By Chris Chaffee
Weekly motivational quote: “Everybody believes in something. Most of all, we should believe in ourselves.” — Novak Djokovic.
Our thoughts are powerful. Positive thinking and an inner belief in ourselves can make us endure and overcome adversity.
The overhead smash in tennis requires great timing and is an important shot to master as a put away in tennis. When your opponent sees you at the net, they may hit a lob in the air. At this time you will need to execute an overhead properly.
The first step to the overhead is to have a continental grip (pretend your racket is a hammer and you are hammering down on the net). The second is once you see the ball hit as a lob up in the air you, turn your body and shoulders, so you are sideways. Both arms should “point up to the air,” meaning your racket should be up above your head, with the tip pointing vertically.
Use your non-hitting hand to find and point up to the ball (this will keep your head up and help you cover the ball on the point of contact). Now, being light on your feet take tiny steps until you get under the ball. Once you spot the ball, reach and extend the racket up at the ball (pretend you are throwing your racket on the otherwise of the court).
A key element is to snap your wrist after you hit up on the ball. Loose arm, loose grip, then slightly squeeze on the grip. This will send the ball down the right way. On the overhead smash your momentum should be going up and forward, with a loose fluid follow. Remember don’t drop your head on your overhead and try not to hit the ball down using your chest.
Practicing efficient and effective strokes by shadow swings are meant to be done over and over again, so you can ingrain good habits and movement.
The Training Block: Practice your tennis strokes using shadow swinging. You can perform this method with every tennis shot. Try to do it in front of a mirror or a window, so you can see yourself. Do it slow so you can see the strings on contact and what your stroke looks like at the finish. Then do it fast to work on your racket head speed. Be sure to give yourself enough distance and room so you don’t break anything.
Shadow swinging is important because it can keep your form sharp and improve your shots. The mind is a powerful thing. Visual repetition is key to have every shot feel like second nature in your mind. You don’t even need a tennis ball or a court to do this.
Next week we cover the forehand ground stroke.
Stay healthy and safe.
Chris Chaffee lives in Fryeburg, Maine, and is a teaching tennis professional around the Mount Washington Valley. He is also a JV tennis coach at Kennett High.