stroke mechanics) – which is correct only for a small percentage of situations in tennis.

The technique of tennis strokes needs to adapt

The difference between tennis form and tennis technique

So, the main difference between tennis form and tennis technique is that the form is always the same, while the technique adapts to the situation!

The tennis form doesn’t take into account the type of incoming ball:

  • Where does it bounce related to the player, and is it falling or rising when hit?
  • More flat, more spin, or hit with slice?
  • Fast or slow?
  • What is the trajectory – high, low?
  • Going away from the player or coming into the body?
  • Etc.

The form doesn’t take into account the type of outgoing ball – meaning the ball the player wants to play:

  • Low or high trajectory?
  • Fast or slow?
  • Flat, topspin, or slice?
  • Changing direction or not?

The form also doesn’t take into account the conditions the player is in:

  • Is the player standing or moving?
  • If moving, is he moving toward the ball, away from the ball, forward or backward?
  • Does he have time, or is he under time pressure?

Andy Murray’s forehand technique has to adapt to the situation he is in – namely moving backward and sideways.

The form also doesn’t take into account outside conditions, such as wind and court surface – and yet both affect the ball trajectory before and after the bounce.

As you can see, the tennis form is a rigid and very simplified way of presenting a tennis stroke. It does not adjust to the situation although every ball is different and every situation is different.

This is what Rafael Nadal is trying to explain in his description of what it takes to hit the ball well.

That’s why it’s hugely detrimental to your game if you’re obsessed with perfect tennis form and if you do not understand how tennis is a game where one needs to adjust in infinite possible ways to the type of incoming ball, the type of ball you want to send away, your position while hitting the ball, and many other conditions.

The perfect tennis form – which you may have defined as technique until now – works ONLY for one type of incoming ball and one type of outgoing ball. It fails to work when it needs to adapt – which in reality is in every shot in tennis.

The Purpose Of Learning Optimal Tennis Form

Why learn tennis form if technique needs to adapt most of the time?

The main purpose of learning the proper tennis form of all strokes is to:

1. Learn to control the ball.

If you put two tennis beginners on court who have never taken any lessons and have no theoretical idea on how to control the ball, then most likely they cannot exchange 4 balls in a row, let alone have fun rallying with each other.

Two tennis beginners

Tennis beginners need basic instruction on technique so that they can control the ball.

Tennis is an extremely demanding sport and very deceiving when you look at two players who can play well – it looks fairly simple. The reality, as you probably know, is much more complex.

Therefore, the player needs to learn how to move his body – learn the form – in order to control the ball and be able to play.

(Note: There are millions of tennis players around the world who have not taken any tennis lessons ever and can play tennis really well. That’s because they understand the basic principles of how to control the ball, and they have excellent ball judgment skills, hand-eye coordination, body coordination, feel for the ball, and good footwork.

Most of these played another sport where balls are involved (soccer, basketball, volleyball, etc.) for many years and have developed good motor skills that are then transferred to the game of tennis.)

There are 5 ball controls in tennis – direction, depth, height, spin, and speed. By learning proper form, we will discover that this helps us control the ball better.

The problem arises when you believe that form determines the ball’s flight rather than that your intention on how you want to hit the ball (trajectory).

2. Learn to hit the ball biomechanically optimally (the goal is to develop the most controlled force with the least amount of effort).

Again, learning proper form only guides you toward more efficient biomechanics, but unless you develop good motor skills, then you won’t feel the forces and energies inside your body that generate force.

That’s why tennis players spend years developing such motor skills. The only way to actually bring the theoretical tennis form to life and become efficient is to feel your body and feel how you generate controlled force.

The Origin Of The “Perfect Tennis Technique” Myth

Once the player learns basic tennis form, they realize that they can play better.

Unfortunately, because the difference between form and technique (and how adjustments need to happen) is not explained well by coaches (or they don’t know it) and because the player is bombarded only with information about “correct tennis technique”, “modern forehand technique“, etc., the player who is learning tennis starts to believe that the cause of mistakes is incorrect technique and aims to perform the series of movements correctly very consciously every time the ball is coming toward him REGARDLESS of the situation he is in and the type of ball that he is receiving.

