A few comments on ground strokes and women. I was a “pre-two
hander” in 1961. Pancho Segura showed the world how to hit one but
conventional wisdom said, “two-handed backhands are only for those who
can’t hit a one hander.” No Evert, Connors, Borg, Austin, etc. 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, 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 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 male college 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
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
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 underspinners.
Often these balls are too difficult to handle with two-handed topspin,
“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.
Slices are tough for little people, young girls, especially. And it’s 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. The two-handed backhand is
“much like a one-handed forehand,” and therefore 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 got better quickly.
And the one-handed slice may be the one most helped by proper “
hit spot.”

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