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Hardscrabble Scramble
February 1998 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Chip And Charge

Mike Whittington Photo
Mike Whittington

You've heard the expression chip and charge and if you watched last years U.S. Open you saw winner Patrick Rafter doing it at its best. But is it the shot for you and how could you use it? Learning a new shot or strategy could be the extra kick to give your game a boost and throw off that pesky opponent. It's a great strategy that lets you get to the net quickly and put pressure on your opponent to hit a good lob or passing shot. Sound like a shot just for the pros? It actually can be very simple.

I think chip shots (slice) are best hit using a continental grip. If you are thinking of using this aggressive play you are probably familiar with the slight neutral turn to the continental grip. When your opponent hits that shallow second serve, you move in, take a shorter backswing with a slightly open racquet face, and with a downward motion behind but through the ball. I would recommend you start slightly farther back to receive than you usually do so that you can get a moving start forward. If you ever watched Stefan Edberg you noticed how far back he stood yet he almost always was able to move into the return. You want to keep the momentum going so you can get to the net quickly.

You need to make sure to meet the ball well out in front so that you can get a good low shot and force the incoming server to hit up on his/her first volley. Be sure and turn sideways to the net and try to keep your non-racquet hand on the throat of the racquet until contact. Then let it fall behind you as you move in. Once you get that ball low and at his/her feet, the high volley you will get should be a piece of cake. If you are playing doubles, this would be a great time for your partner to make a move toward the middle to pick off that expected floater.

Chipping or slicing the ball can be a great way to negate that big serve of your opponent. A short backswing can help you use the power of your opponent to your favor and the slight spin can help keep the ball low. You might experience a few pop up returns until you get the feel for how open your racquet face angle needs to be -- but with a little practice you'll get the hang of it. Practice will keep you from having a chopping stroke or hitting late with an open racquet face.

So remember these basics:

  1. Use a continental grip
  2. Stand to receive so that you have room to still move forward
  3. Hit slightly behind and below the ball to get underspin on the ball
  4. Make contact out in front of the body
  5. Continue moving through the shot.

Try these tips and you'll be chipping and charging in no time.

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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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