I Didn’t Change Anything (59)

A few comments on groundstrokes and women. I was “pre-two handler,” in 1961. Pancho Segura showed the world how to hit one, but conventional wisdom said, “Two hand backhands are only for those who can’t hit a one hander.” No Evert, No Connors, Borg, Austin, etc. I’m glad many young ones didn’t listen. Pretty soon the tennis world realized not only can a lot of people hit it two handed, it’s often a better shot offensively. The two-hander gave many average players something they’d never had: Offense or topspin. Until the two-hander college men followed this regimen: They’d practice like heck on hitting a one-handed top- spin backhand. Then, when the match was on the line they’d revert to their more trusted under spin backhand ball. There were certainly exceptions, but by and large this statement is true: “Most average college men players can’t hit a reliable one handed topspin ball.”

Once the two-hander got “certified” you began to see average high school players who could “tattoo” a topspin two-hander and the game changed forever, for the better.

However, a valuable tool was neglected for many. Coach Jim Verdieck of Redlands gave me one of his business cards. It had an interesting sentence on it: “I didn’t change anything, I gave you a new one.” I asked him what he meant. Essentially he said the two handers were so protective of their new found weapon, the under spin one-hander was abandoned. The under spin one-hander is a tool every truly complete player would possess. Too many awkward and/or short shots (approaches, service returns, defensive cross courts) are best hit by one hand under spinners.

Very often these balls are very difficult to handle with two handed top spin “full” or lengthy shots.

Like golfers, you have to have a lot of “tools” in your bag of tricks. The “chip” or “slice,” is truly a great tool to master. Think “wedges,” golfers.

And slices are tough for little people, young girls, especially. And its tough to add it once you’ve neglected it in “formative years”.

One reason it’s difficult is that people don’t understand the value of the “hit- spot” regarding two different backhands. While the two handed backhand is “much like a one handed forehand”, and therefore it works best when hit off the front foot. One-hander’s must be hit about the width of one’s shoulders in front of the front “balance” foot.

When teaching adult women a “hush” would come over the group. These “strugglers with the backhand” would grip the racket just as I; yet neglect movement to the “hit-spot.” Good backhands come from good grips and good “hit- spots.” I’d bark: “Good hit-spots make good shots. Lousy “hit-spots” make lousy shots. Lousy “hit-spots” make wristy shots, and wristy shots are lousy shots.”

The term “hit-spot” is a direct steal from Coach Verdieck. My guess is Dennis Van Deer’s early unique contribution to tennis instruction was teaching pupils to understand the pupil’s adjustment to the bouncing ball. Van Der Meer and Verdieck were friends.

Once I became better at conveying “movement to the hit-spot” my players at all levels got better quickly.

And the one handed slice may be the one most helped by proper “hit-spot”.

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