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Sunday, April 19, 2009

HOW TO…Create direction through shoulder rotation

There is no motion used on the tennis court more critical to the success of a shot than the principle of a good unit turn. Tennis is only one of many sports to use shoulder or trunk rotation to provide power. But the use of the shoulders also plays a role in your control of ball direction.

The basic concept is perpendicular preparation to parallel finish. The term perpendicular refers to intersecting lines at right or 90º angles whereas your shoulders represent one line and the net represents the other. Just keep in mind that, as your body and shoulders turn as a unit, you are essentially coiling a spring. When it uncoils, and the racket travels along for the ride, it will provide more than enough force to propel the ball back to your opponent with power to spare. But power without direction is limiting, and you miss out on a wonderful opportunity if you cannot hit the ball to a spot your opponent cannot retrieve.

When you hit a forehand, you need to decide whether your ball should travel cross-court or down the line:

  • Make sure the racket face is parallel the net at contact
  • Uncoil your spring either more or less dependent upon where you want the ball placed
  • Picture a clock face on the court where the number 12 faces the net and you are at center of the face
  • Striking ball at 1-2 o’clock produces a cross-court shot (or, less rotation takes the ball over the higher part of the net to the right-handed players' backhand)
  • Striking ball at 2-3 o’clock produces a down-the-line shot (or, more rotation sends the ball over the lowest part of the net towards an opponents forehand)

This principle can explain why beginners to low-intermediate players hit either wide or down-the-line when late to a ball on both the forehand and backhand side. Late racket preparation results in less choice of rotation and thus limited shot direction capability.

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