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The Foundations
by Clark Corey
PBI Director of Tennis Kapalua
USPTA Tennis Professional

Whenever we build or learn something, whether it be a game, a computer program or a house, there needs to be a solid foundation or whatever it is we have created will fall apart. Your tennis game is exactly the same. You cannot have a great forehand, backhand, serve, etc. without having great foundations. That is not to say you cannot learn all the strokes in tennis, it is however a problem taking those strokes to a particular level and making them effective in game situations.

The first foundation we need in tennis is COURT AWARENESS. As a tennis player we need to be aware of our location on the court as well as our opponent’s. By being aware of our position on court we can make sure that we are ready for any type of ball that will be returned to us. Often players will hit a ball from one side of their court and won’t recover back to the middle of the court. When the next ball is hit to the other side they have to run the full width of the court versus just half the court. Having a full understanding of our court position allows us to choose the correct shot in each situation that comes up. If we are close to the net we don’t really want to hit a defensive shot whereas if we were well behind the baseline we would want to hit a defensive shot.

One of the first things said to players is, watch the ball. This is the most damaging phrase in tennis. If all you do is watch the ball, then we miss what else is happening on the tennis court. We end up not being aware of where we are, where our opponent is and what the ball is really doing in relation to the net and court. What players need to learn is BALL AWARENESS.

Learning this concept is a lot like looking outside at the mountains. Though we may be focusing on a specific tree on the mountain we also see the mountain, the birds, the houses, etc. It is similar to three people looking at the same piece of artwork. Everyone sees something different because they have a different level of awareness. What the player should be aware of is not only that the ball is coming over but where did it come from, what kind of trajectory, direction, depth, spin and speed does it have.

The final piece of the awareness puzzle is having OPPONENT AWARENESS. Players can hit the greatest shot in their lives but if their opponent is standing in the right place the great shot comes back very quickly. Prior to hitting the ball take the time while it is traveling over the net to you to check out where your opponent is. By understanding their court position you will then be able to hit the ball to a location that will cause them difficulty. Other items you should be aware of about your opponent are; what kind of swing are they taking, are they off balance or on balance, are they hitting a high ball or a low ball and is their racquet face open or closed. All these clues will help you prepare for their next shot.

It sounds like quite a bit to be aware of, when in fact all of that information is right in front of our eyes. You may not be able to see everything the first time you try this. Set your sights on trying to see more and more each time you go out.

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