Therefore, he is not paying attention to the most important elements of tennis that enable us to play well:

  • judging the ball – meaning reading the speed, height, direction, depth, and spin;
  • moving to the ideal position and looking to get into a rhythm with the ball’s trajectory and speed;
  • having an early and clear intention of what he wants to do with the ball – meaning that he is also totally clear on what kind of trajectory he wants the ball to have;
  • timing the release of energy into the ball (in most cases with the whole body but sometimes also just with the arm);
  • and eventually focusing completely on the moment of contact when he will apply the force and intention from his racquet to the ball.

That is how we play tennis – we read the incoming ball, we move toward it, we program the type of shot we want to play (intention), and we look to time the energy release from the whole body into the incoming ball.

Timing of a tennis forehand stroke

Judging the ball, having a clear intention and timing of the energy release are the keys to hitting the ball well.

But because tennis players falsely believe that their supposedly incorrect mechanical movement is the cause of the mistake, they focus on mechanics rather than judging the ball, playing with feel, and having a clear intention of the shot they want to play.

Their focus on mechanics is then the cause of error!

This is revealed in two ways:

1. Because they focus on mechanics as soon as the ball starts to fly toward them, they don’t read the ball, they don’t position properly, they don’t time it, and they don’t have a clear intention of how they want to play it.

Therefore, they are usually late on the ball, are not positioned properly (meaning often off-balance), and are unable to hit the ball in a coordinated way with the whole body working in harmony. Instead, they just hit it with the usually very tense arm.

2. Because they focus on perfect mechanics, they force rigid tennis form and do not allow the adjustment of the stroke needed for a particular situation.

Even using correct mechanics does not generate effortless power into the ball because the player is not executing the mechanics in the optimal tempo and is not timing the stroke well. In other words, the racquet path may be correct, but it’s not performed with the proper dynamics.

The real difficulty of tennis is actually in judging the ball flight and timing your movements so that you release the force into the ball at the exact right moment while at the same time coordinate the movements of the whole body. It is also in having good enough coordination and dynamic balance that allow the body to make necessary adjustments in a very short time.

These skills are much harder to develop than copying someone’s movements – which is what tennis form is.

But because an average club level player doesn’t have all these skills developed at a high enough level, they misjudge the ball flight, they don’t position properly to the ball, they are not well-balanced when they hit it, and they are unable to track and see the ball clearly before they hit it – and THOSE ARE the most common reasons that a club player misses a shot.

Tennis technique is the least of their problems. Surely you’ve seen many club players with poor technique and excellent playing skills.

And surely you now understand that incorrect tennis form (technique) is not the main reason for missing the shot.

The Cause And The Consequence Misconception

The next biggest misconception when it comes to tennis technique can be seen when the player misses and is aware that he did something “technically wrong”. Perhaps he:

  • made a follow-through across his body or
  • leaned backward while hitting or
  • stretched for the ball or
  • shortened his backswing rather than performing the full turn when preparing or
  • hit the volley with a really tense arm

He then realizes that the “technique” was not correct and is trying to correct it on the next shot – but the “incorrect technique” was nothing other than his mind and body looking for a solution in a situation where something else was wrong.

Poor backhand technique

Correcting the backhand technique of this lady will not solve the problem. The cause of “incorrect” technique is poor ball judgment.

What was wrong was:

  • poor ball judgment,
  • poor timing,
  • no rhythm,
  • poor positioning to the ball, and
  • no clear intention on how to play it – so the late decision produced a jerky movement.
Good recreational tennis backhand

Better ball judgment and therefore better positioning on the ball “causes better backhand technique”.

And in case your timing, ball judgment, movement, and tactics are sound, then it’s very likely that your opponent forced you into a situation where you had to adjust and improvise in order to hit a good shot – exactly as Roger Federer showed us in the video above.

These are the causes of the situation in which the player found himself, and the »incorrect technique« is simply a consequence of being too close or too far from the ball, not timing the ball well, and so on.

But unfortunately, the words “timing in tennis, rhythm, ball judgment, have a clear intention of the trajectory, etc.” are topics you almost never read about on tennis instructional websites, see on DVDs, or read in books. As such, you don’t even know that they exist and that they are the main causes of errors in tennis.

The timing, ball judgment, and other terms mentioned above are also not tangible and are not immediately obvious.

Mechanically moving the arm IS tangible and is something that simple logic can comprehend, which is why everyone clings only to improving their tennis through mechanical corrections of their movements.

