If you have recently watched a professional tennis match on
television, you have probably noticed the commentator talk about
how well the top players take the ball on the rise. Let's look
at what taking the ball on the rise means and how it can help a
Every player has an ideal contact zone at which point he/she
likes to make contact with the ball. That zone will vary from
player to player but for the average player it is usually around
waist high. If you get into position and receive a shot from
your opponent, you will probably see that the ball can be in your
contact zone at two different times, once on the way up after the
bounce and on the way down before a second bounce. Hitting on
the rise means moving into the ball and making contact as the ball
comes up into your contact zone. Hitting on the rise is common
among today's top players but not too long ago players such as
Bjorn Borg dominated play by letting the ball drop and making
contact well behind the baseline. These days you only see the top
players well beyond the baseline if they are in trouble and hitting
a defensive shot.
Although hitting on the rise requires more precise timing, doing it
well has a few benefits. One major difference is that your shot
returns to your opponent much faster. The best example I can give
is Agassi's potent return of serve. His compact backswing and on
the rise return sends the ball back so quickly that even some the
game's biggest servers are unprepared for it.
Hitting the ball on the rise also allows for you to attack the open
court faster. Imagine that you've just hit a big forehand deep to
your opponent's backhand and you have driven him/her off the court.
Your opponent can only give a weak return to your service line area.
If you move in and hit on the rise to the open court, your opponent
will probably still be off the court and leave you plenty of room.
If you stay back and let the ball come to you, your opponent may
have time to recover and run down your attempted winner. The
longer the ball takes to get to you, the more time your opponent has
Finally, one of the biggest reasons players hit on the rise is to
keep from being moved into a defensive position on the court. Moving
to the ball at an angle rather than backwards will limit the amount
of court you will leave open. In addition, you are more likely to
keep good balance due to the footwork and timing required hitting on
Try standing on the baseline while your pro or a friend hits you
some deep shots. Shorten your swing and don't back up and you
will quickly feel the sensation of hitting on the rise. It does
require better timing and some practice but I think you'll like
the results and better appreciate the talents of the top players.