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Forehand Groundstroke

GRIP

Eastern Forehand GripWe recommend that the eastern forehand grip is primarily used for young players learning the game. With this grip the palm is placed behind the handle with the thumb wrapped around the grip.

As players progress they may start to use the semi-western forehand grip which allows them to hit with more pace - and is great for dealing with the higher bouncing ball. It allows the player to accelerate the racket head from low to high in order to generate spin. With this grip the palm is placed more underneath the handle.

Players who regularly play on slow, high bouncing surfaces (such as clay) may move their grip further round the racket to the western forehand grip. This is great for racket head speed on high balls and enables the player to hit with aggressive topspin. This grip, however, does have its limitations in that players find it harder to play against the lower, wider balls. While this grip works well for some older players, we do not recommend that it is taught to the young, developing player.

 

1. READY POSITION

The ready position is the first thing that you should look for when analysing any stroke technically. A good ready position allows a player to execute the forehand efficiently and on balance, yet its importance is often under-estimated by coaches. Don't go any further if your player's ready position isn't right!

Teach your players the following:

  • A strong wide base with a low centre of gravity - but make sure that the player bends more from the knees than the back.

  • Keep the head still - looking down the court.

  • The player should be alert and 'looking' for the ball even before it is struck. You want your players to have a ready attitude as well as a ready position.

  • Check also that your player recovers back into a good ready position after each shot. This is because some players hold a great ready position for the first ball of the rally - but never find it again!

SOLUTIONS!

 Ask your player to stand on the baseline with his/her back to the court. When you call his/her name you drop a ball out of one of your hands from the service line. The player must turn and move to this ball as quickly as possible - catching it after one bounce. Vary this drill by asking your player to face you on the baseline. Stretch your arms out on both sides holding a ball in each hand. Drop one of the balls for the player to run to and catch after one bounce. Both of these exercises will help develop a balanced and alert ready position.

 

2. READ THE BALL

Seeing the ball quickly off the opponent's racket is crucial. This skill will help your player's positioning around the court - helping maximise his/her stroke production. A player's ability to read the ball should be included as part of their technical training. However, it is easy to ignore this element of technique because perception skills are invisible - in other words, they occur in a player's head rather than on the court! Remember that there are five different characteristics of an oncoming ball - direction, height, depth, speed, and spin.

SOLUTIONS!

In order to learn how well your player reads the ball, ask him/her to 'shout' the characteristics of the ball as soon as they are seen. E.g. 'left' or 'right', or 'deep' 'middle' or 'short', etc. This will focus attention on the ball as soon as it is hit. It will also allow you to spot how early or late your player sees it off the opponent's racket.


3. REACT AND MOVE

Your player will need to react and move as soon as the oncoming ball is perceived. Many technical faults are caused through a player not 'receiving' the ball well enough. In other words, slow reaction and movement skills will often create problems with the contact point and finishing position of the forehand. Again, don't look beyond this part of the stroke until you are satisfied that your player is reacting and moving well enough!

Teach your players the following:

  • An immediate upper body turn, using both hands to initiate it, as soon as the oncoming ball is read.

  • To move by using strong upper body posture and a still head.

  • To look and feel energised - emphasise a lively ready position and maximum speed - especially with their first two steps to the balll.

  • To use big steps to get to the ball and small adjusting steps around the ball.

SOLUTIONS!

Put a marker down on either side of the centre of the baseline for your player to move past (using only two steps) before hitting a groundstroke. This exercise will help your player move more quickly and efficiently to the wide ball. Adjust the width of the marker and the difficulty of your feed based on the level of each player.

 

4. SET-UP

Different forehand stances are used depending upon the tactical situation that the player is in. However, for a beginner we recommend that the sideways stance is used (also referred to as a 'neutral stance' where the front leg is placed in front of, and in line with, the back leg). This stance allows a player to transfer weight from the back leg to the front leg smoothly and efficiently - reducing the risk of injury in the process. As a player progresses further, the semi-open and open stance forehand will be used more often -while maintaining the same intention of transferring weight forwards whenever possible.

SOLUTIONS!

Experiment by asking your players to hit forehands only off the front foot and then only off the back foot. Then ask them to hit with closed, sideways, and open stances consecutively. This drill will help increase their awareness of how their body weight affects the execution of the shot, and it will help them hit with more balance generally.

 

5. CONTACT POINT

Making well-timed contact with the ball allows the forehand to be hit with maximum pace and control. Your player's contact point will vary depending upon the type of grip used - moving higher and closer to the body as the palm moves more underneath the handle. In all cases, you will want your player to contact the ball comfortably in front and to the side of the body - allowing the racket to swing freely 'through' the shot. Encourage the developing player, in particular, to hit the ball between waist and chest height.

SOLUTIONS!

Encourage your player to hit the oncoming ball at different points in its trajectory - i.e. as the ball rises, falls, or at the peak of its bounce. Maintaining a well-timed contact point against a variety of flight paths will allow your player to hit forehands from a variety of court positions.

 

6. RACKET ACTION

Maintaining a smooth and efficient swing throughout the forehand stroke is crucial in today's game. It is important for each player to be able to absorb the pace of the oncoming ball (which is being hit harder as the game evolves) as well as to be able to create aggressive pace and spin in order to dictate an opponent.

Teach your players the following:

  • To use both hands when starting an upper body turn towards the oncoming ball (to create maximum rotation).

  • To time the back swing in relation to the speed and spin of the oncoming ball.

  • To use a 'C' shape back swing whenever possible, i.e. the player takes the racket back and swings forwards in the shape of the letter 'C' (from high to low to high again). This allows efficient transfer of elastic energy through the swing.

  • To finish with the playing elbow high and facing down the court towards the intended target.

SOLUTIONS!

Players often cannot swing smoothly enough because they are too 'late' in their preparation. As a result, their swings look and feel awkward. Ask your players to prepare for each forehand by taking the racket back before the ball has bounced on their side of the net. This will allow them to prepare in good time, and will help them to hit with more power and control.

tennis technique - forehand groundstroke
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