Welcome to the NEW Tennis Without Talent!

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What's New

How to Hit a Topspin Forehand

Enough theory! Time to fix some forehands! This is the first in our "How to Hit" series. It is a recipe for hitting a hard, deep, well-placed, consistent topspin forehand. It is not the only way to hit a forehand or necessarily the best way. A flat forehand can often be more effective and just as consistent, and you can achieve moderate topspin without pronation, so if you like your forehand, keep it! But this way works if you want a forehand that lets you wail on the ball with extreme spin and pace.

Load to Lag: As player pushes off the back foot to rotate the hips then the shoulders into the strike, the inertia of the racket head torques the relaxed forearm muscles putting the wrist into a supinated, extended, ulnar flexed position (the strike position). Note how the acceleration of the hitting arm causes the racket head to lag behind the wrist as the arm comes around the body. During the Lag phase, pure racket head speed is developed for pace. The muscles of the forearm are kept stretch-shortened during the acceleration (lag) phase by the inertia of the racket head, ready to deliver impulse power, spin and control into the ball at the moment of contact.

Enter here.....

If you have a solid, reliable forehand, a killer serve, a crisp, well-placed volley that never dumps itself into the net, and a solid temperament that is immune to your own weird errors and your opponent's tip-over winners, then please just go away. There is nothing in these pages that is of any use to you. You should go out, play, and fill up your trophy case.

Has your tennis game got you frustrated? Do you miss shots that no sentient being should miss? Have you ever hit a serve that did not reach your service line (as I did only yesterday)? You may wish that you were fleeter of foot, had better hand-eye coordination or more raw power. Maybe, like me, you wish you wouldn't dump that shoulder-high sitter volley into the net on match point. You might feel that you have been denied some magical widget that is required to hit with power and consistency.

Well...you are correct. What you are missing is called talent. Most people are not born with true athletic ability. The klutz gene appears to be dominant and predominant in us hominids. Many of those born talentless refuse to play complex sports like tennis. Instead, they jog or swim or dance the cha-cha. That kind of excellent judgment is yet another trait that you seem to lack.

Followthrough: The ball is gone, but the followthrough is useful as a guide to what happened before you hit the ball. The arm, wrist, and racket position in the followthrough reflects the effects of stored forces in the forearm. A lack of pronation or wrist flexion expresses a failure to lock or load properly. The followthrough will be less ugly, but the result will be less desirable. The more hideous the followthrough, the better the strike.

Should you give up? Take up fly fishing? Continue to play and endure the humiliation wrought by your ineptitude? No way! Tennis is not a game reserved for the freakishly gifted. Even the most fantastically talented players never achieve perfection in the sport.

Federer occasionally dumps his amazing forehand in the net for no discernible reason. Bjorn Borg was famous for shanking balls into the stands. I believe that tennis has endured 900 years in large part due to the impossibility of playing it without error. It is tennis's indomitability that keeps it interesting. It is also that which makes the game perfect for those of us who are less gifted. If you are in a footrace with someone who is "born to run," you are going to lose. Every time. No contest. Tennis is different. While innate balance, speed, quickness, and hand-eye coordination certainly give the gifted a considerable advantage, a less talented player who can master the physics of stroking, the geometry of the court, and the psychology of head-to-head conflict can overcome superior talent. Moreover, even if you lose, you can do it with style.

One-handed Topspin Backhand:Demonstrates the classic orbital shape of the all tennis strokes - the widening gyre.

One-handed Topspin Backhand: Possibly the trickiest but most powerful groundstroke in tennis.

Despite any lack of talent you may have, you do not have to settle for a mediocre tennis game. Power can come from leverage, speed from consistent footwork, quickness from economical preparation, and match toughness from self awareness. Within these pages are the tools you need to confront, compete with and even crush your more talented foes. Perhaps more importantly, concerted application of the concepts presented in these pages can afford you an opportunity to actually enjoy playing this crazy sport - and stop throwing your $300 racket over the fence.

Playing Style: Shows how playing style relates to forehand and backhand style, spin and even forehand grip.

