Ten-Minute Tennis Tip
by Lauren Stewart
Today’s Lesson: Keeping The Ball Deep
In both singles and doubles, no matter your age or level, one effective strategy to utilize during match play is to keep the ball deep – beyond the service line. By keeping your opponent pinned to the baseline, you are preventing him or her from dictating the point. Your opponent will have a challenging time not only hitting winners but also moving the ball around. During the point, while keeping the ball deep, you can expect a weaker, shorter return or an unforced error. If you do get a weaker, shorter return, you will have the opportunity to “pull the trigger” and dictate the point, but you must have patience and wait for the short ball. The great thing about keeping the ball deep is that you don’t have to be a hard hitter for this strategy to be effective; depth and patience are more important than power and strength. Here are a few tips on how to be successful keeping the ball deep:
You cannot be tight or nervous while implementing this strategy; your muscles and mind have to be loose and relaxed. If you feel like you are getting tight, sing your favorite song in your head in between points. From Beyonce to AC/DC, choose your favorite artist, and get jiggy with it before starting the next point.
Treat the ball like it’s Velcro and allow your racket to hit entirely through your shot. Don’t try to “pop” the ball off your racket too soon. You want a smooth and long follow through. Another way to think of this is to imagine you are hitting five balls in a row instead of just one.
3. AIM HIGH
Raising your net clearance will ensure the depth of the ball. Visualize a three to four-foot window above the net and try to break through the window.
4. LEAN IN
Shift your weight forward on your front foot while hitting your forehand or backhand. By leaning into your shot, you will naturally add more momentum to the ball.
Live ball practice:
For this drill, you will need a hitting partner around your level.
Start the point off of a feed and rally cross-court with your partner. Every time you hit a shot behind the service line, you get one point. When you hit inside the service box or on the service line, the point stops and you lose one point. All shots in the net, wide, or long are also minus one. This adds the match-play pressure to this drill. Continue this drill until you or your partner reaches 15 points. Once someone reaches 15, move to hit down the line.
In your next match, try your best to keep the ball deep, let us know what happens, and remember to always keep it between the lines.
Lauren Stewart is the director of tennis at The Woodlands Country Club in Columbia, S.C. She also teaches tennis at the University of South Carolina, serves as a presidential appointee on the USTA South Carolina Board of Directors, and is the vice chairperson of the USTA SC Tennis Coaches Committee. Stewart, a Columbia native, played varsity tennis at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School for six years. She also is an alumnus from the College of Charleston, where she also played tennis on a full athletic scholarship.