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Three Fundamentals of Tennis
by Clark Corey
PBI Director of Tennis Kapalua
USPTA Professional

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 and steady.

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 net?

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.

Tips Archive

Getting Started

Three Fundamentals of Tennis

The Foundations

Serve and Return
Forehand and Backhand
The Volley
The Lob and Smash
Keep Your Opponents Off-Balance with Backspin
Give Balance Priority