On the Rise
Rise and Fall of the Groundstroke Empire
Connect 3 determines where we should make contact with the ball (in relation to the body), but not when:
Do we hit the ball on its way down from the top of the bounce, or on its way up – on the rise – like Rafa does below?
Learning to read the flight of the ball is at the cornerstone of successful ground-stroking, so beginners should be encouraged to read, react and move to cover the falling ball every time, even high balls that force them way back behind the baseline.
Because movement should be learned as part of all groundies – movement is an indivisible part of the package – it’s arguably the most important part of the package – and the extra footage involved in covering the falling ball, encourages a willingness to work the legs hard (and discourages stand-and-deliver improvisation and laziness).
However, as strokes form, aggression should be encouraged, because – whilst consistent depth and dull moon-balling might win junior matches – you are not learning if you stick to what you already know, and this is one pitfall of playing too many matches too young.
‘Better to learn young than win young?’
I’d answer an unequivocal yes, unless in so-doing youngsters develop a fear of competition and of losing, but this condition is often related to undue pressure from above – kids are kids, NOT products or satellites to reflect glory onto orbiting adults.
Aggressive tennis is born of attitude and it should be a breathtaking adventure, not an ugly need to snarl and cheat to lesser victories.
Aggression is an urge to finish the point, rather than waiting for it to end:
Aggression is a willingness to master the timely art of taking risks, and which requires you deliver perfect technique under pressure and in the shortest time frame.
And aggression is bolstered by self-belief, fostered by hard work on the practice courts, raised up fully nourished and – ideally – delivered fully by a well-adjusted heart, mind and soul.
Shush! Where was I?
‘Before I was rudely interrupted whilst rudely interrupting you?’
Yes. Oh, that was it – in theory, a Connect 3 is the same for both a falling and a rising ball, and – like Marat exhibits flawlessly in this 12 frame click-thru – both the riser and the faller can be met further forward when turning up the aggression.
And when hitting the riser, there’s the dual bonus of:
- 1: trimming down the amount of baseline you have to cover between shots, as well as…
- 2: denying your opponent both recovery and preparation time.
The downside is that – to hit the rising ball – you need to sharpen up your reading skills and turbo-charge your own preparation, and for physically underdeveloped youngsters, speeding a loop through the air can be over-taxing.
So an abbreviated, scaled-down version of a full loop can be useful for youngsters when learning to hit on the rise – and this is where the Jimmy Connors style of prepping for – and hitting – the riser still has relevance (below).
If you get rid of the high-to-low slice, Jimmy’s abbreviated, fuss-free take-back is still a great way to master hitting the rising ball, as it is far easier to time (than a full loop) and is less physically taxing for youngsters.
Rafa demos how to perfectly time an abbreviated preparation in this animation.
Hey, and if it’s good enough for Rafa and Jimmy, who isn’t it good for?
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