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August 1998 Article

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Long-Arm vs. Short-Arm

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John Mills, USPTA

Under pressure, many players have a difficult time thinking about producing ground strokes that can be controlled high over the net or low over the net. Often times they get confused when you talk about adding topspin or raising/lowering the height of the ball over the net. I find it easier to explain the concept of a "long" arm or "short" arm stroke. For example, if I wanted a student to hit the ball higher and deeper in the court, I would say, "you need a long-arm." After pulling the racket back and having it come forward to the ball, allow the upper arm (between the shoulder and elbow) to pass by the rib cage and then accelerate away. This will allow the idea of finishing the stroke "with air" under the armpit. Finishing with a "long-arm" stroke allows the ball to travel higher and deeper and will accelerate in a horizontal plane.

If I wanted a student to hit the ground strokes lower, I would say, "you need a short-arm" stroke. After pulling the racket back and having it come forward to the ball, allow the upper part of the arm to stay clamped (or Velcro it) to the rib cage. This will allow the lower part of the arm (from the elbow to the hand) to accelerate in a vertical plane at a high rate of speed, forcing the ball to stay low or chip. With this approach, you will not allow any air under the armpit but you still need to follow through over the shoulder.

If you have difficulty keeping the ball deep in your baseline rallies, or have trouble keeping the ball low on your passing shots, I believe the concept of "long or short-arm" strokes will be a valuable aid.

Remember that these concepts will work on both your forehand and backhand strokes. The player with a two-handed backhand will particularly enjoy this shot.

Good-luck on the court!

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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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