I’ve been teaching tennis for over 20 years and have done a massive amount of teaching club players – and their #1 reason for missing the shot is certainly not incorrect tennis technique (except total beginners).

Technique Of Hitting The Ball In A Certain Way – And Not “Technique” Of Moving Body Parts In A Certain Way

What is correct tennis technique then?

If technique is not form – and by now you agree with me that a perfect form does not correct mistakes – then what should you be looking for?

If we look at a top pro like Federer in the above video when he is hitting a ball in different situations, then what are the commonalities?

Roger Federer's forehand technique adapts

Roger Federer’s forehand technique adapts to the situation. What are the commonalities then?

You see by now that his stroke does NOT conform to a rigid form but rather adapts to the situation.

“Of course, pros try to move themselves in such a position that they are able to play their most grooved shots as many times as possible.  Especially in women’s tennis where the incoming balls are very similar, the technique of hitting them is also very similar. But that is because the player positions himself or herself in an ideal position, has almost perfect timing and rhythm, and is able to hit the ball at roughly the same distance and height most of the time.”

I am sure you agree that top players don’t think about doing a unit turn, bending their knees, dropping the racquet under the ball, brushing up on the ball, and finishing over their shoulder. 😉

So, what is in the mind of a pro player when they hit a tennis ball?

What should be in the mind is nothing more than the trajectory (direction, speed, depth, height over net) and the type and amount of rotation they want to apply to the ball.

The exact three elements needed to play tennis that you have already seen.

In order to achieve these elements, the player must strike the ball with the racquet head in a certain way – meaning the racquet head must be moving forward and upward when it comes to a typical baseline shot.

Technique of tennis forehand groundstroke

Roger is trying to hit the ball in a certain way (forward in an arc with topspin) – that’s why the racquet path is almost the same in every case – but the visible “technique” is different.

That is correct technique for a typical forehand or backhand rally shot with topspin – it is the technique of how the racquet hits the ball and not the “technique” of moving body parts in a certain way consciously.

Body parts like hips, shoulders, upper arm, forearm, and wrist all simply conform and adjust in order to accommodate what we want to do with the racquet HEAD to the ball – or even more precise, what we want to do with the strings to the ball.

With the strings, we want to project the ball forward and at the same time hit it with topspin, slice, or flat. (Meaning very low amount of rotation.)

And here is where being loose, relaxed, and playing with feel comes in. The more relaxed you are, the easier your body will conform to the current situation.

So, what you see as tennis technique and you analyze in minute detail is simply a CONSEQUENCE of the player’s intention of simply trying to hit the ball in a certain way.

Hitting the ball in a certain way is the cause of tennis technique – NOT the other way around!

While the common belief is that moving body parts in a certain way (technique) causes the ball to fly in the desired trajectory, it is actually exactly the opposite.

It is our intention of how we want the ball to fly that causes our body to adjust and perform series of movements in order to facilitate that task.

Where this misunderstanding comes from will be explained in a future article…

How To Develop Excellent Technique In A Natural Way

In order to improve your “technique” of strokes – meaning if you want them to be efficient and also look better – you actually need to do something counterintuitive: you need to STOP trying to move body parts in a certain way (unless you are a beginner) in order to match the perfect technique image you have in your mind (most of you have been doing that too much already), and you need to START thinking of the racquet path through the ball and how to feel the most comfortable doing that.

You need to look for the most efficient way of generating force in each specific situation and imagine only the racquet path through the ball while having a very clear intention of the ball’s trajectory.

You need to know ALL elements of the trajectory based on the target you want to hit (BEFORE the ball bounces on your side!):

  • direction,
  • depth,
  • height above the net,
  • amount of spin (or slice), and
  • speed.

With this clear intention, try to time the energy release through your whole body (if the ball is easy) so that you strike the ball in your ideal contact zone and focus completely on the interaction of the strings and the ball.

Eventually you need to stop thinking about the racquet path too and all that should be in your mind is the trajectory of the ball you want to achieve and how the ball rotates exactly along the horizontal axis.

Instead of looking at the “technique” of Tomas Berdych, realize that all that is in his mind is the rhythm and timing he wants to get into before the contact and the trajectory in which he wants to play the ball.

Repeat this process hundreds of times in a single lesson without any pressure of winning points or beating your opponent while you’re looking for comfort and good ball control.

