I switch between two different forms for my forehand shots, depending on how fast the ball is coming. The form for dealing with fast balls uses a less extended arm, more leg work, and more forceful body rotation. This form actually feeds off fast balls. The form for dealing with slower and higher balls uses more of an extended arm, more work from the biceps, and more forearm pronation. With this form, the ball is hit further in front of the body. This form feels more relaxed and smoother. But I make more mistakes if I try to generate a fast pace with it. I read a tennis book in which a reputable author says that having more than one form for the forehand is a bad thing. What should I do? Robin - Philadelphia, PA
The legendary tennis coach Vic Braden has written that Roger Federer plays 28 distinct forehands, depending on the pace, height, depth, and intent of shot. This is based on his library of high-speed video footage of the Swiss champion. I might argue that Federer has as many forehands as are necessary. So… if you need to modify your forehand swing to handle a specific shot then you are in good company. - Glenn
I’m 24, going to Community College, and practicing with the men’s tennis team. I was probably more like a 2.5 before I started practicing seriously last summer. Now, I would say that I’m almost a 4.0, and that I’m certainly one of the lowest ranked players on the team. At times I can handle their pace, but I still need more time grooving my strokes. I’m still uncomfortable at the net as well.
My problem is when I self-rated on the NorCal USTA website, they gave me a 4.5 NTRP rating. I wanted to be honest, so I said that I practiced with a community college team, and it was an automatic cookie cutter rating after that. I joined USTA to play in tournaments and get some good experience playing people around my skill level. Most people I hit with are noticeably better then me, so I end up practicing defensive tennis all the time. I’m afraid I’ll still be playing up and get a bad experience as a result.
I’m kind of stuck on what I should do. I would appreciate any advice.
Anthony - Bensalem, PA
Please call your Sectional office for guidance. In the end, realize that your match results will be evaluated and calculated. You will be bumped up or down, or stay at the 4.5 NTRP level, based upon these match results.
It sounds like you are improving so quickly that by the end of the year you may well have leaped yet another level!
I recently played in a tournament (4.0 level) where I met a player who had a much faster serve than anyone else I have encountered at that level. What do you recommend doing in that situation?
Sarah - Camden, NJ
Wait to return serve from well behind the baseline to give yourself a little extra time to track the ball.
Return from your regular position but commit to only blocking the returns back (with very little backswing or follow through).
If all else fails, and your opponent is serving too well, then you may have to guess a little. Fudge in one direction or the other based on what you see, or expect, from his delivery. (This is a last-ditch alternative though, and simply a rather extreme one).
I know the topspin serve is very important for second serves. Do you have any tips for hitting a good topspin serve? I can occasionally hit one, but do not swing as hard (not even close) as my first serve that's made.
John - Longport, NJ
First of all, swing AT LEAST as hard on the topspin (or kick) serves as you do for a flat or sliced serve. You need considerable racquet head speed to get enough rotation on the serve to assure net clearance and a big “jump” off the court surface.
Hit from 7 o’clock to 1 o’clock (presuming that you are right-handed), and this motion will help assure that you have brushed up from the back of the ball.
What's the key to having a good consistent second serve being hit?
Susan - Wilmington, DE
The biggest key is to get it in!
Develop directional accuracy, plenty of spin, and- eventually- pace.
Make certain that you swing at least as hard on your second serves as you do on your first serves.
Players who struggle with developing a strong second serve tend to guide the ball by slowing down their swing.
Instead, swing fast.
You will eventually develop feel and confidence, but you must be bold enough in order to start trying.
I've been playing for three years and I've gotten to the point of frustration with my game that I want to take a break from tennis or maybe just quit altogether. Is this normal?
Steven - New Castle, DE
Frustration is pretty normal.
Playing perfect tennis is an elusive quest.
Arthur Ashe always said that in tennis, you are competing against yourself more than an opponent.
If you become so agitated that you feel like you need to take some time away from the sport, then that is unfortunate.
Try to maintain perspective.
Have some fun and enjoy the exercise.
Not being able to play is worse than occasionally losing.
