The Training Block

Columnist 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. (FILE PHOTO)

By Chris Chaffee

Weekly motivational quote: “My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am. I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so called irretrievable defeats into victories.” — Bjorn Borg

What a fantastic quote that can be applied to persevere in life.

The forehand: The forehand groundstroke is an extension of your dominate shoulder that has the racket. It extends out to the ball. When hitting a forehand groundstroke the first thing you want to make sure you have is the proper grip. The semi-western grip is the best grip to use because it generates the most racket head speed. The easiest way to explain this grip is to place the racket face down on the ground. Then pick it up with your dominate hand and slightly turn it down so the strings are “hooded” halfway closed.

Once you see the ball leave the opponent’s racket and is about to cross over the net, shuffle with tiny steps, to where the oncoming ball is going to bounce. Once the ball is about to bounce conduct a unit turn. Meaning turn your hips and shoulders and load on your back foot (righties load on the right leg, lefties load on the left). Your weight should be 80 percent on the back and 20 percent on the front. Do not let your front leg step first or cross into your swing path before contact.

OK, so you are locked in and loaded, the shoulder turn should have helped the dominate shoulder point the butt cap of the racket towards the ball. Acting as a flashlight shining at the ball, the non-dominant shoulder is turned to your forehand side, pointing so you can find the ball. Ready to swing, point the tip of the racket down and let it extend out to the ball. Your swing path is low, forward to high.

When you swing the racket a good thing to keep in mind is to use your whole body to swing. Like you are “throwing” the racket into the ball. You weight should shift and transfer from your loaded side toward your intended target which is the ball. Finish up high above the opposite shoulder to where you are aiming. The follow through is one of the most important things to do.

I see too many people just stopping their swing after they hit the ball, and they loose their racket head speed. Remember keep the backswing short and compact. But keep your racket head speed going. Be aware of a good ready position, too. It will help you be more alert and give you more time. On your toes, loose grip, light on your feet and arms out in front.

Remember, if the ball goes into net, keep your knees bent and let the racket head get below the ball. If the ball goes long, keep your head down and still. Be sure your wrist doesn’t flop up opening the strings.

The Training Block: Visualization. If you can’t find a backboard, wall or get onto a tennis court, then one important training method is simply just watching a tennis match on the TV or the computer. But don’t just sit back and have it on in the background. Have a strong focus and pay close attention to the match. Study a pro player’s strokes, shot selection and footwork in slow motion. It can help not only motivate you to get back on the court, but it also improves your mental game. This is called visualize imprint learning. Most of tennis is mental.

Next week, get ready for the backhand!

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.

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