In time, your “technique” – namely how your body parts move – will adjust in the most natural way so that you’ll be able to hit smoothly and with effortless power.

Leave a Comment:

(54) comments

Fay November 23, 2012

Good stuff ! Thanks ~

Reply
IGnacio A. November 23, 2012

Loved this one tomaz!!!! great stuff!! greetings from Argentina

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Charlie November 23, 2012

Hi, cheers from rainy London. I am a student of the game and have recently joined your site. I like your thought process! Have you seen the site, tennis zone ? They talk about that the main focus is the fixed eye focus on the contact zone, and their thesis claims that when you fix your focus on contact zone then you hit and play in the Zone!! I have recently been putting this into my play, and watching federer hit his shots, the main commonality is the fact that he always has his eye on the contact zone!! So, is this the secret in tennis, using the KISS philosophy, ” keep it simple stupid” , if us mere mortals who are club players , simply focus every time on contact zone, plus of course your advice, then maybe we have cracked the magic code of how to become a better player!!?? Love to hear from my fellow passionate payers , cheers , Charlie

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    Arturo Hernandez November 24, 2012

    Charlie,

    Interesting points. I have a picture of my 7 year old daughter hitting a tennis ball. She is clearly just watching the ball. This idea of KISS was addressed by Tomaz indirectly when comparing adults and children. The problem for us adults is to STOP thinking. It requires considerable discipline. But once we can learn to focus on the small things (like the ball and trajectory or contact zone) then things do improve. But this requires practice. Most people think about practicing bigger things but not small things. Maybe we can get Tomaz to write about watching the ball and staying in the contact zone with the eyes. Or knowing him he can point us to one of his many articles.

    Cheers,

    Arturo

    Reply
      Tomaz November 24, 2012

      Will do an article on watching the ball, thanks for the reminder!

      Reply
Jon November 24, 2012

Thanks – good article – look forward to the next one.

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    Arturo Hernandez November 24, 2012

    Tomaz,

    This is a great article! I find it truly novel and helpful to simply get people to do things rather than to think about how they should do them. It works but requires a lot of practice and discipline to let go of the conscious mind.

    Best,

    Arturo

    Reply
john November 24, 2012

well said Tomaz – at last someone putting all this on the web…the swing path is everything…..good work

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    Tomaz November 24, 2012

    Thanks, John. Here’s another simple approach for the long term: learn the mechanics (tennis form), then focus on racquet path (swing path) and eventually let go of that too and simply think how you want the ball to fly (trajectory & spin).

    Reply
Steve November 24, 2012

Very refreshing approach. It makes complete sense to me. Thank you for sharing this insight.

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David November 25, 2012

If I look back how much techniques I have learned after 20 more years in playing tennis, there not much really. Split step, kick serve, top spin, open stance and so on are all “new” to me, but they don’t stop me rally as Tomas Berdych does (or close to what he does). Somehow my body can adjust themselves (moving to the ball, adjust the timing and balance) after years of practice. As a matter of fact, I think the only “technique” I learned was the form – racket back, contact and follow through.

So Tomaz, thank you for sharing these ideas with us.

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    Tomaz November 25, 2012

    You’re welcome, David. Will continue to do so…

    Reply
dodo November 26, 2012

Good article thomas, thank you. I wonder if we shouldn’t just get rid of “the optimal form of tennis” from the start on and teach all students (including beginners) that it’s all about intention of where and how to play a ball rather than focusing on “correct” movements. We can easily do so by creating situations according to the level of each student. cheers, dodo

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    Tomaz November 26, 2012

    Hey Dodo, great to hear from you!

    I think with young kids who can be on court every day and be involved with many other sports, you CAN actually work most of the time just through intention, meaning “play the ball like this”. Technique should be taught mostly visually – and not really mechanically.

    But with adult recreational beginners, I don’t think it would work as well – because they are not as coordinated and don’t spend time developing motor skills. So teaching them basic mechanics in my experience is the right start as it gives them the peace of mind that they are doing things correct. But as I describe in this article and others, they key is to move from mechanics to intention and work a lot on dynamics of the movement.

