You’ll Swing for It
Distancing Racket Head from Ball
We have some knowledge about how to grip the racket and we now need to wield it – but before we can take a swing, we need somewhere to swing from.
So we want some distance between racket head and ball, over which we can build up racket head speed, and the simplest way to do this is Jimmy Connors-stylee.
There are some fancy loops on the world’s tennis courts, but Jimbo’s technique is so simple I can show it to you in two frames of photography: – toggle 1 & 2 and you’ll see what I mean.
In 1: Jimmy is turned, ready and waiting for the ball, with the tip of his racket back, pointing at the court backstop.
In 2: Jimmy makes use of the distance he made between the racket head and the ball, by unleashing a forward swing.
Ping! That’s a forehand tennis stroke in its simplest form, though Jimmy makes it look simple because all the elements of the stroke have been properly prepared and executed.
But you get the picture:
1: sort your grip out.
2: turn your shoulders and point the tip of the racket back behind you, and below the height of your hand.
3: swing your racket head at the ball when it’s where you need it to be (next up)
Cranking it Up – The Loop
Of course I wouldn’t want you thinking that the simple backswing practised by Jimmy Connors is the way forward for the modern forehand: – it isn’t.
Whilst this simple hitting style is a great example of what can be achieved with fuss-free technique, especially for club players, those who aspire to greater things will need a more aggressive mix of topspin and power.
‘How to gain this extra power and spin?‘
You’ll need more racket head speed than a straight take-back can deliver, so for this step up in quantity you’ll need a loop.
Former world number 2 Conchita Martinez could crank up a loop. But before running through the stroke, consider her grip.
Where is her palm and her thumb on the racket grip?
I’m sure you can work out her style of play from her palm-under grip – the grip tells us much.
Let’s look at Pete Sampras’ loop whilst we’re on the subject – another world class forehand, but a different grip at its core.
There are many variations on a forehand build-up, and we may as well have a first look at how Andy Murray shapes his own unique forehand loop.
It’s useful to know the direction in which we’re heading – developing – and you’ll absorb much from comparing Pete, Andy and Chita’s continuous, circular looping of the racket head to Jimmy’s straight-back, straight-through style of forehand hitting.