Updating Some Terminology
Amongst those of us who’ve taught tennis, there can be a lazy acceptance of the terminology of the past and whilst some of it is timeless and ever-relevant, other stuff is less so.
Whilst ‘move you feet’ is arguably the dumbest (and most irritating) cliche, the terms Open Stance and Closed Stance make good examples – whilst ‘open’ and ‘closed’ still have relevance, the word ‘stance’ isn’t quite fit for purpose.
For example, is Pete Sampras hitting from any kind of ‘Stance’ here?
No he is not. He’s hitting on the run – in mid air – whereas ‘stance’ is redolent of statues, standing still and more relevant to golfers than tennis players, especially when sliding in to groundies on slippy-slidey clay.
On any groundstroke, you are delivering a payload – your payload (topspin, flat, slice etc.) to a fluffy piece of rubber – ideally into a Connect 3 contact.
So on these pages, the ‘Open (and Closed) Stance’ shall become an ‘Open (or Closed) Delivery’ (feel free to remind me if I forget).
Much is made of an Open Delivery when hitting tennis strokes, which can be misleading for youngsters and beginners.
Because the majority of groundstrokes start with a full turn of the body and if you aren’t turned, you limit your ability to cover wider balls to your baseline.
For starters, you can’t hit on the run like Pete does above unless you start with a full, bodily turn.
So unless you plan on covering your baseline side-ways like a crab, an initial full turn is recommended (unless of course you are a crab).
Look to the in-focus part of the image and you’ll see Ivan Lendl has turned to cover this wider ball to his baseline in frame 1.
From the waist up, you’ll see his stroke is virtually indistinguishable from the ‘front foot’ forehand, to the right.
‘So why is his back (right) foot now closer to the travel line of the ball than his so-called front (left) foot?’
Because for wider balls, hitting open leaves him ready to retreat (side-step /side-shuffle / cross-step) back to a more central position on his baseline.
Lendl has sort of been pulled open by the wider ball, and in sliding the back foot over, he opens from the waist down, which frees him to sidestep immediately back to the middle of his baseline.
However, if you think about it, all Ivan has done is take the last step over to the ball with his back foot, rather than his front foot: it really is that simple.
And by doing so, his exit strategy is greatly enhanced in 3.
This is an Open Delivery, whereas his previous front foot forehand is a Closed Delivery.
Might as well put them both into the same slider for emphasis.
And as mentioned earlier, a Closed Delivery – which is front-foot tennis by another name – happens most often (and naturally) on shorter balls, particularly those hit centrally to the court, which invite weight forward without the immediate need for an exit.
Of course it’s possible to hit those with an Open Delivery too, as do many lifelong clay court players, whose need for an exit strategy is enhanced by the slippery surface.
And then there’s Venus, who simply makes her own rules!