In these pages you will find everything you need to turn the tables on the talented. You will come to understand that all great tennis strokes rest on a single foundation - something called "impulse" - and that will make it clear why it is easier to control a hard shot than a soft one. We will discuss the pivotal relationship between personality, playing style and grip. The evidence for Elliptical Error Probable proves that every time a professional player hits one of those right-on-the-line winners that we all cheer for, it is actually inadvertent - a happy mistake. You may have been aiming your shots at the lines for years thinking you are just doing what the pros do - but they don't. You will come to accept that hitting with spin is essential to every stroke in tennis and that great footwork in tennis is absurdly simple for reasons that are absurdly complicated.

Forehand Topspin Short Stroke: The shorter version of the topspin forehand has wide application in return of a hard serve, short balls, wide balls, deep balls - anytime that time is short. original video

We use the tried-and-true medical model that extends "basic science" principals to inform the analysis of a "chief complaint" by querying "signs and symptoms" of failures of performance to arrive at a "diagnosis" of relevant tennis syndromes so that appropriate and effective therapy can be prescribed. The basic "pathophysiology" of tennis fails is a delicate and often confusing dance of bad sports psychology and bad stroke physics, a confluence we like to call "psychophysics". For example, when you randomly miss a few easy forehands, you lose confidence in yourself (psychology) which can make you hit the ball softer resulting in less spin and control (physics) which in turn results in more errors making you curse either your untalented self or the almighty (psychology) resulting in feelings of hopelessness engendering muscular tightness that prevents stretch-shortening (physics)... The bottom line is that understanding how improper stroke mechanics and neurotic psychopathology interact with one another is essential if performance is to be improved and maintained.

Now, talented people manage both temperament and stroke mechanics instinctively and don't need to understand anything about anything. They are not even curious about such things, but then would you be? If you could step up to the line and hit a kicker 120 mph serve right on the center line at will, would you care about the physics of how you develop the pace or the topspin? No way! You would "just do it" and be grateful you could, happy that you can hit that serve as easily and reliably at break point down and match point of the finals as you can on the first point of a fun match with your best friend.

Lag and Extend in the Serve:

We are truly sorry that you will never know the indescribable joy that comes with natural athletic ability. What you can be is just as happy playing tennis as are the truly talented. You can feel the delight of a cross-court winner, know the peace of being in the Zone, and even occasionally enjoy a victory or two along the way. To achieve those ends, you need to cast off the tangled necklace of "black pearls" - tennis myths, unchallenged for over a century, that hobble your game and stifle your attempts at improvement. Once you start directed practice of the right things to do you will quickly disperse many of the gremlins that haunt your game.

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Stroke Inputs and Outputs:If tennis stroking sometimes seems hopelessly complex, that is because it is. To hit a reliable shot, you must address the ball, control its direction, give it pace and spin all with the same basic swing. Oversimplification such as "Hit through the ball!" is neither helpful nor in any way true. Understanding how strokes work and what habits help you achieve those ends will give you the superior stroking ability you need to overcome gifted natural athletes.

We use advanced CGI techniques to illustrate our discussions. The stroke animations are accurate representations of the strokes of top professional tennis players taken from ultra-slow motion video and built up frame by frame. This permits elegant analysis of the three dimensional geometric foundation common to all tennis strokes. Recognizing the commonalities between, say, the topspin forehand and the serve allows us to understand why when the serve goes haywire, it often takes the groundstrokes with it. Universal truths such as the importance of relaxation during the "lock phase" of a stroke and the need to keep the grip loose on all strokes lead to simple habits that allow one to "simulate" talent and immerse oneself, joyfully, in the incredible drama that is competitive tennis on all levels.

Expect to find pages "Under Construction".

Just like medicine and our tennis games, we expect Tennis Without Talent to be forever in development. We hope that readers will contribute to this effort through the Tennis_Without_Talent_Forum with their ideas and observations because when it comes to the pursuit knowledge, nothing beats a motivated, thoughtful community.