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The Tennis Business Discussion Forum Archive

[tennisbiz] Re: Loop Swing vs. Straight Back Swing for Groundstrokes

From: Jim Leupold <>
Date: Fri 3 Aug 2001 20:13:58 EDT

In my mind, the answer to the straight vs. loop backswing is that they're
both correct, and in some instances, both wrong.

It's important to recognize what the backswing is for. The backswing is for
momentum; power. Therefore, there are at least 8 times when one should not
take the racquet back:

1. On a fast ball
2. On a ball hit right at you.
3. On a volley.
4. On a half-volley
5. When you're slow mentally.
6. When you're slow physically.
7. When you're slow physically and mentally (We all have days like this.)
8. When you're hitting a groundstroke well inside the baseline.

Beginning players should learn to hit with NO (or very minimal) backswing
first. This will allow them to deal with the above circumstances. At
Marriott's Desert Springs Resort & Spa, where I have been teaching for the
past 14 years, I have had to work with thousands of students (some quite good
players) who can't deal with the above situations. The first thing most of
them learned was "racquet back" in some form or another.

Richard Schonburn (sp) of the German Tennis Federation conducted an
exhaustive study of the top 200 men and women in the world a few years ago.
One of the findings regarded the taking back of the racquet. Do you think
they found the top players began their backswing when the ball was at the
opposite service line, when the ball crossed the net or about the time the
ball bounced on their own side of the net? The answer is "about the time the
ball bounced on their own side of the net."

The players prepared the racquet, usually with their opposite hand, on the
correct side of the body, but did NOT take the racquet all the way back with
a loop or a straight back swing until all the clues were in. This is how we
all should learn. If we simply prepare the racquet on the correct side,
pointing to the side fence instead of the back fence, we're still ready for
any shot. If we try to take a full backswing of any kind on every shot,
we're going to be in big trouble more than necessary.

Please let's not tell our students to take a full backswing on every shot.
It's like teaching a basketball player to shoot a 3-pointer first thing (very
tough and frustrating) and then once they've learned it, telling them to take
that same 23-foot shot no matter where they are on the court (ludicrous!).

Now, given that there is time for a full backswing (and there often is),
which way feels better and more natural for the student? Isn't that why
we're teaching them? Why should they do something (loop or straight back or
anything else we teach) just because we say they should? There should be

Is this student going to play on slow red clay or do they normally play on
fast indoor courts? Are they quick themselves or quite slow? If they play
on carpet indoors and they're not swift afoot, and we try to teach them a big
loop backswing, we ought to be shot!

Tracy Austin once told me that her brother Jeff was getting help at a certain
academy with his forehand. They worked for hours and hours on a big loop
backswing. Guess what tournament he was getting ready for? Wimbledon.
Think the results were good? Uh...nope!

So in general, once players have learned the minimum potential of their
racquet (just how much the strings will do with virtually no swing at all)
and can therefore deal with a lot of emergency situations, it's time to take
longer swings.

Just have them hit a full stroke and see what they do naturally and go from
there. If they ask the question and don't know what to do, have the student
try both and see which is more comfortable. It's probably easiest for most
students to try a straight back swing first and then add a loop later, but
every student is different.

Finally, the better the player, the more different situations they will be
in...different surfaces, different opponents, speeds, heights, etc. Players
at a high level should be able to take straight-back swings, loops,
1/2-swings, 1/4-swings, no backswing, etc. The fundamental of the swing is a
good contact area. The backswing is for power (which could change five times
in one point), and the follow-through is proportionate to the backswing and
is to keep us from getting injured. Sorry for the length and thanks.


Jim Leupold

Received on Fri Aug 03 2001 - 19:43:27 CDT

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