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Hardscrabble Scramble
January 2002 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Balance Your Wins

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Mike Whittington

Do you ever wonder how tour pros make the game look so easy? One thing that really sets good players apart is their ability to have good balance. A player can have great strokes and great strategy but if he/she can't get to the ball and be in a position to use those strokes or strategy it does them very little good. Although tennis instructors try to get you to hit with good form, many times in match play you are forced into hitting on the run or in an unconventional way. Having good balance will allow you to keep some semblance of your stroke and hopefully get the ball where you want it to go.

Being fast isn't always good enough. It is one thing to be able to run from point A to point B with lightening speed. It is an entirely different problem to be able to get there and be "set up." By being "set up" I'm referring to having good balance and potential to hit your target. Tour players often hit shots off their back foot, on the run, and all sorts of ways but they are so good that they can control their body through good balance and maintain their swing plane. Many top players hit while they are in the air! Now being able to control your swing while you are in the air is tough to do! Remember Jimmy Connors' backhand?

So how can you work on having good balance? Have your teaching professional move you side to side and work on getting to the area before the ball does. The goal is to get there and do something to the ball and not have the ball force you into doing something. Try to keep your upper body a little more still when you are on the dead run. Just because your legs are moving wildly doesn't mean your arms have too also. Practice hitting balls on the rise and don't allow your opponent to push you back. This is tough to learn but will really pay off in the long run. Be aware of how much your feet are moving. Work on taking smaller steps when you are near the ball so that you can stay in position. Larger steps can cause you to step into the path of the incoming ball and restrict your body turn. Work on agility drills that force you to change directions to get to the shot. The more that you do this, your anticipation will get better and you'll see yourself having better balance on tough shots.

To hit with good balance you always have to stay sharp and keep moving. If you ever allow yourself to get lazy or flat footed you will be slower getting to the ball and more likely to be off balance at contact. Make it a point to stay on your toes and be aware of where the ball is coming from and where you want it to go.

Continue to work on your mechanics but try to incorporate some drills into your workout to help your footwork and agility. Better balance will mean a better game.

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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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