    Reply
    Steve February 21, 2016

    thanks for the article .. Well said Dodo ! and I would to ad , an almost chaotic discipline… ,(to my best knowledge and understanding), The “Method” of teaching , bye late Harry Hopman … You take 3-4 ambitious Aussies and one coin , on the other side ,( it’s not a Scottish joke ) , and all the rest ” follows – bye” … All the way to sum , many Grand Slams winnings…

    Reply
dodo November 26, 2012

I agree and usually adults are looking for the quick improvement and are not ready to play mini tennis or spend hours in the service box and count to 1000 and backwards. That’s probably also why they don’t improve as much as kids anymore :))) take care my friend

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john November 26, 2012

One other “big” thing in all these Fed forehands…his head is still on contact and eyes fixed on the ball… I had the pleasure of meeting him about 5 years back in Madrid, and I asked him a question…”what is your best tip for anyone starting this game” he said “watch the ball and follow through” ..next question.. so easy and yet so difficult.

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Sud November 28, 2012

Fantastic article and right on the money! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it and hope to put some of this into practice. All the best and keep up the great work! I have a very specific question – I can return a ball just fine as long as I am moving side to side and the ball is coming at near perpendicular angles to the baseline (like hiw the ball is moving in the video of Tomas Berdych above). As soon as the angles become sharp (as in cross-court), and I am at the middle of the baseline, the game starts to breakdown. I know I need to run toward the ball diagonally, but I seem to run diagonally back and am late. Anything you can suggest as cues to do the right thing will be much appreciated.

Kind regards!

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    Tomaz November 28, 2012

    Thanks for the kind feedback, Sud.

    As for hitting balls that are coming at an angle, what happens with your contact point? Is it still the same? Perhaps you’re hitting the ball late or early in general and this situation only accentuates the problem…

    But in general my advice would be to know nothing and simply hit a few hundred of them one after another. You could have a partner play short cross court shots to you and you would play one back to them and one down the line. Then your partner would feed another ball and you would do this again.

    I am sure that after 20 minutes of drilling like this you will adapt and hit the ball better perhaps even without consciously knowing what the reason is.

    Reply
velayudhan November 30, 2012

Really awsome to watch this site and one can become a top class player only by going thro the site and its tutorials, but of course with the feel of the ball.

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PJ December 1, 2012

Once again an excellent article Tomaz! Couldn’t have explained it any better…The points you have brought about analyzing Roger’s technique is wonderful as I too have argued with my friends on the very issue…There isn’t one single tennis technique to get 100% results all the time…that’s why tennis is so exciting. It is a pleasure to read through your wonderful blog! Keep them coming!

Regards,
PJ

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Sms December 2, 2012

Tomaz, I’m not much of a player (very late starter) but have been a long term observer of the game and tried to improve by self analysis and reading. As I was reading this article, I continued to feel ‘de ja vue’ b/c this is exactly what I have felt many times. Once again, you are right on! Thanks.
Ps: do you know of few players who were able to play after tearing their Achilles tendon? Unfortunately that’s what has happened to me and I am trying to find info from sufferers!

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    Tomaz December 4, 2012

    Thanks for the kind words! Yes, I know a couple of people who had Achilles tendon problems but did regain their ability to play tennis. I don’t know the exact procedure but I do know you can get back in the game.

    Reply
Diego Teixeira December 12, 2012

TOMAZ,
I talk for all brazilian (I think :D).
My and their (or theirs?) English is very poor (not all of them)! But I want to express this in your language…

VERY THANKS! WE LOVE YOU! 😀

The Brazilian Country dont have the tennis as a natural culture, so we have learnt very bad through the “MYHT OF CORRECT TENNIS”…

One more time very, very, very thanks.

Keep it on!

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Binh February 6, 2013

I really enjoy reading this. This is so true. Hard to believe but it is a down-on-earth truth. 99 percent about tennis on the web these days are: how to serve like Sampras, how to hit a forehand like Federer, the killer forehand, pronation, etc…This article should be published in tennis magazine. Thanks for a well written and meaning full piece of writing.

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Ahmed May 28, 2013

Thanks Tomaz,
Very interesting post.
The title should be Tennis Training Levels.
You put the road map for going from beginner to middle and advance.
So many players stuck on beginners levels because they think of technique (form) only.
Once they start concentrate on racquet path they move to middle level.
Once they start concentrate on trajectory they move to advanced level.
Summary:
1- Beginners: technique.
2- Middle: racquet.
3- Advanced: trajectory.