How about calling critical points cheating per match, while the rest of the time calling them as "The Code" intended. It also appears to be a family trait (little brother follows big sister's example). We (multiple players, parents and coaches) have asked tournament officials how to handle this situation. Without mentioning the player's name they know who we're talking about and are sympathetic of the situation; but their suggestion "get a line judge" does not address the fact that a critical game / set is already lost. Do you have any suggestions on how her opponents should handle this situation?
Barbara - Chester, PA
The "players, parents, and coaches" that you write about are probably psyched out by this pattern of cheating.
If getting a line judge does not seem to address the issue (or addresses it too late), then make sure that the player has a clear plan of action so that being "hooked" on a crucial point does not send your player into a tailspin.
Excuses are easy to find out there; instead teach him how to overcome adversity.
Frankly, the REACTION to being cheated does more damage than the actual cheating (of one or a few points) over the course of a match.
Rise above this nonsense!
I hate to read about scenarios like this. However, if the cheating is inevitable (as you write), then determine- in advance- how to overcome this treachery.
My 13 year old son plays tennis daily and tournaments on the weekends. Should his training include anything in addition to doing matches?
William - Bryn Mawr, PA
Cross-training, by playing other sports, is always good for his overall athletic development.
It will also allow his mind to become refreshed and recharged.
Make sure that you factor in an appropriate number of rest/recovery days for your son.
Playing a lot has always been a fast way to improve quickly.
Playing too much, however, is counter-productive.
You need to be careful- and precise- in finding the optimum balance for your child.
I've been repeatedly asked: How do you become a contestant in the US Open? Is there a tryout? Do you get invited?
Samantha - Trevose, PA
The US Open is "open" to any qualified player.
The entry list is based on world rankings for the men (ATP Tour) and women (WTA Tour).
If you are interested in playing, then you should attain a world ranking by entering some entry-level professional events (which are called Futures tournaments).
Unless the qualifying draws are "open" (which means unlimited), you will likely need a ranking to get in (National or, at least, Sectional ranking will help).
When you experience success at that level, you will earn enough computer ranking points to become eligible for mid-level professional tournaments (Challenger Series events).
The next step would be to play in some regular series ATP/WTA Tour events.
To gain direct entry into any of the four Grand Slams, you need to be ranked (approximately) 110 or better; to gain a spot into the Qualifying, you generally need to be ranked around 250 or better.
So much of luck to you!
At what age do you recommend children ideally begin competing in USTA tennis tournaments?
Johnathan - Princeton, NJ
As soon as they are ready.
Sorry for a seemingly inconclusive answer, but every child is different.
If they enjoy the competition and look forward to the experience, then give them the opportunity.
If they are lukewarm about it, then give them additional time (and find "back door" ways of motivating them, like bringing them to some big tournaments to watch).
Good luck... and be careful
I am 14 years old and I have been playing tennis for some time now. I have never played any tournaments and I do not have a ranking. My dream is to become a professional tennis player when I turn 18. I am afraid that I will not be able to do this because I don't have a ranking. My question is do you have to be a junior player and have a ranking before you can become a professional tennis player?
Sandra - Dover, DE
Nobody in professional tennis cares what your junior rankings were.
The only requirement is to be good enough to win matches so that you actually earn money.
However, it would be fairly unprecedented to arrive among the professional ranks without any competitive experience.
I would urge you to begin competing to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, about your "ceiling" and/or your limitations, and- ultimately- to determine if this is really something that you are willing to pour your heart and soul into.
Good luck in the process.
I was wondering if age 13 is too late to start playing tennis (to become good for college or professional). Anyway, I was wondering if 13 is as good as starting at age 8 or 9, and if I do become good anytime in the future, then what are the steps in becoming a tour professional?
Raymond - Philadelphia, PA
It is never too late!
Get cracking though.
Try to practice with a purpose every single day, enter as many tournaments as possible in order to gain competitive experience, read all you can about techniques, tactics, training, etc.
Most of the players on the tour did get an earlier start than you, but if you possess enough talent, then anything is possible.