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Hardscrabble Scramble
February 2001 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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The Split Step - It Can Make All The Difference

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Mike Whittington

Are you an aggressive player that looks for every opportunity to get to the net and put pressure on your opponent? If you are, and you are successful, then you realize the value of the split step. The split step is that crucial transition that gets you from a running or off balance position back to the ready position. Many times when players are missing shots they only look at the mechanics of the stroke. You will find that being in good position and having good balance is just as important. Getting in your split step allows you to have balance and thus execute a fundamentally sound volley.

Aggressive net players are sometimes so concerned with getting to the net that they completely forget the split step and run through the volley. This can be effective if the volley is hit right to your racquet but otherwise can cause you to dump the ball into the net or sail the ball long.

The timing of the split step is very important and best done as your opponent makes contact with the ball. This allows you to move in every direction to cover his/her shot. A small hop to get you back into the ready position will help you remain in control. Players that wait too late for the split step find themselves unable to reach even the closest volleys.

Watch any top player and you'll notice how their footwork allows them to hit those great shots. Try watching just their footwork rather than where their shot goes. If your shot is fast to your opponent you might find that your split step is in mid-court and not actually that close to the net. However, having good balance and being farther away from the net can actually be more beneficial than being close but unable to hit the volley correctly. Work on your split step in your matches and you'll see your net game improve.

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Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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This column is copyrighted by Mike Whittington, all rights reserved.

At the time at which he wrote this column, Mike Whittington was a USPTA pro in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he served as director of tennis at the Hardscrabble Country Club.


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