Thanks,
Ahmed.

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    David May 29, 2013

    Well, basically regardless of level; we all play tennis with racquet, and some sort of techniques. The difference between beginners, and advanced player; in my view; is CONTROL. For advanced players, they know how (and when) to change ball direction, vary pace, depth and trajectory. For beginners; my experience is that it’s not because of lack of technique, but due to the inability on ball judgment, moving, hand-eye coordination, and other motor skills mentioned by Tomaz.

    Reply
Kannan January 6, 2014

I feel visualization without the ball helps. You can practice correct form over and over again without the ball (in the mind or using the racquet/no ball). Then when dealing with the ball, the body will come up with a good approximation. Have you tried something like this? (Great article/post, thanks for taking the trouble to write such a detailed one)
regards,
kannan, bangalore, india

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    Tomaz January 6, 2014

    Yes, visualization helps a lot, especially if you can watch yourself in the mirror in “real-time”.

    True, we have a foundation technique or what I call form and in the real situation we must allow the body to adjust. The body will WANT to adjust but most club players are so convinced that only “correct” technique is the movement that will hit the ball over, that they don’t allow the body to adjust.

    Reply
      Kannan January 6, 2014

      Yeah, visualizing perfect shots and maybe even certain adapted shots for opening up the mind to variations – the possibilities are endless. The keys as you said is being flexible/relaxed and making form secondary … the mirror is a good tip/ guess it makes the visualization sharper by providing visual feedback from the other side. Thanks again Tomaz 🙂 All the best.

      Reply
    Erik April 21, 2016

    Kannan, I tried visualizing without the ball and shadow stroking several times before hitting a ball today, I intend to practice this more! I’d like to take the perceived smoothness of my shadows swing and use it on real balls eventually. Working hard on the forehand now!

    Reply
Petko June 4, 2014

Hi Tomaz!
Yesterday, on a tennis wall I played without thinking about my legs or my footwork, about the stance – closed or opened and it WORKS! I only strived to stop on time and to hit the ball in front of me. It’s difficult for me to watch the ball all the time, or maybe to be honest I can’t remember to do this when the ball is on the strings. My eyes are somewhere…and I don’t know where! After some time a friend of mine invited to play on a cort and I beet him without the usual diffculty from my previous play with him. I noticed that the misshits occered when I was moving and hitting at the same time. Maybe I miss somethink else or don’t understand?
All the best for You!

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Jason June 5, 2014

Thank you Tomaz, i REALLY APPRECIATE that you are willing to focus on all these issues that are really relevant in trying to produce good tennis ground stroke. Espeacialy the ‘forward and upward’ tecnique of hitting the ball. I have been searching for years in the internet for this information but unfortunately they just keep mentioning about all those ‘form’ and I wasted so much money in restringing and buying new racquets. Hope others will not suffer like me after reading this article.

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Oscar September 5, 2014

Tomaz, you are an amazing coach. Great lesson! You have tremendous insight in tennis and you’re able to put it in words that’s clear and easy to understand. The video of Roger Federer is very helpful, thank you for including it. I’ve been wondering about the same topic for many years but couldn’t articulate it or didn’t know what I was looking for. Now I do. Thanks for filling in a large hole that once was there.

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JonC December 16, 2014

Read this one again – I think it’s the best thing you’ve written. Thinking about the idea of staying sideways on the 1hbh. Being sideways is the position that allows the racquet to extend the farthest out in front. It allows the shoulder to work freely to raise the arm and it also allows some rotation.

So what is the racket path on the 1hbh? It’s an extension of the racquet out, up, and around. If you understand that, the sideways position comes naturalIy. I think most people, myself included, hold back too much and don’t let the racket “go”, don’t let it go out enough. We just don’t understand the proper racket path and make the stroke too small – and thus don’t do much of a take back and don’t get sideways.

This stroke seems to negatively focus the mind on proper form more than any other.

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    Erik April 21, 2016

    It seems to be the challenge in tennis, to explore the racquet path, to think about it in new ways and have a vision for how good it can become. We must have a vision and dare to try discover and understand the racquet path.

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Ahmed July 21, 2015

Thanks Tomaz, you are a tennis revolutionary thinker.

