Fundamentals of Tennis
by Clark Corey
PBI Director of Tennis Kapalua
Whether you are playing tennis, riding a
bike or driving a car fundamentals are the keys to any activity.
The three fundamentals are the basis for all strokes just
as a foundation is the basis for a solid house. If you don't
have a solid foundation on your house it will eventually fall
apart and the same is true with your tennis strokes. With
these three fundamentals your progress in tennis will be consistent
Tennis is a game of emergencies, whether
you are a beginner just dealing with the ball going over the
net or an advanced player, dealing with your opponent's spin
and placement. Form is wonderful but if you don't get the
ball over the net looking good isn't going to do much good!
We often hear coaches telling students,
turn sideways, racquet back and watch the ball. The simple
fact is that each of these commands creates more problems
than they solve. Many times on the tennis court a player doesn’t
have the time to turn sideways due to the speed of the ball.
Can you imagine the frustration level of someone continually
trying to turn sideways but failing to hit the ball over the
The first fundamental is contact. Without
contact between the ball and the racquet not a lot is going
to happen. Contact is the most important part of the swing
though many people will tell you it is the backswing or follow-through.
When you are in an emergency situation due to the opponent's
shot contact is all you need to get the ball over. If you
are in a physical emergency trying to take a backswing and
follow-through just adds to the emergency. Simply present
the racquet to the ball and let the racquet's own energy get
the ball over.
Take a look at your racquet. What you are
looking at is a trampoline that can move. We all know that
trampolines make people bounce up in the air and the same
is true for a tennis racquet and a ball. The tennis ball lands
in the bed of strings which in turn bends back and then pushes
the ball back out away from the racquet. This action can be
called the racquet’s minimum potential. When you are
in an emergency let the minimum potential of the racquet get
the ball over.
The second fundamental is balance. It is
incredibly hard to do anything physical if we are out of balance.
Balance can simply be defined as keeping our upper body above
your lower body. As long as this happens, whether we are in
the air or on the ground, we are in balance. When our body
is in balance it is much easier to control our arms and any
swing we might take. By being in balance we can have better
contact with the ball and in fact we are able to lengthen
the contact zone and have a greater effect on the ball. If
we are out of balance then we need to default back to the
first fundamental and just make contact with the ball and
not try any kind of swing.
Use of the opposite hand, the third fundamental,
is critical in applying any type of control to the ball as
well as allowing your dominant hand and arm to relax. For
a right hander, the opposite hand is the left hand. This hand
would be placed near the throat of the racquet with the index
finger touching the strings while the thumb and last three
fingers are placed on the top and bottom edges of the frame
at the throat. This can be done easily by spreading out your
opposite hand and laying the throat of the racquet in your
hand and then allowing the fingers to grasp on to the frame
of the racquet while the index finger touches the string.
Your opposite hand has several functions.
The index finger allows your brain to understand where the
strings are while you are preparing for the incoming shot.
This finger acts like a third eye and helps to line up the
strings and the ball so you can avoid hitting the frame. The
thumb and three fingers on the frame allow you to hold the
racquet head up when in the ready position, relax your dominant
hand while in the ready position so you can change grips on
the forehand and backhand and lastly, it allows you to adjust
the angle of the racquet during preparation.
Adjusting the angle of the racquet helps
maintain control of the balls height and trajectory. If you
are hitting balls too long you can simply close the racquet
face more during the preparation phase to make the balls go
lower. Additionally, if you consistently hit the balls into
the net then you can open the face of the racquet to obtain
a higher arc for the ball.
By combining all three fundamentals you
can play a wonderful game of tennis without ever having to
worry about turning sideways, taking the racquet back and
watching the ball.
One of the most popular books over
the last 25 years has been Peter Burwash's Tennis For Life
book. It is a worldwide best seller which keeps tennis simple
and has lots of common sense tips. The book can be purchased
by calling Peter Burwash International at 1-281-363-4707.