This is the first in a series of tips I’m directing towards 3.5 and lower players. If you’re a 4.0+, you probably need less tips and more practice/refinement of what you already know 🙂 I hope players find these helpful as I have used them in my own game or to help others with their games in the past.
When I was an avid golfer, I was very fortunate to have been a member of Hank Haney’s Golf Ranch and got to see Hank give several lessons. He had a great ability to simplify complex swing issues. One comment that stuck with me was that the correct swing for each golfer had the right amount of ‘up-and-down’ and the right amount of ‘back-and-forth.’ A simple way of saying that most people get too flat or too vertical at various points in their swing.
I see the same in tennis, particularly with players trying to put a lot of topspin on the ball. Instructors always say, ‘swing low to high.’ That really means the path of the racquet head should be from below the ball to even with the ball at impact to above the ball past impact. It does not mean from the shoe laces to three feet above your head. Yet, that’s what I see in a lot of swings. If the player contacts the ball sufficiently underneath, then the ball travels high and might hit deep in the court and bounce quite high. That happens about one out of ten shots. Many shots go long or worse into the net as a result of too much rolling up the back of the ball. The player thinks they are not getting enough lift and corrects by making the swing even more vertical. This action only makes the problem worse.
In reality, the swing needs more breadth (around the body) and less height. You can get really good spin by brushing up on the ball with a swing path that moves the racquet head upward into impact (with a slightly closed face). More breadth in the swing should get you more depth and some more consistency. At the 3.0 level, it’s rare for rallies to last more than four shots, so a bit more consistency and depth goes a long way to winning more points.
So, if you try to put a lot of spin on the ball and still hit a lot of shots into the net, think about just brushing up on the ball and round the swing out more around your body. In other words, think about hitting through the ball not up on it. If you are aiming over the net and end up in the net, chances are you are rolling up the back of the ball, not hitting through it.
Although I frequently use video analysis of my own swing, there is no substitute for a session with your local USTA professional instructor. Good luck!