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Hung Phan November 12, 2015

HI Tomaz,
I respectfully disagree on “Technique Of Hitting The Ball In A Certain Way – And Not “Technique” Of Moving Body Parts In A Certain Way”
Let say for by 2H BH, when I open the hip first drop the racket and turn shoulder to hit the ball (correct golf technique) I hit the ball effortlessly with good spin, pace, and precision. So moving the body part correctly definitely helping the racket path and other character of shot (angle, speed, ball feel…).

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    Tomaz November 12, 2015

    I am not sure you understood the point of the article, Hung. What do you perceive it is saying to you?

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Chris December 6, 2015

Great stuff, thank you. I feel I hit best when not thinking consciously about technique, which aligns nicely with your advice.

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Kim December 10, 2015

Amazing I never thought this was even possible to put in words….

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Mohamed December 28, 2015

Best tennis article I have read in years, thanks from South Africa

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Anthony February 21, 2016

Well said Tomaz, will definitely point this article to people that are technique obsessed.

Great article on describing / explaining to people that everyone develops their own technique and that reading the ball, and placing your body in the optimal position is key to creating the opportunity to hit the ball well

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    Tomaz February 22, 2016

    Much appreciated, Anthony, keep in touch.

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Rocky Loccisano February 27, 2016

Very interesting and very well explained.
Would it be safe to say that learning the correct form comes first . Developing the perfect timing and release of force into the ball Takes, as well as consistant correct position of the body before stricking the ball, takes years of work, so by having the right form early on, will allow you to concentrate on developing timing judgement etc.

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    Tomaz February 27, 2016

    Yes, Rocky, the form comes first but from my point of view the goal shouldn’t be to perfect the form but to develop a “pretty” good form and then allow the training with lots of drills develop the rest of the technique unconsciously.

    I hear almost daily from adults that I work with that all they heard from their previous coaches were corrections of technique.

    Now these players almost cannot stop thinking about technical / mechanical corrections because it still echoes in their minds…

    They can’t clear their mind, focus on the trajectory of the ball and possibly some tactics while they play matches because all they heard in tennis lessons were corrections of technique.

    I am just trying to balance that with some common sense… 😉

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Ricardo Ossamu Vatanabe March 26, 2016

Hello I m from Brazil and I d like to thanks your explanation about Techniques from Tennis. Since I start to whatch your videos, I m playing a lot better. It s perfect this article about free form and confort. It s intuitive, but our teachers never tell us about. I remember when I was young I didnt have Lessons and it was very fun play tennis. It s became dificult after I start training. A lot of things to do and to remember. Well again thanks a lot.

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Peter June 2, 2016

Some very good advice here. You have an excellent understanding and explain complex ideas very well. Everything you say makes perfect sense to me.

I am watching Tomas Berdych now (live) playing Novak in the French Open. Seems to me that Tomas has changed his forehand slightly to a more modern forehand like Oscar Wegner promotes. More like Tsonga and less “classical”. In the video above taken in 2012 he seems to want to prepare the racquet as soon as possible taking in back early. Now he holds the racquet facing the ball for longer and adjusts the backswing later.

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Philippe Ghostine Matta August 12, 2016

Find the ball with your hand and your eyes, and finish!….Eye-hand coordination comes first!

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Thieu Nguyen August 23, 2016

I am playing tennis again for the past 4 years after 25 years hiatus (and not doing any physical/athletic activity). I too was focusing too much on stationary technique. But the most difficult part for me is picking up/seeing the ball early and tracking the ball early which I still have trouble to this day. I find that you do no lose your technique as you get older, you lose your ability to see the ball early and that in turn, will lead to your body reacting slower to the coming ball. You, along with Oscar Wegner, truly understand about tennis strokes.

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Sam January 30, 2017

Great article Tomaz.
There is a similar point near the start of Ivan Lendl’s quite old but excellent book “Power Tennis”. He says in effect that the only perfect technique is the one that adapts to help you hit the shot you want to hit from a particular ball. For this reason, he says, all the photos in his book are of him playing in real competitive matches, not him on a photoshoot acting out what perfect technique “should” look like.

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Nik Bains February 20, 2017

This is the best and most accurate article I have read on the myths of tennis development. Thank you for validating so much of what I believe in tennis development.

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Toine March 1, 2017

Thank you Tomaz for this great detailed explaination. So far one of the most interesting point of view about the game of tennis. Respect .

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