GROUND STROKES AND WOMEN (49)

A few comments on ground strokes and women: I was pre-two hander,
in 1961. Pancho Segura showed the world how to hit this shot, but
conventional wisdom said, “Two-hand backhands are only for those who
can’t hit a one-hander.” No Evert, Connors, Borg, Austin…. I’m glad many
young ones didn’t listen. Soon the tennis world realized not only can a lot
of people hit it two-handed but also it’s often a better shot offensively. The
two-hander gave many average players something they’d never had:
Offense or topspin on the backhand side. Until the two-hander, college men followed this regimen: They’d practice like heck on hitting a one- handed topspin backhand. Then, when the match was on the line they’d revert to their more trusted underspin 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 was “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 newfound weapon, the underspin one-hander
was abandoned. The underspin one-hand backhand is a tool every truly
complete player should possess. Too many awkward and or short shots
(approaches, service returns, defensive cross courts) are best hit by one
hand under spinners. Often these balls are 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. It’s tough to add
once you’ve neglected it in the “formative years.” One reason it’s difficult is that people don’t understand the value of the “hit spot” regarding two
different backhands. The two-handed backhand is much like a one-handed
forehand, therefore, it works best when hit off the front foot. One handers
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 racquet 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 improved
quickly. And the one-handed slice may be the one most helped by proper
“hit spot.” A lot of good college men had forehand trouble because of a
subtle flaw in “hit spot.” Whereas backhands are tougher to learn, my guess
is many young boys could hit forehands with any number of “hit spots.”
Backhands, they internalized early on, must be hit “right there” or in the
perfect backhand hit spot. Then, as they advanced, a ball they tried to
hit in a faulty forehand position let them down and caused a lot of
frustration. Once I could convince them of this error and the principle of
perfect “forehand hit spot,” they’d get better too. Keeping the ball in the
perfect “hit spot” is tennis magic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s